By CORA MOABI
EXTENSION work in remote areas come with sacrifice, commitment and time. That is how you imprfove people’s lives.
David Elmai, is Coffee Industry Corporation’s (CIC) mobile extension officer, based in remote Simbai in Middle-Ramu, Madang. He has been working there since the start of the partnership project with the district in 2014.
Simbai is an old government station that lacks basic services such as healthcare, banking, roading, and air services.
The local health centre serves over 29,000 people from Simbai station and the surrounding villages of Kairongk, Womuk, Songovak, Selemb, Assai, Kambaneng, Kumburuf and some villages in Jimi in the outback of Jiwaka — where you have to walk for hours or even days to access basic services.
Simbai Anglican Vocational Training Centre (SAVTC) is a level five school with at least five teachers who teach agriculture, economics, tourism and hospitality and, basic computing. Longtime public servant and head teacher of SAVTC, George Kolai, said they focus more on agriculture because they see that food security is crucial in such a remote place.
“We see that it is important to promote cash crops that can provide a cash economy for our people.”
He said they are now coordinating their programmes with agricultural officers based in Simbai.
“We have engaged them in various lecture programmes for the students both in the vocation and the newly built Simbai high school. CIC and DPI officers have given talks on how to grow cash crops like coffee and other vegetables. ”
Kolai said service delivery is inadequate, with many services not reaching the people in some parts of the district.
“Road network is a big need for all of us.”
The area possesses an ideal climate for arabica coffee, and of more than 674 bags of parchment coffee sold recently, 38.1 per cent was airfreighted and sold pivately and 61.9 per cent was sold under CIC’s Freight Subsidy Scheme programme
CIC chief executive Charles Dambui acknowledged the continued support of the government, saying it was important to maintain the high level of coffee quality.
In many cases, because of the long storage periods in poor storehouses at the nine airstrips in the area, farmers lose coffee quality and therefore earn less for their crop.
The chairman of Kakasa coffee farmers cooperative, John Tanek, said it has been encouraging to see coffee work revived in the district.
Tanek said before CIC went into Simbai, farmers sold their coffee to local buyers and got as low as K1 to K2.50 per kilogram. Farmers did not have a chance to get factory door prices. Each week, between 100 to 200 bags of coffee arrive at the nine airstrips.
Apart from coffee production, a model of Integrated Farming System (IFS) was being implemented. This has seen the set-up of two apiaries in Womuk (20 hives) and Simbai station (10 hives).
Since then, three harvests totalling 80kg of honey worth K1400 have been made. The hive numbers in each apiary is expected to increase to 50 in about three years. Recent partnerships have shown benefits by providing an alternate source of income to targeted farmers in Simbai and parts of Kovon LLGs. Garlic seed productions have started using CIC local extension network and is anticipated to be adapted by farmers soon.
Fresh Produce Development Agency (FPDA) programme manager Wayne Powae said the agency is working in partnership with CIC to develop garlic production in Simbai. It followed a study that looked into which crops were viable.
“This is a first of its kind project where we have come out in a remote area to implement a garlic project.”
He said that if successful the project would be replicated in similar locations, provided there was financial assistance from the districts concerned.
Powae praised CIC’s cooperation.
“With already three model farms running in Womuk, Simbai and Assai from which farmers are practically learning basic garlic husbandry skills, we hope to produce 10 to 12 tons of garlic seeds which will then be distributed to trained farmers for increased production and marketing.”
CIC general manager Steven Tumae emphasised the need for agriculture-based organisations to work together, share resources, knowledge and expertise to improve the livelihood of farmers.
By CORA MOABI