MALUM NALU in Mt Hagen
THE controversial National Agriculture Development Plan, which has used up K200 million in two years, yesterday came under fire at the opening of a new potato project at Tambul in Western Highlands province.
Speaker after speaker, including Government MP and Tambul-Nebilyer MP Benjamin Poponawa, bluntly accused the NADP of serving only the “paper farmers of Waigani” and not the true farmers of Papua New Guinea.
Mr Poponawa also made it clear to hundreds of people who gathered at Tambul that he was disappointed that Agriculture and Livestock Minister John Hickey and his department secretary Anton Benjamin could not attend the opening of the high-impact project in his electorate.
“Government workers have hijacked the NADP,” Mr Poponawa said.
“I don’t know what criteria they use to select projects.
“Potato is one of the industries that should be benefiting from the NADP.
“I have told the Agriculture Minister so many times that Tambul can become the vegetable basket of Papua New Guinea. “I’m not happy with the Agriculture Minister and the Agriculture secretary for not coming here today.”
Eastern Highlands agriculture adviser John Sari also fired a broadside at the NADP and questioned how funds were being distributed.
“Have any of your Western Highlands farmers received any money from the NADP?” he posed to those gathered.
“We, in Eastern Highlands, have been waiting and waiting.
“The NADP is useless if it is not coming down to the people it was intended for.
“The plan is good, but it’s been hijacked.
“It has failed.
“This is money for small people like you and me for poverty alleviation; however, this is not happening,” Mr Sari said.
He also accused the National Agriculture Quarantine and Inspection Authority (NAQIA) of failing in its duty, resulting in foreign pests and diseases like potato late blight coming into PNG.
“Institutions like NAQIA are supposed to protect us, however, they are not there when we need them,” he said.
Some people in the crowd said they had sent their applications for the funds, but had not received any response.
The NADP was introduced last year by the Somare Government.
It is a 10-year programme where the Government plans to spend K1 billion in this sector.
But a lot of questions were raised about how the first K100 million in 2008 was spent.
An investigation found that portions of the funds were spent on purposes they were not intended for.
The K100 million for 2009 was spent by August this year.