Targeting growth through agro R&D

Nari, Normal

By Raghunath Ghodake and Seniorl Anzu

Papua New Guinea has recently developed and accepted the “PNG Vision 2010-50”. The PNG Government has also  began working on the long  term development strategy (LTDS), which would provide a broad but focused framework for economic growth, and social and economic advancement of the country. 
The focus of the currently implemented medium term development strategy (MTDS) is also on the realisation of broad-based economic growth in PNG.
Such growth is to be made possible by empowering Papua New Guineans through the promotion of export growth and income generating opportunities, by means of private sector development, especially in the primary agriculture, forestry and fisheries industries. The overall strategies are to assure food security, raise income, reduce poverty and develop the rural areas so that the nation advances on both social and economic fronts in the medium to long terms, thus realising improved livelihoods, enhanced welfare and prosperity for all.
However, in order to realise the impact on people and communities, this LTDS framework needs to be translated into feasible plans and programmes by the various implementing agencies and organisations.
The National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI), as the prime research and development organisation, has taken early steps in designing focused programmes and projects by considering the MTDS framework and the research priorities identified through its stakeholder consultations undertaken in 2001-03. The current and planned programmes are intended to address directly the goals and objectives of the MTDS, especially the focus on broad-based economic growth.
The basic premise of the Nari programmes is that more than 80% of about six million people in the country depend directly on agriculture. Most of the people live in rural areas and about 95% of them are smallholder farmers, with activities ranging from subsistence to semi-subsistence and small-scale commercial production.
Agriculture in PNG provides the opportunity for directly empowering people and creating wealth. Therefore, it needs to be targeted for development if PNG is to prosper and aspire to eventually become a developed nation. It is by empowering people and communities in rural areas through agricultural development that broad-based economic growth and sustainable development can occur.
The specific NARI programmes focused on broad-based growth are highlighted below. 
* A variety of research activities are undertaken on staple crops (taro, yams, banana, sweet potato, English potato) to address constraints to productivity and production due to biotic (pests and diseases) and abiotic (climatic and soil) factors. Research results are intended to enable improvement of resource productivity and, thus, assure food security and sustainable production systems and environment.
* The focus on emerging crops such as pyrethrum, wheat, vanilla, galip nut, turmeric, nutmeg, peanuts and maize, and the commercial evaluation of a variety of cash crops, is directly aimed at improving cash incomes through domestic market and export opportunities. 
Rice research and development are the single most important activities that contribute to food security through domestic production and consumption, thus saving invaluable foreign exchange. 
* The livestock research and development activities are focused on the development of feeding systems using locally available feed resources. The results not only help reduce costs and increase the efficiency of livestock production but also make effective use of domestic resources, save foreign exchange spent on feed ingredients and bring about multiplier effects in the economy; so crucial for broad-based economic growth. 
* Improved options for cropping and farming systems are examined to address resource management and sustainable issues in adverse agro-eco environments such as on atolls and in drought or frost prone areas. The options are designed to assure food security and improved livelihoods in these harsh environments. 
* NARI has developed a crop improvement programme to improve the genetic production potentials of key indigenous staple crops, fruits, nuts and vegetables. There are huge untapped potentials for improving resource use efficiency and productivity, with benefits flowing to all resource owners in rural areas. 
* Raising the economic status of most of the staple crops, fruits and nuts is another area that is targeted by way of post-harvest research, including processing and value adding. This work is complemented by systematic market research to understand the magnitude and responsiveness of demand for various kinds and forms of agricultural outputs in domestic and overseas markets. These areas are systematically developed by the institute in the immediate future to help develop options and strategies for income generation and export growth. 
* The institute is currently implementing nine technology transfer projects, covering a number of NARI released technologies. These projects involve field days, on-farm demonstrations, shows, advisory and training services, and supply of planting materials, and are intended to have immediate positive impacts in farming and rural communities.
To sum up, the NARI programmes are specifically designed to have positive impacts in improved food security, increased cash income and commercialisation, increased export income, efficient resource use, and improved and sustainable agricultural environments in rural areas. The impacts are intended to lead towards broad-based economic growth and sustainable development for the social and economic advancement of our people.
These programmes are intended to work through the NARI mission of “promoting innovative agricultural development through scientific research, knowledge creation and information exchange” and towards fulfilling the NARI vision of “Prosperous PNG agricultural communities”.
Next week’s article will focus on the potential for market-led agricultural development in PNG.