By SERAH LAGDOM
ACCORDING to an economist, Papua New Guinea’s food security is largely better than many of the more drought prone and overpopulated developing countries. Institute of National Affairs Executive
Director, Paul Barker told The National that Papua New Guinea has traditionally been subjected to a seasonal extended hunger (‘taim hangri’) period, usually around February-March.
He said this was before the new food crop was ready for harvest, and in some years heavy rain and flood damage, and extended drought and frost affects particularly parts of the country, notably during El Nino years, such as 1997-1998 and 2015- 2016.
He said the growing population pressure had also affected extensive parts of the country, with pressure on the land.
“For example, parts of Chimbu, Southern Highlands, Enga and elsewhere), Maprik, the Gazelle, Talasea pensinsula and the growing competition with some extensively grown cash crops adding to the pressure now, and into the near future.”
He said some areas were particularly prone to drought and frost impact, including parts of Milne Bay and high altitude parts of Enga, notably Kandep.
“Traditional trade and exchange systems provided some food security at the local level.
“Although extensive conversion of garden and forest land to cash crops can jeopardise household access to food crops, household production of cash crops (such as coffee, cocoa and copra) generally complements homegrown food, and enhances household food supply and food security, through the capacity to earn an income and supplement garden food with purchased food, includingvaluable protein, such as tinned
fish,” he said.
He said food security was not all about growing one’s own household food, although that’s valuable.
Around the world most people do not grow their own food, but global food security is nowadays much better than in the past when droughts or pests destroyed the harvest and vast populations were decimated.
Barker said improved transport infrastructure and trade, between surplus and deficit areas and households, had been the major factors reducing the food shortage and previous levels of dependence upon risky local supply.
“But agriculture science, understanding and countering plant and animal diseases, are the role of governments and international organisations in addressing extreme poverty and hunger, plus wage employment and mass food distribution all play important parts.”
By SERAH LAGDOM