On the day the piglets arrived at Gwarimudu the community crowded around in wonder.

It was the first time the villagers, from the east of the Solomon Islands' Malaita region, had seen what they call "white man" pigs - a hybrid species larger and pinker than the local breed.

"We thought they looked nice," Joel Akwai, the chairman of the local producer group says. "They came on a truck and at that time everyone said, we think this will work."

The three little pigs were part of a World Vision economic development project in the area, where the majority of people survive on subsistence living, and the idea of agriculture is fairly new.

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World Vision's local staff present ideas to a local committee, who then choose if they would like to try forming small businesses like selling fish, farming bees or breeding pigs.

In Gwarimudu, Akwai was one of the first to take on the project, and tried to convince others to join.

But even after World Vision supplied timber, and plans for the pig pen, and a water tank, many of the villagers were sceptical. Some days it would be Akwai alone building the fence, or with just one other person helping.

"They thought it would be too hard," he says. "At first everyone was a bit confused. But then more people came to see what was going on. And when the piglets came, they understood."

Joel Akwai from Aefera is a chairman of a savings group that has invested in pigs as a method to increase its ability to make money. Photo / Mike Scott
Joel Akwai from Aefera is a chairman of a savings group that has invested in pigs as a method to increase its ability to make money. Photo / Mike Scott

Now the 20 households take turns feeding the pigs their special meal each day. It will take about six months until the animals reach maturity, at which point one will likely be sold for about 1000 Solomon Islands Dollars ($185).

The others will be kept to breed, with the pen having room for 10 pigs in total.

Any money raised will first go back into the business, and will then be shared among the community - where most people will use it to upgrade their houses, or pay school fees.

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Akwai says eventually he would like to expand the piggery, to help his community prosper.

"I know this project will make a difference. It's making a change."

Further east, the community of Forau, on the coast, have chosen honey as their project.

Caroline Alick leads us through the damp grass to her small beehive, set among coconut palms at the back of her seaside home.

She is dressed head-to-toe in beekeeper's whites, complete with headnet, despite the heat.

The bees are very aggressive," she says. "Sometimes they hate me."

Alick, who has also helped established a savings group in the community - like a local bank - says initially the bees were going well, but she fears frogs may have eaten the queen, and the rain has dampened the honey supply.

"We have two hives. One is ready for harvest but due to the bad weather, we waited, and the bees came back and consumed their juice," she says.

Alick hopes the community will be able to increase the number of hives and sell their honey for a profit. So far they are yet to make a successful harvest, but she is happy to wait as "the bees just live there and look after themselves".

"It is slow but we have to wait and see what happens next."

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