SOLDIER BURUKA of DAL
Landowners and the local community on Lolobau Island in the Bialla sub district of West New Britain province have welcomed moves to boost agriculture development.
The people said their island community had been neglected for too long and there had been lack of basic government services.
Many rural dwellers are not benefiting from cash income-earning opportunities and were struggling to meet their daily needs.
The people raised their concerns during a public hearing conducted recently on the island to gauge their views on the proposed Lolobao integrated agriculture, infrastructure and reforestation timber authority project.
The proponents of the agro-forestry project are proposing to develop and produce cocoa and coconut and forest tree plantations as well as boost food security activities.
Land and resource owners, community leaders and women’s representatives voiced positive sentiments during the public hearing which was conducted by the Department of Agriculture and Livestock and the West New Britain provincial administration.
Majority of the people said they welcomed the proposed agricultural project which would bring renewed hope and boost the local economy.
Managing director of Lolobao Resources Development Ltd, Nick Suvulo, said the agro-forestry proposal had been developed with the aim of utilising the resources on the island to provide cash income-earning opportunities for the local people, especially the resource owners.
He said the island had potential for agriculture and forestry and it was up to the people to decide if they wanted to participate in meaningful economic development.
There has been lack of development and no Government services; therefore, the proposed project – which will involve cocoa and coconut rehabilitation and reforestation – will create more opportunities for the island community.
LRD Ltd chairman, Emanuel Tobao, said the Lolobau people had been suffering from lack of development and services for a long time.
He said the people were struggling to sustain their daily living due to lack of economic development, access to marketing, transportation, extension, health and education services.
It has taken the resource owners three years to form the landowner company comprising of the five villages with a population of around 2,000.
Although the people had abundant marine resources, they need to have access to other economic development activities and new opportunities to earn cash income to sustain their living.
The people wanted to utilise their resources, which will bring them hope and vision as well as improve related services such as health and education.
Ward councillor Philip Taupili welcomed the proposed project and described it as a great opportunity to the local community who had suffered from lack of Government services for many years.
He said the people were in need of services and challenged the national and provincial governments to support the project.
Women’s representative and school headmistress, Anna Suvulo, said the project would create basic services to help women on ways to run small businesses, fisheries, food crops, sewing, cooking and nutrition.