Agriculture, particularly for subsistence crop production, is a primary source of food security in the Solomon Islands. Crops such as yams, taro, and sweet potatoes and other crops such as bananas and watermelon are still part of people’s main staple diet, and production is heavily dependent on rainfall. The agriculture sector employs 75% of the country’s population and contributes 42% to the country’s gross domestic product. Although topographic diversity of the Solomon Islands includes hills and mountainous terrain, most of the country’s agricultural activities are conducted in the coastal plains of the country. These coastal areas are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of cyclones and salt-water intrusion. Cyclones can damage agriculture through intense winds and flooding, as in 1986, when cyclone Nanu significantly affected the country’s palm oil and rice production. Coastal erosion and increased intensity of storm surges could impact agricultural productivity across the low-lying areas of the country. Agriculture plays an increasingly significant role in the country’s economy, particularly with palm oil and cocoa, and small farming units are slowly beginning to transition from subsistence to the production of cash crops, forcing many towards reducing fallow periods and migrating to more marginal lands and steep hillsides, increasing deforestation and soil erosion, with implications for water quality. This transition can also lead to the loss of traditional farming techniques – techniques that are potentially critical to adapting to changing climatic conditions. Reduced water availability during dry periods could exacerbate agricultural water needs, and already much of the country relies on water from rains of the monsoons to sustain productivity. Salt-water intrusion into inland gardens (primarily for taro production) has already begun to affect some regions of the country (e.g. Ontong Java), making tubers yellow and bitter and rendering them unsuitable for consumption.
This section provides a summary of key natural hazards and their associated socioeconomic impacts in a given country. It allows for a quick assessment of most vulnerable areas through the spatial comparison of natural hazard data with development data, thereby identifying exposed livelihoods and natural systems.