Nari has been staging the annual Agricultural Innovation Show over the last 12 years. The show has become a useful platform for farmers to market products. AARON INAMARA, from Nari, gives an insight into this issue.
FARMERS in rural communities readily embrace opportunities to learn and have others appreciate and support their efforts.
Such opportunities are not common and are embraced with much enthusiasm and pride.
While small-to-medium enterprise promotional events are staged around the country annually; smallholder farmers lack support to participate in them.
To help the farmers, the National Agricultural Research Institute’s (Nari) has been staging the annual Agricultural Innovation Show (AIS), over the last 12 years.
The show has become a useful platform for farmers to market products.
The 2019 AIS was no different with the involvement of a large number of farmers from coastal and highlands provinces.
Individual famers as well as farmer groups converged on May 29-30 to tell their stories of success.
These narratives often feature technologies which have been sourced by farmer associations and cooperatives from Nari established farmer resource centres.
There were others who have been able achieve amazing results through other agencies such as the PNG Women in Agriculture Development Foundation and provincial Department of Agriculture and Livestock branches.
Two good examples emerged from the recent show. One is a story of a youth form Jimi in Jiwaka who has returned home after agricultural studies to help his community.
Jesse Kamp has qualifications in tropical agriculture and agriculture extension in Rural Development from the University of Natural Resources and Environment and the University of Goroka, respectively.
In 2017, Jesse decided to help smallholder farmers in his area by setting up a farmer cooperative known as the Jimi Women and Youth in Agriculture.
The group has been in operation since last year. He is as the group’s president.
Jesse said that his main motivation to start the group was to help many of the illiterate farmers in his community understand new agricultural ideas and improve their production methods. Jesse has since led his group to focus on small scale downstream processing.
The crops involved include rice, coffee and cocoa – a newly introduced commodity.
The group mills and packages the rice they produce.
They also learn to produce livestock feed and flour from local sweetpotato, banana, taro and cassava.
The group has even experimented with the production of cocoa powder and cakes.
All of these were produced using simple food processing tools such as tongtongs and manual mashers.
They first promoted their products at the Kurumul show earlier this year. Jesse says his farmer group has plans to use proper branding and packaging for their range of products.
These would be showcased in future exhibitions shows such as the 2020 AIS.
One of our aims for participating in this show is to draw interest and support from key agencies such as the Nari and the Department of Primary Industry through the public-private agriculture partnership programme.
Another compelling story is that of Tatam Biad; another youth from Trans-gogol area in Madang.
He started rice farming with his family for over 18 years now with the support of the provincial branch of the Department of Agriculture and Livestock.
In 2008, their work was boosted when one of his brothers was selected as a model farmer to undertake rice farm training at Kerevat in East New Britain.
This was through an arrangement between DAL Madang and Japan Agency of International Assistance.
Tatam has since relieved his brother as a model farmer attached with Trans-gogol rice farmers’ cooperative called the Kawasop Business Group.
He is now working closely with the DAL Madang’s food crops office in undertaking rice farm trainings and marketing programmes in Trans-gogol area.
Tatam said: “Members of our group share ideas and work together in studying finding markets for our products.
“We have discovered that demand for our local rice is very good. DAL Madang has helped us to do packing and branding for our products”.
The brand name for all smallholder farmer produced rice in Madang is Magic Marasin.
According to Mary Lilith, the food crop officer of DAL Madang, the name is coined after the way local consumers appreciate rice as a treat that draws people to participate in community work.
Currently, packing is done through collaboration with Territorial Packaging Ltd.
The company receives the Magic Marasin brand design and prints it onto packets.
DAL Madang then buys the packets in bulk and resells to smallholder farmers, like Tatam. The famers use the labeled packets to pack their milled rice and sell.
Tatam added that farmer groups also have customised our line brands to differentiate each other’s products.
My line is Magic Marasin – Kol Rice.
There are other specific brands from other districts such as Sumkar and Bogia.
This year’s show has had the participation of a good range of organisations, apart from Nari.
Farmer groups such as Jesse’s and Tatam’s did their best to establish links with prominent agricultural agencies such as Trukai Industries, Zenag Chicken and Lutheran Development Service.
For Jesse, Trukai was a partner he was keen to engage with to realise his group’s aim of large scale production and packaging.
Tatam indicated that a certain client had expressed an interest in buying his line of the Magic Marasin rice.
The annual AIS show is great advantage for smallholder farmers’ to meet and establish networks to develop markets for their products.
It is, therefore, essential that more support is offered in facilitating greater participation of smallholder farmers, in future events.
- Aaron Inamara is the information and communication officer with Nari