By PHILOMENA SALIAU
ON a recent visit to Yall village in Madang district, an outsider, Francis Saliau has observed things that impressed him and he just wished the good Lord’s blessing for the hardworking locals to fulfill their dreams.
Yall is a village in Ward 6 of Transgogl LLG in Madang district of Madang Province. It shares borders with the Usino-Bundi and Middle Ramu districts. Villagers from the other two districts frequently pass by along the same bumpy road built by the Jant timber company years ago – to do business in Madang town and return home.
Yall is also the home of great leaders like Potoi Ibikum who had worked alongside Australian Peter Colton in 1986 to initiate the Yall-Usino highway. Well-known retired National Broadcasting Commission announcer in the education programme Papamai, (and former director of Madang Visitors Bureau) Alos Yagas, alsocomes from there.
Yall and neighbouring inland Begesin communities also need improved health, education, agriculture and other community services but without a road link doing anything would be difficult or impossible. Yall villagers have decided to form a cocoa farmers group through the initiative of Masil Gisaidu who is group chairman.
The group believes that through cocoa they can bring in other social and economic services to the community and prevent young people from drifting to urban centres in search of better opportunities.
“We want to change this village setting, just like building a little Port Moresby in Yall village,” said Gisaidu.
Cocoa farmers’ dreams
He has been leading his community through cocoa since 2018. The project was implemented by Outspan PNG Limited under the Productive Partnerships in Agriculture Programme (PPAP) with the backing of the PNG Cocoa Board. The project is funded by the World Bank.
In improving community livelihoods, the Yall cocoa farmers group aims to:
- Plant cocoa pod borer-resistant seedlings;
- Establish cocoa nurseries;
- Train farmers in rehabilitation and basic book keeping skills;
- Provide quality control;
- Build a resource centre with a storage room and office space;
- Build a central cocoa dryer;
- Supply 200 CPB-resistant seedlings to each registered farmer;
- Build a dryer for every registered farmer; and
- Venture into other businesses like a central wholesale store, a stationary shop and fuel service station to support the cooperative function and make it easier for long nearby villages to access instead of wasting money and time going into town.
But without the road connection from Yall to Usino, villagers’ aims and development strategies to improving the people’s livelihood cannot eventuate.
The World Bank-funded PPAP has helped the farmers and the community with K2.5 million to construct a 5km road.
Due to the increased demand for cocoa seedlings and dried cocoa beans, the community is asking for the road to be extended Usino. They also need help to improve their nursery shed to be able to supply seedlings to farmers in Usino-Bundi and Middle Ramu districts since they use the same bush track every day, Gisaidu says.
After the PPAP project lapsed, the Yall cocoa farmers’ cooperative has already distributed more than 2,000 seedlings to farmers for planting. Some farmers have already reaped fruits of their work.
Demand for more seedlings is still high among surrounding villages in the same ward as well as the upper inland wards of Begesin area in the Usino-Bundi electorate as well.
Gisaidu says if his cooperative is supported well with funding from sources like the Department of Agriculture and Livestock or cocoa businesses they could increase the number of seedlings to between 5,000 and 10,0000, erect a permanent shed to keep dry beans, and provide a vehicle for logistic purposes.
This is the group’s biggest dream right now before the Yall to Usino national highway is constructed. By then, the community would already be in a better position market their produce in Lae as well.
SME funding not reaching far enouch
Gisaidu is also concerned that government funding allocated to assist people like them is difficult to access because of the stringent processes involved.
“If only the SME funding can be made a lot easier for small farmers like us to access that will good for us at our own level. Right now, the SME funding may be benefiting only business who are already well-established. Can the Government reconsider and reassess those SME policies to really benefit people at the grassroots level?”
The good news, however, is that rather than simply waiting for help, the Yall community has taken a step forward in developing their own ward plan targeting community-based projects including SMEs.
Freelance constultant Francis Powih Saliau, has been assisting the community since 2018 with their plans.
- Philomena Saliau is a freelance writer.