A pilot project aimed at boosting rice production and improving food security will be rolled out to 30 communities in Morobe Province over the next two years. NARI in partnership with Project Support Services, Trukai Industries Ltd and the PNG Women in Agriculture Development Foundation will supply the communities with solar-powered rice mills.
The project is funded by the Papua New Guinea-Australia grant program, Incentive Fund, which awarded a K2.5 million grant to NARI earlier this year. The aim is for rice farmers to grow more rice for their own consumption and sell the surplus through Trukai’s market access. Local rice farmers have welcomed the project and are being actively engaged in its implementation.
“Milling rice manually is a major issue as it takes about three days,” said rice farmer Aileen Daniel.
“My community almost lost interest in rice farming so I am pleased that the solar powered rice mills will greatly address challenges in milling rice.” “I can also charge my mobile using electricity from the solar panel,” added Ms Daniel.
The project will involve women, youth, children and people living with disability to participate meaningfully in its implementation.
Director General of NARI, Dr Sergie Bang, recognises that over K300 million is spent each year on importing around 225,000 tonnes of rice.
“It is in the best interest of the country to increasingly grow its own rice,” said Dr Bang.
“Exporting countries in South East Asia can’t continue to send rice to Papua New Guinea under continuing El Nino conditions, as their water supply becomes limited using the paddy rice production system.”
“NARI’s role is to introduce technologies to reduce production costs including milling and improve marketing efficiency,” added DrBang.
NARI has been supporting the development of rice in PNG for the last 15 years and aims to collect valuable information from the pilot project. They will monitor project outcomes including any increase in household income for rice farming families, skills and knowledge gained about rice growing and processing, improved access to renewable energy and reduced expenses on diesel that the solar mills allow.
All project partners will work together to ensure the project addresses this demand and is aligned to development priorities at all levels of government.
NARI also received funding from the Australian Government through the Incentive Fund in 2014, to rebuild its office complex at the Islands Regional Centre at Kerevat, East New Britain.