Wednesday 1 March 2017
Women from the Solomon Islands Professional Women’s Network (SIPNET) had the best sign up tutorial a user can get from social media giant LinkedIn – a live video lecture from a LinkedIn executive.
About a dozen women from SIPNET – a professional women’s network formed in December 2016 by members of the Solomon Islands Chamber of Commerce & Industry (SICCI) through an initiative led by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) – took part in the video conference on Tuesday morning at the IFC Office in Honiara with LinkedIn Account Executive, Veronica Auld who is based in Sydney, Australia.
IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, is helping women from SIPNET to build up their professional brands through the world’s largest working class network. LinkedIn has more than 450 million members and has offices around the world.
According to Ms Auld, some 12,000 Solomon Islanders are on LinkedIn.
The women were taught practical skills to set up impactful LinkedIn profiles and to use this online professional-networking resource to further their career goals.
“Following Veronica’s presentation, I have learned that LinkedIn is a powerful tool private businesses could benefit from, whether it be through networking, information sharing, marketing and so forth,” said Sharon Mairiua of Pasifiki.
Vanessa Teutao, Advocacy Officer of SICCI said: “I had a profile but following the session, have learnt of better ways to maximize my use of this professional social media tool, especially in leveraging my business networks.”
IFC’s Gender Lead for East Asia Pacific, Amy Luinstra said this was a unique opportunity for the participants to learn from a LinkedIn expert about how to develop critical skills for professional promotion.
“Since SICCI member-businesses have nominated the women and encouraged them and given time off work to participate, it is a signal that these companies are committing to investing in developing their female talent.”
More events and activities are being planned for SIPNET members in the coming months.
Tuesday 21 February 2017
Timber exporters are developing a new model that will strengthen the legality of sawn timber exports by working towards third party certification.
The Solomon Islands Timber Processors and Exporters Association (SITPEA) is supported by the Pacific Horticultural and Agricultural Market Access (PHAMA), Solomon Islands Chamber of Commerce & Industry (SICCI) and the Ministry of Forestry and Research in this programme that plans to engage an international third party auditor to legally verify timber exports.
At the moment timbers get the green light to export by legal verification from the Timber Utilization Division of the Ministry of Forestry and Research.
International timber markets however want more than just a single auditor.
PHAMA identified an appropriate business model that would allow SITPEA to address and undertake third party audit of timber legality.
“Work is now underway to ensure that this is implemented and processes are put it in place for the mechanism to occur within SITPEA,” said SICCI Export Industry Development Officer, Samantha Maeke - who works in collaboration with PHAMA.
“Last year, there had been progression of third party verification systems to comply with identified pending changes in New Zealand’s market access requirements,” she said.
SITPEA has committed its products to the NEPCon LegalSource standard, a well-recognised international standard for legality assurance.
This initiative is in response to overseas timber markets demands and in collaboration with the International Tropical Timber Group of New Zealand.
“After a series of third party legal source trainings, aimed to prepare SITPEA for the actual audit, the next major milestone in this process will be when NEPCon conducts a gap assessment audit in February 2017,” Maeke explained.
“This pre-audit costs about SBD$250,000 and has been borne by the Ministry of Forestry and Research this round.”
Complying with the NEPCon LegalSource standard requires that SITPEA members undergo a rigorous independent audit of their supply chains and operations on an annual basis. There are significant costs associated with such certification.
“To help these costs, SITPEA members have agreed to impose a certification levy of USD$10 per m3 on all their timber exports as of January 1st, 2017.”
This levy will be included in the usual sales invoices of SITPEA member companies.
Timber Quality Improvement
The second action is for SITPEA to improve the quality of sawn timber.
Representatives of SITPEA participated in a timber market mission to Australia and New Zealand in 2015 that confirmed improvements in pre-export drying (e.g. use of kilns or larger inventories of green timber to equilibrate) and processing could result in improvements in pricing returns.
Work on the potential cost of hardware investments as well as the potential benefit of improved finance availability and investment in credit facilities are slowly gaining momentum although both will require further initial investigation.
Building up on this, SITPEA now has a solar kiln drier funded by PHAMA. In October 2016, a demonstration of the solar kiln by Roger Burke of Australian Solar Dryers (manufacturer) was held in Honiara at Value Added Timber Association (VATA).
This was followed by a Solar Kiln Training by Dr Graeme Palmer (Southern Cross University, Australia) who is an expert in timber processing techniques, quality issues and in timber drying and kiln construction.
The training was targeted at demonstration and offering SITPEA an opportunity to learn more about timber drying and operation of the kiln.
The third and also a long-term action plan to maintain SITPEA’s market access is by taking the path of sustainability.
There are various options including: Timber Industry Regulation, Timber Marketing, ensuring Conducive Business Environment and Establishment of National Grading Standards and Systems.
Solomon Islands Timber Processors and Exporters Association (SITPEA) is a member-based organisation with the overarching goals: to champion a sustainable timber industry and promote public private partnership in Solomon Islands.
Working towards operating independently, SITPEA, registered under the Solomon Islands Charitable Trust Act, was officially set up in September 2015. With an estimate of 12 paid members, SITPEA was formed with the support of Pacific Horticultural and Agricultural Market Access Program (PHAMA) and the Ministry of Forests and Research (MOFR) – a classical display of public-private partnership.
Thursday 2 February 2017
The Solomon Islands Chamber of Commerce & Industry (SICCI) is delighted to welcome the new CEO for Solomon Islands Ports Authority (SIPA) Eranda Kotelawala.
The Chamber joins other stakeholders in welcoming Mr Kotelawala noting that his appointment is timely and with his leadership SIPA will continue to grow building on the positive changes that have been made to date at ports, including continuing to concentrate on performing its core activities, and improving efficiency within the Ports.
SICCI also applauds the outgoing CEO, Mike Wate for his leadership in bringing stability, re-establishing trust and relationship amongst businesses and providing strategic direction in what was a difficult time for SIPA.
SICCI wishes to thank Mr Wate for his commitment and contribution in leading SIPA and exceedingly managed to normalise the situation of SIPA over the past nine months.
Wate was instrumental in rebuilding relationship with many stakeholders especially ports users, the business community and for improving business confidence in SIPA.
“The job done by the interim CEO Mike Wate to put the Ports operation back to its feet is something that deserves high acknowledgement,” says SICCI CEO Dennis Meone.
“His fine work at SIPA has set a smooth transition for Eranda Kotelawala. We look forward to the leadership of Mr Kotelawala.”
In late 2016, SICCI members were informed about SIPA’s plans and operations for the first time after the SIPA saga.
SICCI also congratulates the SIPA Board in the new appointment and sees the new leadership as an indication of the SIPA Board’s commitment to continually improve Ports operation and deliver high quality services to ports users.
The SIPA Board this week emphasised that Mr Wate had improved SIPA’s compliance to its statutory obligations, settlement with the labour union and re-engaging with the community and major shipping lines.
SICCI looks forward to working closely with the new CEO, the SIPA Board, and SIPA management, and strongly supports their efforts to improve the efficiency of ports in Solomon Islands.
Thursday 2 Feburary 2017
A group of cocoa farmers have given a positive review of the Cocoa Solar Drier trials that has been dominating quality bean exports over the last three years.
Farmers from five different provinces came together to review the solar drier initiative that was introduced to farmers by the Pacific Horticultural and Agricultural Market Access (PHAMA) with the assistance of Rural Development Project (RDP), in the hope to improve the production of cocoa and hitting the higher market.
The simple solar drier ingenuity is an original drying process for cocoa beans without using burning wood. Beans are dried inside a housing construction similarly to a greenhouse – but roofed and walled in plastic and uses just the heat of the sun beating against the plastic sheets.
The innovation started from a project experience three years ago to improve the fire-dried process that results in poor quality smoke-tainted beans often getting lower prices and even rejection.
The solar drier was invented, developed and went on to become a growing success after a series of trail efforts. The solar drier has since been adapted by neighbouring Pacific countries.
Samantha Maeke, Export Industry Development Officer from the Solomon Islands Chamber of Commerce & Industry (SICCI), considers the introduction of the cocoa solar driers by PHAMA in collaboration with RDP as revolutionary.
Maeke joined the workshop on behalf of SICCI as the representative body of the Private Sector with pledged support for the cocoa industry.
Maeke strongly believes that Solomon Islands cocoa farmers can influence and even dominate the niche or boutique market in the Pacific region if properly equipped with the upscaling of this solar innovation.
“Solomon Islands has the potential to become a high-quality cocoa hub in the South Pacific and eventually make its mark on the global ‘cocoa’ map,” she said.
Mark Johnston, advisor to RDP and the Ministry of Agriculture said there are currently 15 trial driers being used by farmers in the country.
“They [Solar Drier] worked quite well in Guadalcanal, particular the plains is much drier than some of the other areas so we extended the trial to other provinces and put in an extra 12 so there was a total of 15 under the trail,” he said.
“Really what it is designed to do is see how it worked in different environments, over different seasons and also how different farmers like it.”
The driers were tested with farmers in Guadalcanal, Makira, Malaita, Isabel and Western.
The outcomes were overwhelming.
From pleased international recipients to winning international awards in the US and France, farmers are feeling the significance of quality over quantity and they want more.
Last week’s workshop heard the dominantly positive feedbacks of farmers who have been using the Solar Drier but also laid out the challenges and problems farmers face in this strive to boost the cocoa industry.
Among issues faced by farmers is the lack of equipment to maintain the quality drying process.
“The driers have worked well, not withstanding some issues when it’s wet. But I think another thing that we spoke about [at the workshop] was the drying of the cocoa was just one aspect of producing good quality cocoa,” said PHAMA country manager Andrew Piper.
“So there’s all these other elements of it like the fermentation of the cocoa, the storage of it after it’s been dried and fermented and how it’s handled and transported and so on.
“We spoke about a lot of things and ways that farmers can ensure that the good quality that they’ve created is maintained through the supply chain.”
Piper said farmers are now looking at the marketing options they have for their quality beans.
He urged farmers to collaborate more to get good marketing connections, referring to some farmers’ who’ve already established a good relationship in the higher market.