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ATOLLs

Atolls Research and Development Project

In collaboration with Provincial Authorities and Regional DAL (Department of Agriculture and Livestock), NARI visited all districts in Papua New Guinea (PNG) in 2001 and consulted Governments, Non-Government Organisations, Agribusinesses, Marketers, and farmer and community groups on both agricultural and socio-economic issues required to prioritise NARI's research programmes.
The atolls, though comprising only 2% of the country's population, were identified as high risk areas in terms of food security in all New Guinea Island provinces as well as two mainland provinces of Milne Bay and East Sepik . With inherently poor soils and limited natural resources, atoll communities pose very unique agricultural and socio-economic problems. The problems are further worsened by lack of basic government services due to their remoteness. Findings from the provincial consultations paved way for this atoll research and development project. The initiative was to find ways and means to improve agricultural productivity and ultimately the general well being of atoll communities.
This three-year project is funded by European Union and is based at Keravat. Its operations started in February 2003.
Project Goal
The project goal is to improve health, food security, living standards and general well being of atoll communities in PNG through improved and sustainable agricultural activities. Because atolls are prone to food shortages, food security is a key area to focus. However, there is also interest to promote income-generating opportunities in atolls where market outlets are accessible.
Project Activities and Outcomes
The project activities are conducted under four components aimed at achieving the respective outcomes as outlined below:

  1. Provincial Atoll Baseline Survey
  2. Describing and understanding the atoll farming systems, specifically the main constraints and issues affecting livelihood of atoll communities

  3. Atoll Germplasm Collection
  4. Establishing a collection of atoll food crop, fruit and nut species and varieties at Keravat

  5. Preliminary Screening Trials
  6. Identifying and screening suitable food crop varieties to grow in atoll environments

  7. Outreach & Liaison Component
  8. Distributing planting materials of identified food crops and disseminating information on relevant ways to grow them in the atolls

Project Beneficiaries
The project beneficiaries are the seven atoll provinces of North Solomons (Bougainville), East New Britain, New Ireland, Manus, West New Britain, Milne Bay and East Sepik.

Progress to date
While project implementation is yet to fully reach all atoll provinces, there has already been a number of positive developments. A provincial baseline survey questionnaire has been developed and pre-tested at one site in the Duke of York Islands (East New Britain Province) in March 2004. This has now paved the way for actual surveys to be conducted in the atoll provinces. Plans are also underway to formalise arrangements for temporary use of land at two sites, Kabago and Rakanda plantation, at the Duke of York Islands. The Kabago site would be used as a holding block for superior fruit and nut trees for Duke of York, while the Rakanda plantation site would be used to do preliminary screening and selection of crops for the atoll environments.
Considerable progress has also been made in the multiplication of some of the NARI selected crops like African yam, drought tolerant sweet potato varieties and the Suwan variety of corn for distribution to the atolls. The first batch of these materials was distributed to Anir and Nissan islands of the New Ireland and North Solomons provinces respectively in early 2004. Plans are now underway to supply the materials to all atoll provinces on a more regular basis. Atoll communities that require planting materials of these crops should contact the Research Programme Leader at NARI Keravat.

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For further information, contact:
NARI Wet Lowlands Islands Programme
P.O Box 204, KOKOPO
East New Britian Province
Papua New Guinea
Phone: (675) 983 9145
Fax: (675) 983 9129
Email: nariirckerevat@nari.org.pg

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