Improving the livelihoods of rural communities who depend partly or wholly on agriculture in the highlands region is what a new European Union funded initiative is all about.
The project ' Rural Economic Development Phase 2 (RED2)' is being implemented by NARI in partnership with stakeholders in the seven provinces of the region. On February 16 2016, various government agencies and non-government and faith-based organizations converged in Ialibu station to launch the project which focuses on 'Agricultural Innovation for Improved livelihood in the Highlands Region.'
Acting Head of European Union Cooperation Adrien Mourgues told the gathering that the project (phase 2) makes up three components:
- Road access with the Asian Development Bank (ADB),
- United Nations Capital for Development Fund (UNCDF), and the
- Agricultural research and development implemented by NARI.
While the project expects to see some significant changes in farming communities, its success will depend strong partnerships with the Department of Provincial and Local Level Government Affairs (DPLGA), local level governments (LLGs), government extension agencies, church groups, NGOs, private sector service providers and relevant industries.
Mr Mourgues also acknowledged the role of women in contributing to the development of agriculture in the district. He said the sustainability of the project rests with provincial and district administrations.
The 3-year project focuses on having a positive impact on communities which rely on farming in one way or another through income generation opportunities via introduced agricultural technologies and innovations in LLGs, districts, and provinces.
NARI Deputy Director General Dr Akkinapally Ramakrishna said the core mandate of the institute is to carry out research in agriculture and ensuring food is readily available and this project is no different. As far as agricultural research for development is concerned the outcome of the work by NARI and its partners is to capture new and emerging research issues that can be analysed and appropriate actions taken in realizing the government’s aspirations and more specifically of rural development at the district level.
Dr Ramakrishna said NARI is working closely with other development partners to ensure farmers continue farming and supplying major centres such as Lae and Port Moresby.
“You are the one feeding us and we are the ones providing knowledge. So we are working in partnership, Dr Ramakrishna said. " I am doing one job while I am doing another job. Both are important for the nation. This nation runs with food. No nation can say they are independent; sovereign without having enough food to feed its own people."
He said there are many improved crop varieties and technologies for farmers to sustain their daily living and NARI was here to assist where possible.
The Fresh Produce Development Agency (FPDA), as another partner in the project, will also be engaged through the supply chain system of crops from the region to the markets.
FPDA’s Immanuel Kavanamur said there is so much potential to develop agriculture in Southern Highlands and also address social issues in the community.
“I want Ialibu to also provide food and support this country. We have partnered with farmers from Kirine, where we have our seed production base," Kavanamur said
"We are now partnering with you farmers, NARI and now with the European Union to ensure you have money in your pockets.” he added.
President of the Southern Highlands Women in Agriculture (SHWiA) Margret Kawa said farmers in her local area have struggled with traditional agriculture practices but are now engaged in improved farming techniques which have not only improved crop production, but put in extra income to sustain their livelihoods with the assistance from NARI and EU.
The vocal women leader said NARI’s timely intervention was also helpful with the set up of a resource centre which is aimed at providing technical farming information to rural farmers who wish to utilize this information in improving current traditional agriculture practices.
“We did not know how to plant taro, sweet potato and other crops properly. We had always followed our traditional ways of planting and we were running out of ideas. This resource centre is a vehicle which goes in for repair and is functioning normally again and so our agricultural practices improve in that manner,” Kawa said.
She urged women in her district to continue farming crops while there is still need for financial skills training and enough manpower to drive the agriculture sector in the region. Kawa said SHWiA was pleased to have partnered in the RED 2 project and strongly believes that this is one area where the government is failing to recognise.
Kewabi LLG President Francis Walipa also agreed that the national government was failing on its part in recognizing women’s role in agriculture. Francis said there is too much focus by the government on other sectors while agriculture is lacking in its capacity to progress.