Global warming and climate change is threatening Papua New Guinea (PNG)’s agriculture production and marine resources. This was revealed at the NARI Policy Forum 2019 in Lae on May 29 and 30. The National’s senior writer MALUM NALU was there to collate the details.
DESPITE the politics in Port Moresby on May 29 and 30 that captured the attention of people nationwide, it was business as usual at the National Agriculture Research Institute (NARI)’s 2019 Agriculture Innovations Show in Bubia outside Lae.
Hundreds of people, many of them students, converged to see NARI’s latest innovations, including rice grown by major sponsor Trukai Industries in the great Markham Valley rice bowl of Morobe.
It proved, on the day new Prime Minister James Marape was elected, that agriculture is the true backbone of the country.
It was two days of fun and learning for all.
A one-day NARI Policy Forum themed “Building Climate Resilient Agriculture and Food Systems in Papua New Guinea (PNG)” was held on May 29.
It was attended by experts, academics, Government officials, private sector, churches and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs).
Kaluwin … check ocean warming in PNG or kiss goodbye to our tuna resource and industry
Ocean warming can deplete PNG’s tuna resource which is one of the largest in the world, says leading environmental scientist Prof Chalapan Kaluwin.
“The oceans in the South Pacific surrounding PNG are already heating up. That is why we are inflicted by El Nino every one or two years,” NARI chairman Kaluwin added.
He warned that the ocean warming could and may chase the tuna away from PNG’s waters.
Kaluwin sounded the warning at the forum held in conjunction with its annual agriculture innovations show.
“The last El Nino-induced drought was in 2015 when gardens nationwide dried up, many people died of starvation forcing the Government to declare a state-of-emergency.
“The effects of the El Nino, although an ocean phenomenon, gravely affected the Highlands provinces and remote Mougulu in Western where several people died.
“It (ocean warming) is already happening in the Pacific,” Kaluwin said, adding that this had been verified by international scientists he had worked with.
“The last five years had been massive and destructive (to the environment). It is severely affecting the Pacific surrounding PNG. Everyone talks about El Nino, including my old man, who comes from Manus.
“He tells me that the El Nino effect comes in every 10 years. Now, I tell him it is happening every one to two years,” he added.
Kaluwin said “This is where science is important in environmental policy plans to help people ease their suffering in future El Nino-induced droughts.
“The biggest tuna resource in the world is sitting in the Pacific Ocean and PNG is one of them. Climate change is destructive and a disaster to our tuna resource.
“If we don’t start implementing measures to curb climate change and warming, we can kiss goodbye to our tuna resource because the fish can migrate as far as South Korea or China.”
Bang … 30% of PNG’s population live under the poverty line
NARI director-general Dr Sergie Bang says PNG must strive to reduce, if not eradicate, deaths by climate change droughts and starvation.
“El Nino-induced droughts are happening once too often. We have seen it in 1997, 1998 and 2015.
“We saw deaths, including in Western’s Mougolu, where children died. In other provinces, a few children died eating unfamiliar food, because of the drought,” he added.
Bang stressed the importance of preparedness for droughts “so that lives are sustained”.
He reiterated what Kaluwin, who is also University of PNG Dean of Science, said about increase in ocean temperature in the Western Pacific Ocean.
“We are not only inflicted by drought caused by El Nino. The drought is followed by too much water, or excessive rain, which is referred to as La Nina,” Bang said.
“We witnessed these in 2014 to 2016 and 1997 to 1998. It was a time of hunger and difficult situations which Papua New Guineans managed to persevere and overcome,” he added.
Bang said drought-resistant crops were needed as well as water management systems.
“Food and nutrition strategies are important to be included in food bank efforts,” he added.
Bang lamented that nutrition levels in children remained very low with one child in 13 children under five dying from malnutrition.
“It’s a sad statistic. We also know that 30% of our population live under the poverty line.”
In his presentation at the forum, Bang outlined various drought strategies NARI had developed over the years, as well as what it was doing to help farmers in post-drought activities, including early-maturing seed projects.
Lutulule … 90% of fresh produce market dominated by informal sector
Fresh Produce Development Agency (FPDA) executive manager for production and value chain Robert Lutulule says it is committed to help farmers be resilient in the face of climate change.
Lutulule said 74% of Papua New Guinea’s population, according to the 2011 Census, depended on fresh produce for their livelihood.
“Of this, 29% of urban households are involved in the sale of fresh produce, while 60% of rural households earn income through the sale of fresh produce.
“Altogether, 90% of the fresh produce market in PNG is dominated by the informal sector, targeting mainly the open markets. Almost 100% is dependent on rain-fed agriculture,” he added.
Lutulule said it was because of this that resilient systems must be built to survive the onslaught of climate change.
He spoke on the topic “Sustainable Food Value Chains in the Face of Uncertain Climate”.
Tenakanai … many people inflicted with psychosis in the Highlands
National Agriculture Quarantine Inspection Authority (NAQIA) biosecurity general-manager David Tenakanai says “prevention is better than cure” when it comes to tackling climate change-related pest and disease control.
He said bugs and weeds, a direct result of climate change, were now prevalent in PNG and threatening agriculture production.
“This includes the coconut bug which has devastated coconut palms in Madang,” he added.
Tenakanai said Japanese Encephalitis (JE), an inflammation of the brain spread by mosquitoes, “is now under the radar in PNG” and was spreading from pigs to humans.
“People are thinking that it is malaria, but it is causing a lot of psychosis (severe mental disorder) in PNG,” he added.
Tenakanai cited the case of Misima Island in Milne Bay where there were many people inflicted with psychosis.
“Our way of living will actually be impacted by these diseases when they spread up to the high altitude areas of PNG where there is close proximity of people with animals,” he warned those in the Highlands, where pigs live close to people. Tenakanai suggested ongoing surveillance and monitoring to protect the country’s food sources.
“Whatever is coming into PNG must be free from pests and diseases. Food security is a major challenge.
“Policy development on climate change is inevitable and we need to work on this to help our people. All stakeholders must work together to strengthen biosecurity,” he added.