Prime Minister James Marape challenges the people of Central to go more into agriculture and tourism
By MALUM NALU
ALL roads lead to Kwikila in Rigo, Central, from July 16-18, 2021.
The sleepy little town comes alive as hundreds of people from all over Central converge there for the three-day Central Province Agro-Tourism Show.
They showcase their abundant agriculture and tourism products for Papua New Guinea and the world to see.
It’s no secret that Central, just next to Port Moresby, can feed the ever-growing capital and Papua New Guinea.
It has vast tracts of land to grow agricultural commodities such as coffee, cocoa, coconuts, rubber and others.
Central can supply fruit, vegetables and rice to Port Moresby and PNG.
Coffee and high-altitude vegetables can be grown in Goilala.
The seas teem with fish.
Tourism products abound, the most high-profile being the world-famous Kokoda Trail leading from Owers’ Corner in Sogeri to Kokoda in Northern, which saw trekking come to a halt because of Covid-19.
Despite overseas tourists not coming, local tourism continues to grow, with Port Moresby families going to popular spots such as Sogeri, the Magi and Hiritano highways, or the islands at weekends.
Central – like all of PNG – is a blessed land, rich beyond compare in so many ways, certainly not poor as we are made out to be.
Prime Minister James Marape challenges the people of Central to go more into agriculture and tourism.
He poses the challenge when closing the three-day Central Province Agro-Tourism Show in Kwikila, Rigo, on Sunday, July 18.
Marape also commits K500,000 to Central farmers who take part to open bank accounts.
The event is organised by Central Governor Robert Agarobe with MPs William Samb (Goilala), Peter Isoaimo (Kairuku-Hiri) and Lekwa Gure (Rigo) also present.
Tourism Arts and Culture Minister Isi Henry Leonard also attends the event as well as senior public servants including Secretary to PM and NEC Ivan Pomaleu, PM’s Acting Chief of Staff Philip Leo, Tourism Promotion Authority CEO Eric Mossman Uvovo and National Cultural Commission Executive Director Steven Kilanda.
“The governor’s intention is very noble,” PM Marape tells a big crowd at Kwikila.
“I am here to inform each and every one of you that I am Governor Agarobe’s closest partner, in as far as making people economically independent.”
PM Marape says Central can supply food and rest and recreation facilities to the ever-growing population of Port Moresby.
“You (Central) are the closest to one million mouths in Port Moresby,” he elaborates.
“You are also closest to the one million people in Port Moresby who need rest and recreation.
“Let’s commercialise agriculture in Central, and let’s go into the tourism space in Central.”
Marape recalls a recent trip to Fisherman’s Island, off Port Moresby, where he sees expatriates from the national capital enjoying themselves.
“I saw expats from Port Moresby swimming, relaxing, having barbeques,” PM Marape says.
“If there are 20 expats, who spend K50 each, that’s K1,000 to the people on the island.
“What if there were 100 visitors? That’s K5,000.”
PM Marape says the agro-tourism concept being promoted by Gov-
ernor Agarobe is “a step in the right direction”.
“I want Central Province people to pick it (agro-tourism) up,” he said.
“This combination of agriculture and tourism, which you (Governor Agarobe) are embarking upon as an intervention for people, is a movement in the right space.”
Governor Agarobe says the event has been organised mainly to drive the “Smart Central Plan” that he is spearheading.
“The plan is all about driving our economy,” he adds.
“It is about the majority of our people, the 80 per cent in the rural areas, who own 90 per cent of the land.
“If we want to drive the economy of our country, we need to get our people mobilised, with incentives to our people.
“In that way, they can mobilise themselves, and the 90 per cent of the land that they own.
“We see agriculture as the key ingredient to do this.”
Governor Agarobe says his Government has been actively promoting the ‘Smart Central Plan’ among farmers and tourism operators in the province.
“We put a structure in place and got them organised so that they can drive the economy of this province, and eventually the economy of our country,” he explains.
“The main reason for this first-ever Central Province Agriculture and Tourism Show is to bring in farmers and connect them with other stakeholders.”
The private sector, including Bank of South Pacific, had stalls at the show with many rural Central people lining up to open bank accounts.
Under Governor Agarobe’s plan, Kairuku-Hiri is focusing on rice, Goilala on coffee, Abau on coffee and Rigo on livestock.
He is also encouraging the ‘One Crop Per Farmer Concept’ in which one farmer concentrates on growing only one crop.
“In that way, we can identify which farmer is growing what, so that we can look for a market for him,” Governor Agarobe says.
Aniani, the business arm of the Central Provincial Government, buys fresh produce straight from farmers and looks for markets in Port Moresby.
Roads are being built into agriculture areas so that their produce can be brought to markets.
“We are buying all your food,” Governor Agarobe tells his people.
“For instance, for all those farmers with stalls, Aniani will buy all of your leftover produce not sold.”
He tells PM Marape that the plan now is for the show to become an annual event staged in all districts of Central, with a permanent showground to be built at the new provincial capital at Bautama.
“This is the first, but next year we’re going to make it even bigger, and the following year we’re going to make it even bigger,” Governor Agarobe says.
“Let’s progress this, as the farmers are excited, with so much of their produce being sold.
“We’ve had a very good three days with people being very well-behaved, visitors coming in from Port Moresby, with a lot of local food and art-and-craft, networking and great music.”
Where there is a will, there is a way, and Central is certainly doing that.
- Malum Nalu works with the Office of the Prime Minister