The National, Tuesday 17th July, 2012
By JAMES LARAKI
NOT much has been done to improve livestock research and development in Papua New Guinea and other Pacific Island countries.
The sector contributes significantly to the livelihoods of more than 600,000 smallholders, mainly through subsistence and small commercial production of pigs and poultry. Cattle, small ruminants and inland aquaculture also play an increasing role. However, there are a number of constraints limiting the people from benefiting from these enterprises. Efforts are urgently required to improve livestock services.
One of the limiting factors is the lack of human resource capacity.
Livestock services can be improved substantially if innovative technologies based on scientific research are developed and adopted. However, for this to happen, we need to have the human resource capacity in place to conduct impact-oriented research focussed on the various aspects of livestock. Unfortunately, such capacity is lacking in the region.
Over the years, this vital area has been overlooked. We need to make efforts to strengthen the human resource capacity in this area.
Lack of human resource capacity, along with a host of other constraints, has contributed to the lack of improvement experienced in this sector. The last 10-15 years has been a struggle in
terms of research and development in livestock.
Efforts are urgently required to improve the overall livestock services in the region. The National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI), in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu Agricultural Research and Technical Centre, is trying to address this with secured funding from the ACP science and technology programme. The project would train agriculture researchers from Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and PNG.
As a part of this project, NARI, in collaboration with its partners, has been organising a series of training workshops in the region to improve human resource capacity in various aspects of agricultural research including livestock.
One such effort was a training workshop on the assessment of constraints, opportunities and potentials in livestock research and development (R&D) held in the Solomon Islands. It was organised by NARI in collaboration with the Solomon Islands Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock.
The workshop focused on capacity development in research planning, programming and implementation in western Pacific countries with support from the European Union-funded ACP science and technology programme. It looked at the human resource capacity and assessed constraints, opportunities and potentials in livestock research and development in the Pacific. Emphasis was also placed on the need to enhance the capacity for the development of the livestock sector.
More than 17 research and development experts from throughout the region participated in the workshop. The participants were a mix of men and women as well as seasoned and young agriculture professionals with limited knowledge and skills about the tools and techniques used in assessing constraints, opportunities and potentials in livestock research and development.
Gaining such skills would allow them to identify strategic priorities and make decisions in livestock research and development. This would also allow them to allocate our scarce resources to the most productive and high-impact-oriented options.
The constraints and opportunities can be of bio-physical, socioeconomic or marketing nature, including value addition issues. Such research and development issues are then translated into plausible research portfolios that can take the form of exploratory surveys, systematic experimental trials in the laboratory or in the real production environment on-station and on-farm, farmer participatory research and technology demonstrations.
Key considerations under this human resource capacity development are impact likelihood, scientific potential and research capacity.
The workshop combined in-house sessions with presentations followed by intensive group activities that enabled the participants to identify farmers’ needs and aspirations. The workshop sessions were intensive for many of the participants who were never exposed to such training before and, especially, when putting themselves in a farmer’s situation and perspective.
In addition, the participants went through an intensive hands-on training in newly-developed technology on livestock feed on farmer fields in the Solomon Islands.
While training may have helped participants to gain useful skills, it is essential for the respective institutions in these countries to further this effort. We need to have the human resource capacity so that we can assess constraints and opportunities, and be able translate them into research and development issues.
NARI has made some progress in livestock, both in research and human capacity.
NARI’s research effort in livestock has been on feeding systems. This has resulted in successful development of feeding options for poultry (broiler) and growing pigs using locally-available resources.
The broiler concentrate and pig silage using sweet potato have been officially released to the farming community and are being promoted for smallholders farmers to trial them.
This efforts need to be supported, especially in human resource capacity so that we continue to have skilled personnel available to take the lead in improving and promoting livestock services in Papua New Guinea.