Championing the sweet potato conservation project


A team of scientists from the National Agricultural Research Institute recently visited Teptep, Madang, from April 26 to
May 3 to encourage locals to look after their sweet potato genetic resources. Teptep is one of
four target sites for a sweet potato plant genetic resource project, Nari’s GURE’AHAFO TUMAE writes

TEPTEP is situated at the boarder of Madang’s Raikos and Morobe’s Kabwum.
It is only accessible by small planes and would take a couple of days’ walk to reach the nearest truck or boat route into Lae city or Madang town.
Teptep is one of four target sites for a sweet potato plant genetic resource project.
The other sites include Galoma in Central; Usurufa in Eastern Highlands; and, Menyamya in Morobe.
The project focuses on helping farmers in climate vulnerable communities in Papua New Guinea conserve and utilise sweet potato varieties.
The project is funded by a grant from the benefit sharing fund of the International Treaty for Plant Genetic Resources (ITPGR).
The visit was aimed at encouraging local communities to look after their sweet potato genetic resources and maintain a wide diversity.
This was facilitated through a week-long training of interested households in the Family Farm Team (FFT) model and its application in the participatory variety selection process.
Families trained in the model will become custodians of local sweet potato genetic resources in each of the four project sites
The FFT model was developed by researchers from the University of Canberra, Australia, and is adopted by Nari in our trainer of trainers workshops for wider application.
The model promotes inclusive participation of all members of farming households towards common goals live food security; inclusive decision making in family farm businesses; and resilience against effects of the global climate change.
Typically, women in farming households do much of the work for the hard-earned money which men would misuse on selfish expenses.
But FFT can help to address this issue.
The concept has proven through successful trials that it has the potential to transform traditional gender roles.
It helps to create an environment where husbands, wives and children can collaborate effectively to share responsibilities and build productive farming families.
During the week’s training, four modules of the family farm team were covered. In the first module, “Working as a family farm team”, critical discussions about typical farming families and the concept of equity or fair participation of family members in all aspects of their work.
This brought the men to admit their failures for disadvantaging their wives and children through unbalanced distribution of decisions making powers; time and workload; and financial resources.
This set the pace nicely for the following sessions.
In the second module, “Planning your family farm team”, the participants were introduced to the idea of mapping family farms and integrating sweet potato genetic resources.
They were shown how to plan, assess and improve their food gardens.
They were also taken briefly through the process of selecting sweet potato varieties for cross-pollination and how to make cropping seasonal calendars.
In the third module, “Feeding your family”, the participating family farm teams learnt the nutritional values of their staple crops and how they would use ideas from previous two modules to always feed their families with good food.
Particular emphasis was made about the importance of maintaining sweet potato varieties bred through their involvement in the variety selection component of the project.
The final module focused on broadening the concept to communication and decision-making in family farms.
In this session, the participants were led to identify good communication methods and appreciate their significance in bringing family teams together to plan, make decisions and share resources, to achieve common goals identified in the first module.
At the end of the training, the men reiterated that they would allow for more inclusivity in how they manage their family farms, going forward.
They pledged to become better husbands, fathers and leaders in their family farm teams.
Apart from the 10 selected family teams, other interest families also attendant the week-long training as observers.
Overall, a total of 106 persons came for the training.
In the end, the participants expressed great interest to be involved in efforts to conserve sweet potato varieties.
They are eager to participate in selecting and developing new varieties of sweet potatoes, in their own gardens.
The week’s training was led by the ITPGR project’s implementing scientist, Gure’ahafo Tumae, with the support of Jeromy Kavi (social scientist) and Miriam Simin (food technologist).
The team is encouraged by the success of this trip and now looks forward to rolling-out the training to other project sites, in the coming months.

Gure’ahafo Tumae is the implementing scientist for the International Treaty for Plant Genetic Resource based at Nari’s Momase Research Centre in Lae.

One thought on “Championing the sweet potato conservation project

  • This is Superb! You guys rock, working with the most disadvantaged populations. Keep up the great work.

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