The National, Tuesday October 15th, 2013
By JAMES LARAKI
“AGRICULTURE is the backbone of this country and we must focus on this very important sector when there is a lot of money and resources floating around,” Jiwaka Governor William Tongamp says.
“If the government and relevant stakeholders fail to prioritise agriculture, it would be a big mistake and the country would be destroying itself on the face looming issues like climate change.”
Tongamp made the call while officiating at the agricultural innovations show and commissioning of a new office complex of the National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI) at its High-Altitude Highlands Regional Centre at Tambul, Western Highlands.
He called on the Government to be serious about agriculture and food security, and fully support its agents like NARI and others in the sector.
“Agriculture is everybody’s business. It needs concerted efforts of everyone. It is and will be the backbone of this country and stands to sustain the economy when all the gas, oil, gold and other resources are gone,” Tongamp said.
No doubt agriculture is the backbone of our country. And the phrase is already becoming a norm in speeches or commentaries. But let us ask ourselves “how can we make it work”.
NARI believes innovative agriculture best answers this question. This means we need to invest in agriculture, particularly in research, science and technology.
We need to have innovative agriculture based on scientific research and new knowledge.
Research is crucial. It has to be at the heart of innovative agriculture. Improved technologies and practices have to be developed from scientific research.
These inventions or new knowledge are essential tools for innovative agriculture.
Of course, traditional and indigenous knowledge available in the system and becomes an integral part the innovation process. Innovative agriculture responds to present and changing needs and aspirations of farmers and rural communities.
It addresses current and emerging constraints, problems and opportunities facing our farmers and rural dwellers who are the centre of focus.
Innovative agriculture involves all players engaged in all stages of development, such as production, processing, transportation, marketing, trading and consumption.
It is vital for innovative agriculture to be linked to and supported by appropriate policies and strategies by all levels of governments.
Such policies can be science and technology policy, agriculture investment policy, international trade policy, credit and input supply policy, taxation policies, to name a few.
We are grateful to Tongamp who is aware that innovative agriculture is the way forward.
“It is absolutely essential that innovative agriculture is accepted as the way forward towards sustainable development in PNG. This will require investing in innovative agriculture as a key priority,” he said.
“I commend NARI for its efforts in scientific research over the past 16 years, delivering over 28 technologies to the farming community.
“The LNG and many such resource projects are going to give us billions of kina in the next few decades and we must make use of these resources by boldly investing in innovative agriculture.
“This way we can mitigate the so-called ‘Dutch Disease’ syndrome.
“We have had such resources in the past but we neglected the agriculture sector. We cannot afford to make the same mistake again.”
He said NARI was mandated to do research and design technologies, but it faced with many constraints preventing it from addressing the challenges.
“We should now look into the next 16 years as the phase of NARI facilitating and directly contributing to development,” he said.
While commending NARI for taking the initiative in promoting and raising awareness of innovative agricultural development, Tongamp recognised the need to encourage other MPs to help in persuading the government to prioritise agriculture.
We appreciate this undertaking by Tongamp. The government certainly needs to support the renewable resource sector.
This needs to happen in the short to medium term and continue in the long term.
That would provide the basis for our people to be empowered to create wealth, participate in socio-economic development and benefit from these outcomes.
We need to ask ourselves why we must invest in innovative agriculture. We need to have a clear understanding on how to go about investing in innovative agriculture. A first step includes identifying key areas.
We have great potential in developing agriculture. We have rich land, soil, genetic resources, and very congenial weather and environment for advanced agriculture.
These resources, to a large extent, remain untapped. We must take bold steps to invest in innovative agriculture.