21 July 2016
Tropical Agriculture through the lens of an Australian student
Working with rural subsistence farmers in Malaita and Western Province on simple ways to improve their farming has been a highlight of Wendy Xiao’s time in Solomon Islands.
The Australian New Colombo Plan Scholar is completing a sustainable farming internship at Kastom Garden Association working with training officers to improve farming techniques across the country.
“We are currently working on a program called ‘Demonstration Garden Training’ which has seen us travel to remote villages in the Western and Malaita provinces to conduct trainings on farming techniques with local farmers,” said Wendy.
“It is a wonderful opportunity to be working with local farmers in the rural areas, teaching them about seed saving, pesticide production, compost making and other simple ways to improve farming.”
A Bachelor of Science student from the University of Sydney, Wendy recently completed four months study on tropical agriculture at the Solomon Islands National University.
“It was a pleasure learning alongside local students at SINU, and I am inspired by their hopes, aspirations and passion for agriculture,” said Wendy.
“I have enjoyed my time at SINU, studying various aspects of tropical agriculture and learning about the challenges faced by subsistence farmers in a developing country. In Australia, we have large scale farming for domestic and international markets, while most farmers here engage in subsistence farming.”
Wendy’s study and volunteering is possible under the New Colombo Plan, an Australian Government initiative in which exceptional undergraduates are supported to deepen their relationships and understanding in the Indo-Pacific region.
“New Colombo Plan scholarships are highly prestigious, with only 100 awarded in 2016. Wendy is the first New Colombo Plan scholar to come to Solomon Islands and I congratulate her on her successes at SINU and with Kastom Gaden Association,” Australian High Commissioner Andrew Byrne said.
“I would recommend studying and volunteering in Solomon Islands to all Australian students who want to get a better understanding of one of our nearest neighbours and help improve the livelihoods of its people,” said Wendy.
This year, Solomon Islands will host a further 78 short-term New Colombo Plan students from four Australian Universities; James Cook University, Bond University, Australian Catholic University and the University of Sydney.
These students will undertake projects in a range of sectors including education, sport, health, agriculture and environmental sustainability.