By AILEEN KWARAGU
WHEN Warea Orapa started a rice farming project 20 years ago at his Wasuma village in Southern Highlands, little did he know how immensely popular and beneficial it would become to his people.
The project covered the entire Kagua valley in Southern Highlands and greatly assisted the people in improving their food security.
His efforts to get it off the ground in 2001 with the first paddy rice cultivation at his village was interrupted by general y election-related violence in 2002.
But now, the people of Kagua valley have just received 1000 kilograms of rice seeds donated by the Taiwanese Technical Mission from its farms in Morobe, plus a rice mill donated by the National Agricultural Research Institute.
Warea, 54, is the eldest son of Orapa Ala, 80, and Uriapita Yaima, 76. He is married to Rana Sapu from Ponowi village in Ialibu-Pangia, Southern Highlands. They have five children and two grandchildren.
From 1975 to 1980, Warea attended the Sumi Primary School. In 1981, he was one of the five intakes into the Kagua High School, one of the five pilot schools that used the Secondary Schools Community Extension Programme to allow students through grades 7 to 10 without sitting for the Grade 8 examination.
“In grades 9 and 10, six months were spent in the communities undertaking agricultural projects which were assessed.”
From 1985 to 1986 Warea attended Passam National High School in East Sepik with MPs such as Sir John Pundari of Kompiam and Don Polye of Kandep.
In 1986, he entered the University of PNG and graduated with a post-graduate diploma in Science in the area of insect-plant ecology.
“A copy of my research thesis can be obtained from UPNG’s Michael Somare Library. I covered original research demonstrating that rainforest tree canopies are home to thousands of species of insects.”
Warea is happy to see farmers growing rice on their land and mills are being planned to process white rice.
For sustainability purposes, the farmers will be assisted to establish their rice farming cooperative groups.
“ I lived in Fiji where my children benefited from a peaceful environment and schools using the Standards- Based Education system while I spent half of my time working for 22 Pacific Island countries and territories which the SPC serves.”
“As soon as the rice is processed into white rice, they will be expected to pay for the mill’s running costs. If the interest exists, they will be assisted.”
His work covered 17 wards and two local level government in the Kagua district.
In December 1992, he worked with the PNG Institute of Medical Research in Goroka as a research assistant (human genetics).
“I was among the first few nationals to work in a laboratory isolating human DNA from placenta using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) machines at the Goroka laboratories.”
Six months later, he joined the Department of Agriculture and Livestock as a senior entomologist.
His employment with the DAL blended well with his field of study. The project he worked on lasted six years.
While at the DAL, Warea was also responsible for managing the National Agriculture Insect Reference Collection facility then located at Konedobu.
He also provided pest diagnostic services to the then Agriculture Protection Division’s Quarantine services now the National Agriculture Quarantine Inspection Authority (NAQIA).
From 1998 to 2002 Warea worked with the NARI as a senior research assistant responsible for developing and managing the National Weed Management Programme.
In 2002, he left NARI to join the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) based in Suva, Fiji as a plant coordinator until 2011.
“I lived in Fiji where my children benefited from a peaceful environment and schools using the Standards- Based Education system while I spent half of my time working for 22 Pacific Island countries and territories which the SPC serves.”
Warea is currently the acting director-general of NARI and is finalising the institute’s strategic results framework (2021-2030) and its strategic implementation plans (2022-2027).
One of the highlights of his career was being appointed by the Government as the acting director-general of NARI.
Apart from that, Wareais is also humbled by the respect and acknowledgement bestowed on him by scientists around the world.
“I have published books as author or co-author my work in international journals, symposia, two chapters in books published by the Cambridge University Press and the Commonwealth Agriculture Bureau International. I also published a bilingual English-French workshop proceedings book as an editor.”
The Wasuma villager’s journey and success story are certainly one to emulate.