The National – Tuesday, December 7, 2010
By SENIORL ANZU
THE roles of research, science and technology are important for overall prosperity of a developing economy.
In agriculture, it is accepted that research, science and technology make positive inputs to agricultural development and eventually contribute to overall economic growth.
This happens when improved agricultural technologies and new innovations and knowledge, generated through scientific research and innovative development, are used in innovative ways by the farming and rural communities.
PNG’s economic growth and social advancement remain in natural resource (renewable) sectors, including agriculture. This sector is the mainstay of PNG where the majority of the population (85%) sustains their livelihoods.
Agriculture is the sector that must be targeted, irrespective of very exciting developments in other sectors at this present time. The core contributions of agriculture are in the areas of food security, cash income generation, increasing gainful employment, reducing poverty and rural development – which will help realise broad-based economic growth.
That is where the government’s medium- to long-term focus is for the future.
PNG agriculture also has the potential for long-term prosperity. This is through people empowerment and wealth creation, as singled out in PNG Vision 2050.
Agricultural research and improved technologies are seen to be the critical catalytic agents in promoting the agriculture sector, economic growth and sustainable rural development.
PNG has distinct comparative and competitive advantage in developing its agriculture sector given the ample natural resources.
Basic opportunities in the agriculture sector lie in PNG’s rich resources and the potential to achieve substantial productivity gains through science-based agricultural technology and transfer of knowledge to communities.
Many of the potentials can be realised through increased productivity and diversified and expanded production.
They can be achieved through improved agricultural technologies and new knowledge created from science-based research which
must be used by the farming and rural communities.
Technologies cannot be limited to one condition. They can be borrowed from other countries. Actors in the sector make assessments and adapt them to local conditions and circumstances.
Technologies can also be developed through innovations. This is done through applied research, which requires scientific and systematic methods and processes.
Scientific research explores for truth and emphasises clarity of thinking using systematic processes. Technology development translates research outputs into practical application for farmers and rural communities to use. This is where institutions of research and technology development, higher education and training, and quality assurance come in.
They play a vital role in such an innovation system.
A number of institutions, universities and the private sector are incorporating science and technology in their research and development efforts. These are in the areas of crop improvement such as breeding and biotechnology, crop diversification, pest and disease control such as management of the potato late blight infestation and value addition.
Over the years, the use of science and technology has helped developed various technologies that are appropriate for local conditions. Examples of technological innovations involving NARI include the development of plant-derived pesticides using locally available resources, chemical control for taro beetle, hybrid taro varieties, crop propagation technique of marcotting and the development of low-cost livestock feed using locally available feed resources such as sweet potato and cassava.
These, and many others, need to be taken on further into our development contexts. They can contribute to increase productivity and empower growth and advancement.
Globally, science and technology processes have been positively influenced by improvements in information and communication technologies, in human skills and in institutional development.
Challenges of modernisation are at our doors, and we need to accept them in all aspects and move to close the gap with the developed world. For such to happen, knowledge and intellectual capacity is required.
Knowledge is created through research, science and technology development. This knowledge, when adopted, helps in solving or alleviating constraints to development. It enables new opportunities for development to be explored.
Results from many empirical studies worldwide have suggested a 30% or greater return on investments in agricultural research. Many developed nations invest at least 2% of their gross domestic product (GDP) in this area.
The simple reason is that this investment gives a good return.
PNG has huge agricultural potential. Thus, the same can be anticipated.
Some effective integration of the potential of the “national innovation system”, is required to harness this potential.
This also requires input by responsible actors so that scientific research, improved technologies and knowledge are incorporated in the existing systems and practices to create a knowledge-based economy.
Thus, the need and potential for agricultural development, and the capacities and potentials of research, science and technology, should be harnessed through relevant innovation systems.