LANDOWNERS have given their approval for the K2.7 billion large-scale integrated agriculture project that will cover three electorates in East Sepik province.
The Nungwaia-Bongas large-scale agriculture integrated timber project will cover 110,000ha of land in Ambunti-Dreikikir, Maprik and Wosera-Gawi electorates.
The National Government has approved K8 million with K4 million already drawn down to start the project that will involve forest harvest and creation of estates of palm oil, vanilla, jethropa, cocoa and coffee.
The Department of Agriculture and Livestock (DAL) conducted a “public hearing” at Dreikikir station last Friday where principal landowners from the three electorates were given the opportunity to raise their concerns and questions over the project.
The meeting was chaired by East Sepik provincial administrator Samson Torovi and deputy secretary for DAL Frank Dai, was attended by three Members of Parliament including Maprik MP and Minister for Commerce and Industry Gabriel Kapris, Ambunti-Dreikikir MP and Minister for Correctional Services Tony Aimo and Wosera-Gawi MP Ronald Asik.
The public hearing is one of the final processes before a certification is granted by National Forest Authority.
More than 200 principal landowners from Ambunti-Nukuma areas, Wosera-Nungwaia, Maprik-Bumbita-Muhian, Dreikikir and Kawanga One and Two were all asked to present their cases for hearing.
Joseph Taba from Tablata council area said the people had been living in the dark for the past 34 years and the project would give them the opportunity to move from the “back” to the “front page”.
Martin Kalumu raised the concerns about lack of consultation and awareness reaching the people by relevant authorities.
“My land and my bush is like my supermarket. Although I may be stupid but please inform me.”
People also raised questions on the benefits of the project and what would happen to the trees felled for the project.
Charles Kuni from Kawanga said coffee and cocoa were rotting with no roads to bring their produce to the markets.
Ben Gawi from the District AIDS Council raised concerns about HIV/AIDS and asked what plans were in place to address the health issue.
“When development comes, money comes and sickness comes with it.”
Chairman and provincial administrator Mr Torovi said the four main issues raised were land use plan, consultation, land boundaries and integrated land groups (ILGs) and a call for the formation of an awareness committee.
He said East Sepik was now in a period of exciting times and called on the people to grab the opportunity and run with it.
He said one major goal of the administration was to mobilise factors of production which included land, labour and capital.
He said people had the labour and land but would need an investor to pump in capital for projects to start.
Mr Aimo, Mr Kapris and Mr Asik have all thrown their support behind the project.
“This project alone will change our lifestyle,” Mr Kapris said.