Agro major drive for economy

Business

Since independence, agriculture has been the basis for livelihoods of more than 80 per cent of PNG’s population and has contributed up to 30 per cent of the annual Gross Domestic Product. Food and Agriculture Organisation country representative Ken Shimizu, pictured, responds to questions from Business reporter DALE LUMA

Question: With the government now focusing on the agricultural sector, do you think it can be a major economic driver for Papua New Guinea?
Yes, definitely. Agriculture has the potential to be a major driver for economic recovery and advancement in PNG. The government’s commitment to focus on agriculture must be applauded. Setting the vision is great, however taking real action in delivering this agenda is far more important. This means real investments supported by relevant policy frameworks, skilled labour and improved knowledge through sustainable and smart agriculture while addressing obstacles (declining extension services) and emerging challenges (climate change).Windfall revenues from the hydro-carbon industry should be invested in the agricultural sector now for the future. This also means creating the enabling environment and social harmony for all actors including private sector investment. The sector has sufficient experiences and lessons learnt to be more innovative in value chain development and capturing niche market demands for both the existing and potential commodities/resources. The transformation should improve food security, income, employment and economic growth.

Question: With the innovative drive that is taking place in PNG, what are some of the new developments in the agriculture space?
Some of the major developments in agriculture that FAO has been involved in, especially in the areas of sector-based planning and policy support are:

  • National Agriculture Sector Plan (NASP 2019-2029) – The Department of Agriculture and Livestock (DAL) is currently in the process of formulating the 10-year National Agriculture Sector Plan. This work is still in progress and FAO has been supporting the formulation of this planning process, just as it did with the past National Agriculture Development Plan (2006-2016);
  • National Food Security Policy (2018-2028) – FAO has supported DAL and the PNG agricultural sector in the formulation of the National Food Security Policy and Action Plan, and drafting of provincial-level food security plans for three pilot provinces;
  • National E-Agriculture Strategy (2018-2023) – FAO has supported the formulation and implementation of the National E-Agriculture Strategy (2018-2023) in collaboration with DAL, National Information and Communications Technology Authority (Nicta), Department of Communication and Information, International Telecommunication Union and others;
  • Coffee Industry Strategic Plan (2019-2029) – The Coffee Industry Corporation is presently spear-heading the formulation of the Coffee Industry Corporation Strategic and Business plans. FAO is also a supporter of this process; and,
  • EU STREIT programme – The government of PNG has signed off on the EU grant for the agriculture value chain programme: “Support to rural entrepreneurship, investment and trade in Papua New Guinea (STREIT PNG)” for the Sepik and Mamose.
    The programmes aim to increase sustainable and inclusive economic development of rural areas, particularly in developing the value chain of three commodities – cocoa, vanilla and fisheries. As the lead implementing agency, FAO has made significant inputs in programme formulations and will support the relevant Government agencies in the detailed design and implementation of the programme. There are other initiatives on Country Gender Assessment, One Health and Agriculture Statistics which are also supported by FAO.

Question: How does Papua New Guinea maintain sustainability in the agriculture sector?
Sustainability has been a critical issue in the agriculture space for effectiveness and efficiency leading to productivity and growth.
Some of the recommendations for improved sustainability in agriculture development in PNG are:

  • Policies – Strengthen legislative and policy frameworks with an emphasis on sustainable production systems and practices;
  • improved capacity – improved capacity in terms of skilled labour force, systems and processes and management practices/skills;
  • entrepreneurship – developing suitable business cases and emphasis in entrepreneurship and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in agriculture for sustainable small scale to medium entrepreneurship;

Left: Ken Shimizu

  • greater participation by private sector – create enabling environments and encourage greater participation of the private sector in the agri-business ecosystem;
  • innovations – moving away from the norms and failures, and finding new innovations for greater and sustainable returns;
  • value chain development – encourage and promote value chain development;
  • financial services – promote flexible and accessible/attractive credit facilities and financial services and products for agriculture actors;
  • enabling environment – provision and maintenance of basic infrastructure and social services (eg bridges, communication); and,
  • Mitigation/adaptation – Minimising impact of major challenges (climate change, natural disasters) and adhering to and develop adaptation mechanisms for external forces (eg subsidies for downturn in world market prices of commodities).

Question: What are some the financial technology solutions that will support agriculture in PNG?
Agriculture is the foundation and heart of the rural PNG economy with over 85 per cent of its eight million people dependent on the sector for their livelihoods. However, given the challenges in climate change, the declining conventional system of extension services, poor resourcing, and increased occurrences of pestilence and diseases, PNG requires smarter approaches and new innovations to build a modern and internationally competitive agricultural sector. The emerging developments in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) offer huge opportunities to enhance smart and innovative agriculture for food security and socio-economic development. In this regard, PNG has developed the PNG E-Agriculture Strategy (2017-2023), which is aimed at harnessing the ICT potential of the country in helping achieve the agriculture goals and further strengthening the role of ICTs in accelerating the growth of the sector in a sustainable and equitable manner. The PNG E-Agriculture initiative is a partnership between DAL, Department of Communication, Information and Energy (DCIE), Nicta, the United Nations (UN) through FAO; International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and other stakeholders in the agriculture, natural resource and ICT sectors. The strategy captures more than 70 independent ICT solutions that are relevant for Papua New Guinea agriculture development. They include potential solutions in the financial technology space for example: food traceability, e-market place for agriculture, electronic banking and payment, certification for organic produce, credit ratings and loan availability and many more. FAO is piloting some of these solutions in the field like the current pilot on traceability in Jiwaka with interested pig farmers using block-chain technology – the project is known as the Livestock Traceability System.

Question: Can you explain what food security is and the measures that are currently in-place to ensure the protection of food and crops in the country?
Food security exists when all people have, at all times, physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary (eating) needs and food choices for an active and healthy life (reaffirmed definition at the World Food Summit, 2009). Malnutrition continues to be a serious issue in PNG; stunting, wasting, deficiencies of essential vitamins and minerals, and obesity are all prevalent problems across the country. Food security problems arise through quality and nutritional variety constraints and availability of protein in the diet, together with a general lack of knowledge in communities on the importance of consuming a diverse and balanced nutritious diet. These constraints are compounded through the impacts of climate change. While improved agricultural and nutritional practices are crucial to address food security in Papua New Guinea, they must be guided by necessary policy and legislative frameworks. In this connection, PNG today has the new National Food Security Policy (2018-2028) with a national level action plan. The policy was formulated through DAL in consultation with relevant stakeholders and with technical support from FAO. This policy is now due for an official endorsement by the National Executive Council (NEC) for immediate adoption and implementation. This is a crucial step to give prominence to the policy and recognise it as a national development framework. The policy captures strategic interventions to address food security challenges in the country. There has been much interest from the public including the development community to align their agricultural and livelihood programmes and projects. It is therefore imperative that the policy is endorsed by the Government and implemented at various levels to serve the people of Papua New Guinea.

Question: What are some of the policies that you think the Government should implement in agriculture to improve and maintain the sector?
The agricultural sector has prioritised a number of policy interventions, strategies and plans to improve and maintain itself with the support of FAO and these include:

  • National Food Security Policy (2018-2028) – available for implementation;
  • National E-Agriculture Strategy (2018-2023) – available and being implemented;
  • National Agriculture Sector Plan (2019-2028) – being formulated; and,
  • Coffee Industry Corporation Strategic and Business Plans (2019-2023) – being formulated.

The recently launched Medium Term Development Plan 3 (MTDP 3) also sets a high priority on agriculture to contribute in national development and prosperity. Shimizu is a Japanese national with over 20 years of experience in international development, having worked for various United Nations agencies, including the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO). He is currently serving as the country representative for the FAO office in Papua New Guinea, since 2013.

Shimizu has a post-graduate degree from Cornell University in the United States, and has managed various technical cooperation programmes/projects for United Nations agencies in the areas of food security, agricultural and rural development, environmental management and emergency rehabilitation. Shimizu has worked in almost all countries within Asia and the Pacific region and also in the Caribbean.

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