Solomon Islands comprises a scattered archipelago of 994 islands combining mountainous islands as well as low lying coral atolls within a tuna-rich and potentially mineral-rich maritime Economic Exclusive Zone (EEZ) of 1.34 million square kilometres. There are six main islands: Choiseul, New Georgia, Santa Isabel, Malaita, Guadalcanal and Makira, which are characterized by a rugged and mountainous landscape of volcanic origin.
The islands are grouped into three different major geological provinces: the Pacific Geological Province (including Malaita, Ulawa and North Eastern part of Santa Isabel island); Central Geological Province (Makira, Guadalcanal, the Florida Islands and the southwestern part of Isabel and Choiseul) and the Volcanic Geological Province (New Georgia, Russell Islands, Shortland Islands and North Western tip of Guadalcanal and Savo). Guadalcanal is the largest island and the only one with a significant area of grassland and rich alluvium soils. Most of the islands have highly weathered soils of low fertility with pockets of fertile areas mainly on volcanic islands and river valleys.
The country is situated within the earthquake belt or “Ring of Fire‟ which makes it extremely vulnerable to the effects and impacts of earthquakes. A major earthquake measuring 8.1 on the Richter scale occurred in the Western Province in 2007, triggering a major tsunami that affected the Western and Choiseul provinces and causing 52 deaths with scores more people missing. About 40,000 people were affected. Many islands have subsided whilst a few have been uplifted a few metres. Extensive damage was experienced throughout the two provinces, costing hundreds of millions of dollars.
Around 80 percent of the national population live on low lying coastal areas. The capital city of Honiara is the only major area of economic activity and attracts increasing numbers of youth and adults per year from other islands seeking employment and income.
The Solomon Island’s Human Development Index (HDI) was 0.510 in 2011, and is one of the lowest in the Pacific, and it ranked 142 out of 187 countries (UNDP, 2011). On the achievement of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a range of social indicators show that the country is likely to meet Goal 2 (Achieve universal primary education) and Goal 5 (Improve maternal health). Females still have less access than males to secondary and tertiary education while women have poor access to health and family planning services in the rural areas. According to the ADB (2010) much of the improvement in the HDI was the result of significant overseas financial and technical assistance.