The European Union’s support to PNG’s rural entrepreneurship investment and trade programme started in the Sepik region last year. Business reporter DALE LUMA spoke with programme coordinator DR XUEBING SUN, from the lead agency Food and Agriculture Organisation, about the programme.
THE K340 million EU support to rural entrepreneurship, investment and trade in PNG (Streit PNG) programme went into its inception stage last year in Sepik.
Question: What is the EU Streit PNG programme?
Dr Sun: The Streit PNG programme is the largest grant-funded programme of the European Union in the country and in the Pacific sub-region.
The programme focuses on three value chains of cocoa, vanilla and fisheries.
It aims to achieve an overall objective, which is to increase sustainable and inclusive economic development of rural areas through a combination of two integrated outcomes:
- INCREASING the economic returns and opportunities from cocoa, vanilla and fishery; and,
- STRENGTHENING and improving the efficiency of value chain enablers including the business environment and supporting sustainable, climate proof transport and energy infrastructure development.
What are target implementing areas?
The programme is being implemented in the six districts of East Sepik; Wewak, Yangoru-Saussia, Maprik, Ambunti-Dreikikier, Wosera-Gawi and Angoram, and the four districts of West Sepik; Vanimo-Green, Aitape-Lumi, Nuku and Telefomin.
The programme focuses on rural dwellers, farmers and small to medium enterprises in these districts, with an ambition to reach 250,000 direct beneficiaries.
Who are the parties implementing the programme?
The programme is being implemented as a United Nations joint initiative under the leadership of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations, partnering with the International Labour Organisation (ILO), International Telecommunication Union (ITU), United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) and United Nations development programme (UNDP).
The FAO and four other UN agencies operate in collaboration with the PNG Government.
How is the programme being implemented on the ground?
Field activities are conducted jointly with officers from the East Sepik and Sandaun governments, line ministries like the Department of Agriculture and Livestock and State agencies such as the cocoa board, spice industry board and national fisheries authority.
Local non-government organisations (NGOs) and civil organisations play important roles as well.
The EU Streit PNG also works jointly with the private sector.
Remarkably, FAO, under EU Streit PNG signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU), with company Paradise Foods Ltd to support local entrepreneurship in agribusiness for more inclusive and sustainable cocoa production value chains among smallholder farmers.
This cooperation will also see development of relevant certification schemes for smallholder cocoa producers, with an aim to enable opportunities for profit motivation among agribusinesses.
This should result in increased price in the cocoa supply chain for smallholder farmers including women and youth in the EU Streit implementation areas.
EU Streit PNG signed a letter of agreement with a leading women and youth group in East Sepik, foundation for women in agriculture development (Fowiad) cooperative society Ltd in Hayfield, Maprik, to work with smallholder cocoa farmers including widows in Wosera-Gawi.
Fowiad has been serving over 2,000 rural farmers including widows for more than 20 years.
The rationale to engage non-government groups is to reach out to small and marginal farm households that have always been left out in programmes of this nature.
The EU Streit PNG is pursuing similar partnership with private companies and cooperatives to include everyone in the programme so that no one is left behind.
What are some components that have already been implemented?
Despite 2020 being an inception year for the programme, it has delivered the following:
The EU Streit PNG, in collaboration with cocoa board and provincial DAL, is replacing old senile cocoa trees in Sepik with cocoa pod borer (CPB) tolerant trees.
The rehabilitation of existing gardens and blocks is taking place using existing bud wood gardens established under the provincial DAL, cocoa board, Australian centre for international agriculture research, productive partnership in agriculture project and smart cocoa programme.
The nurseries currently in operation are being used to supply bud sticks and cocoa seedlings to raise root stocks, bud graft and distribute to cocoa farmers within the districts down to LLGs, and the wards under service contract arrangements.
So far, 37,205 CPB tolerant seedlings have been distributed to over 10,000 farmers including women and youth. Among the women were single mothers and widows.
Of this distribution, 15,712 were distributed under a LOA with the cocoa board, while 21,493 were distributed with direct supervision from EU Streit PNG, where 173 recipients were women and youth comprising 33 per cent.
The clonal seedlings were distributed from four cocoa nurseries and bud wood gardens set-up in Haripmo, Hawain, Passam (East Sepik) and other privately owned nurseries.
This effort is continuing this year with the support or more nurseries and bud wood gardens being developed in collaboration with the cocoa board and provincial/district DAL offices.
The EU Streit PNG will continue to supply CPB tolerant seedlings and, at the same time, rehabilitate old cocoa trees to increase production with improved income that will go directly into the pockets of rural farmers in 10 districts of the Sepik provinces.
Cocoa is an important source of income for rural families.
Additionally, the programme aimed to establish a number of cocoa first-stage processing facilities in order to harness the value added in the province, as well as expand the storage facilities across the province.
In the first quarter of this year, fermentaries assessment was launched, aimed at rehabilitating 800 operational fermentaries in upcoming years.
The “vanilla cultivation, husbandry and processing training” is pulling together a high interest among women and youth.
A total of 830 farmers attended the first four trainings conducted in Wewak and Ambunti (East Sepik) and Vanimo (West Sepik) and 141 participants were women representing 32 per cent of total participants.
Vanilla is a lucrative business supporting about 500,000 people in Sepik. The knowledge acquired by farmers are through observations.
The trainings with introduction to proper tools and equipment to process quality beans helped farmers to get a higher and better price for their product to improve their livelihood.
Trainings are conducted in collaboration with the provincial DAL.
With the support of West Sepik fisheries authority, the EU Streit PNG aims to revive plant located at the provincial fisheries office in Vanimo, to support fishery business opportunities for smallholder coastal and inland farmers in the border province.
Ice producing facilities will be set-up in the coastal areas to support fishing communities in both provinces.
The EU Streit PNG launched a hatchery development programme the fish hatchery component of the Sandaun inland fish farming project in Pasi, Vanimo.
The intervention will construct the water supply system and support operation of the fish hatchery.
The construction started last month (March), with full operation in October. Once fully operational, the hatchery will supply Tilapia fingerlings to the majority of the 10,000 smallholder aquaculture farmers in Vanimo-Green.
In order to increase access of inland fish farmers for fish feed, establishment of fish food manufacturing facility is envisioned under the programme for the upcoming year.
Women and youth inclusion
The EU Streit PNG’s objective is to increase sustainable and inclusive economic development through the creation of an enabling an environment where women and youth are supported with improved income from cocoa, vanilla and fisheries value chains through reduced costs and time, access to finance, availability and usage of digital tools and services.
The gender and youth team has formed a gender mainstreaming technical (GMT) working group comprising representatives of provincial DAL and other line ministries, and other UN agencies partnering with FAO to implement Streit, as well as stakeholders and beneficiaries from NGOs and representatives from youth and women’s groups.
One task for this group is to identify community trainers or coaches for training of trainers programme who will then be extension officers in the districts, LLGs and villages to provide support to communities on the cocoa, vanilla and fisheries value chain.
These coaches can be anyone that live in the communities like farmers, teachers or any actor within the value chain who will remain in the community and will continue to provide support after the programme ends.
Baseline survey and fisheries value chain analysis
Baseline surveys are important to guide the review and setting of key programme targets and indicators for Streit programme for the next five years so last year, 2020 (November-December), under a LOA, the National Agriculture and Research Institute (Nari) was contracted to deliver this study, including design, planning and execution of this activity.
Additionally, Streit programme launched cooperation with the national fisheries authority to conduct a “Value chain analysis of the aquaculture, riverine and coastal fisheries subsectors in the Sepik”.
The analysis will cover three small fisheries sectors which are prevalent in the region and is expected to provide detailed information on economic situation and development needs in the Sepik region.
We are happy to have NFA experts supporting us to pave way for economic improvement of fisheries in the Sepik region.
What will be some visible benefits when fully implemented?
The programme completed in 2020 its inception phase, aiming on the structure setup, data collection and establishment of working relationships.
However, up to now the programme managed to establish a network of cocoa budwood gardens contributing to significant rehabilitation of the cocoa production areas in the Sepiks and significantly enhanced capacities of the farmers in both cocoa and vanilla sectors.
What are some current spin-offs?
The most important trend that is resulting of the programme is change of the private sector, grasping the agriculture as a business, not a subsistence activity. The programme puts in place strong foundations for significant modernisation of agriculture sector in target provinces, as well as its increased outreach to international markets.
How confident is the FAO of delivering a successful EU Streit programme that will have a lasting benefit to the people?
The programme’s success depends on the attitude, motivation, and continuous work of beneficiaries: both the farmers and government.
The programme provides know-how, tools and conditions for the future success of the farmers and entrepreneurs in the region – however the sustainability of these components provided is in the hands of the people themselves, as well as the government which is in place to support, regulate and further develop the programme outputs.
Programme works hand in hand with Government agencies and private sector to ensure the programme’s lasting success.