Agricultural Systems Improvement

This vital programme's objective: Productivity, efficiency and stability of agricultural production systems improved is the core of Nari's business function.

The natural, and socio-economic and cultural environment of smallholder farming communities in PNG is highly diverse. Agricultural production systems are still mostly subsistence with a low productivity and efficiency both in relative and absolute terms. Recurring periodic food shortages in farming communities throughout the country show that access to and availability of food to farming communities is inconsistent and often uncertain. On the other hand smallholder communities looking increasingly for opportunities to generate cash incomes in support of improved livelihoods and seeking support to increase the efficiency in their production systems linked to better market opportunities for their produce.

Program Specification

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Low Agricultural Productivity: Causes

  • No access to improved Planting Materials/Breeding Stock and farm inputs
  • Poor marketing opportunities and effeciency
  • Vulnerability to external shocks (drought, flood, climate change, etc
  • Unsustainable land use and declining soil fertility
  • Pest and disease problems
  • Ineffecient use of land and labour resources
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Program Strategic Objective

  • Increased use of suitable quality planting materials, breeding stock and other farm inputs by smallholder farmers
  • Marketing systems for priority crop and livestock products and enterprises improved
  • Smallholder farming communities are better prepared to cope with abiotic stresses due to seasonal weather patterns, climate change and natural disasters

Priority Strategies

Identified priority strategies are addressed under thematic mega-projects containing relevant portfolios of projects and studies.

Increased use of suitable quality planting materials, breeding stock and other farm inputs by smallholder farmers

The focus under this strategy is the improved access to quality planting material and improved crop varieties with associated production information to stakeholders. Foundation of this strategy is the considerable agro-biodiversity for most of the traditional staple crops, traditional vegetable and fruit and nut species. They constitute an important heritage and basis for food security in the country and NARI is the custodian of this diversity.

Drawing on this diversity the Institute is developing new improved crop varieties for release to stakeholders. The focus has been on sweetpotato and taro with the release of several high yielding orange-fleshed sweetpotato varieties and high yielding, taro leaf blight resistant taro varieties. The Institute is also drawing on international and regional genebanks at IRRI, CIP, World Veg Centre CePaCT, CIMMYT to import rice, sweetpotato, open-pollinated vegetable, maize, wheat, potato etc varieties for evaluation and release to stakeholders. NARI is also working in close partnership with Bioversity International on exploration, colletion and characterization of banana genetic diversity including wild banana species. This work is coordinated from the NARI Head office in Lae and implemented throughout NARI’s five regional centres.

A second focus area is the enhanced use of local feed resources as quality livestock feed on-farm and produced by small-scale feed mills for poultry, fish and pig producers. The development of feed formulations based on locally available feed inputs has been a major focus in NARI’s R4D portfolio for some time and has since released information and technology packages on use of sweetpotato and cassava supplemented with a protein and mineral concentrate (link to info materials). The concept of Village-based feed mills was also piloted. ACIAR is a major partner to NARI in this work. This work is coordinated from NARI’s Momase Regional Centre near Lae.

Marketing systems for priority crop and livestock products and enterprises improved

There are two focus areas or mega-projects implemented under this strategy. The first mega-project is on improving the sweetpotato value-chain by increasing the use of improved technologies, practices and marketing arrangement by sweetpotato supply chain actors. Sweetpotato is considered the most important staple crop in PNG especially for people living in altitudes of 800 m.a.s.l. The crop is now traded in major markets along long-distance supply-chains. Current research for development by NARI in this area is supported by ACIAR and DFAT through the TADEP program in partnership with FPDA and the Centre Queensland University addressing areas of managing soil fertility and pest and diseases in highland sweetpotato systems, establishment of an improved seed system for supply with Pathogen-tested sweetpotato seed as well as marketing arrangements and market diversification. This work is coordinated from NARI’s Highlands Regional Centre at Aiyura.

The second mega-project is support towards the establishment of an alternative industry based on indigenous nuts. Galip nut (Canarium indicum) is an indigenous resource, unique to only a few countries in Melanesia with a proven potential to become an important crop for income generation for smallholder farmers, cooperatives or larger plantation operators.

NARI has been leading the research for development mostly with support of ACIAR and the EU. The current focus of the R4D efforts are on developing protocols, practices and capacities as well as establishing feasibilities and profitibality for processing of the raw product into high quality products that would meet consumer demand and expectations. A high quality product is currently piloted through the brand Galip Nut Company in a leading supermarket chain in Port Moresby and other local retailers in East New Britain Province. This work is coordinated from NARI’s Islands Regional Centre at Keravat.

Smallholder farming and rural communities are better prepared to cope with abiotic stresses due to seasonal weather patterns, climate change or natural disasters

Climate Change adaptation remains a current need for smallholder farming communities. Much of the current work is making use of technologies and drought coping strategies generated by the Institute in the aftermath of the 1997 El Nino event but climate change induced stresses are not only drought related but include other stresses such as effects of excess soil moisture on productivity and production of crops as well as salinity related issues. The Institute uses the motto ‘deliver while developing’ indicating the need to play a major role in capacity building of community members on climate smart adaptation options while at the same time developing new technologies, practices and strategies or adapting climate smart adaptation options that have proven useful elsewhere to fit into the local socio-economic and cultural context. Amongst such technologies and practices are solar-powered rope-and-water pump and simple irrigation systems, drought tolerant crop varieties, food storage and preservation practices, diversification of production systems in terms of crop species and crop varieties grown by communities.

The project “Strengthening Food Production Capacity and The Resilience To Drought of Vulnerable Communities” funded by the EU is a current major activity as part of NARI’s climate change adaptation strategy. The specific objective of this project is to strengthen the adaptive capacity of 16-24 LLGs to respond with appropriate agricultural technologies and strategies to abiotic stresses arising from seasonal weather patterns and climate change an impacting on agricultural productivity. This project is coordinated from the Momase Regional Centre Bubia, Southern Regional Centre Laloki and Islands Regional Centre Keravat.

NARI is partnering with a wide range of stakeholders including Government and Non-government, faith-based and community based organizations and national and international donors.

For further information, contact: The Programme Director, Agriculture Systems Improvement Programme, NARI Headquarters, Sir Alkan Tololo Research Centre, Kana Aburu Haus, P.O Box 4415, Lae 411, Morobe Province. Papua New Guinea. Phone: (675) 478 4000 Fax: (675) 475 1450 Email: