By CYRIL GARE
VILLAGERS from the Sogeri plateau in Central are keen to develop a massoy (also massoia) cultivation project in partnership with the University of Papua New Guinea.
Edobewa village chief Dick Maika said his Biai Rogena clan was happy and excited about the innovation following the visit of Chemistry Professor Topul Rali from UPNG’s School of Natural and Physical Sciences to inspect their massoy forests which are under threat from Asian poachers.
Rali is a massoy expert. Massoy is a low-altitude plant that is found nowhere else in the world. It is native or endemic only to the island of New Guinea – the land mass shared between West Irian in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.
Massoy’s C10 and C12 lactones are priced essential oils that are used in food flavourings and as an additive in butter and milk.
Maika said they used to farm agricultural crops like cabbages, broccoli, onions, tomatoes, peanuts and other such varieties, when Paias Wingti was Prime Minister, with assistance from the Central provincial agriculture division. However, this has stopped and people in the area were now starved of village-based income-generating activities.
“I am excited. The visit of Professor Rali brings hope to us. We didn’t know about the true value of massoia so when the Chinese came and asked for it, we just go in there and cut anyhow without considering its true value as well as the issue of sustainability and re-growth of young plants,” Maika said.
Rali said that under the Government’s Responsible Sustainable Development Strategy (STARS), UPNG’s School of Natural and Physical Sciences is partnering with rural communities to develop income-generating activities for the local population.
Rali has recently been reported calling on the government to invest K100 million in research and development to promote sustainable economic growth and lay the foundation for “industrial take-off”.
Addressing the opening of Parliament , Governor-General Sir Bob Dadae also expressed the need for the country to start “diversifying” the economy.
Rali has been leading an anti-massoia harvesting campaign in the country which resulted in the government imposing a ban on massoia harvesting and export in 2001.
Despite the ban, there are still clandestine massoia operations by Asian poachers in areas of East Sepik (Maprik), Northern, Western and Central which are posing serious questions on the state’s ability, through the National Forest Authority, to enforce regulations.
- Cyril Gare is a freelance writer