For years, I’ve watched with a great deal of frustration as successive governments paid lip service to “agriculture investment.”
Just when you thought they had gotten it right, the concept would, somehow, become embroiled in controversy.
Take for example, the ‘Green Revolution.” A good nationalistic concept (at least for the short term) supported by the PNGDF Air Transport Squadron. It died a slow death because it was unsupported.
And remember the K100 million for the National Agriculture Development Plan (NADP)? What happened to it? Some of the money went to fat cat paper farmers who lapped up the funding leaving nothing tangible to show. Has anyone been arrested, charged and made an example of?
For years, we have been getting it wrong because we listened to the wrong advice.
Agriculture, in the ASPLES Papua New Guinea context, doesn’t mean coffee, cocoa… It’s not even close to oil palm. Although, I heard, at one gathering in Markham in 2013, a political heavy tried to convince, the Markhams how “oil palm was important for food security.”
Agriculture means growing FOOD. That’s it!
And we are experts at it!
By Jove, we’ve been doing this for 50,000 years. The world’s oldest agricultural find is in Kup in the Simbu Province. The Simbus dug drainage ditches and farmed the land long before anyone else thought about it.
But it took us 40 years to travel the wilderness. We looked down on our own roots and our own expertise and abilities. We looked down on our 50,000 years of knowledge and chose to listen to outside advice.
In 2016, Enga Governor, Peter Ipatas, told me, he wanted Enga to take over 100 percent of PNG’s potato market through the establishment of a nucleus agricultural estate on statement land, supported by out-growers in the community.
Two weeks ago, Israeli company, Innovative Agro Industries, which set up shop last year, bought 4000 tons of potatoes from Engans in the Sirunki Valley. Did the Engans need any special training to grow potatoes?
In 2019, Morobe will be producing milk and other dairy products. A nucleus farm on government land at Yalu will be the hub for this new dairy farm. Planning Minister, Richard Maru says he wants to see quick end to PNG’s dairy import bill of K400 million.
The people will partly own this project. Their land value will be converted into shares, they will provide security, and the personnel for the farm. Those not directly employed by the farm will grow the corn needed to feed the cows.
Having said that, this is NOT an endorsement of the company but an effort to highlight what we are capable of doing as a country using our own resources.
We don’t need packaged, frozen potato chips imported from Australia. Soon the Engans will be producing it out of Sirunki Valley. We don’t need milk imported from New Zealand. The Morobeans will be producing it from Yalu.
Reduce imports, we can and we must.
We have to be in control of our land. We have to own the projects and provide the manpower required. THAT is “landowner participation.”
And government… continue to build the roads and bridges, please.