Youth needed in agriculture sector


A motley crew of bright young university graduates is spearheading the Poroma potato project in Southern Highlands

AT remote Poroma in Nipa-Kutubu, Southern Highlands, an agriculture transformation is taking place which bodes well for a province better known for its law-and-order issues.
The Poroma Potato Project, a collaboration between Fresh Produce Development Agency (FPDA) and Southern Highlands Provincial Government (SHPG) which will cost K5 million over the next three years, was launched in July this year.
It is the first of a number of similar projects to be established in Southern Highlands under partnership.
The FPDA, in its research, found out that Southern Highlands was literally a ‘Garden of Eden’.
The plan now is to establish the province as the hub of clean potato seeds – not only for Papua New Guinea, but for the Asia-Pacific region.
Local farmers can also start supplying potatoes as import replacement, given the huge import bills for frozen chips from Australia, New Zealand and other countries.
Poroma Potato Project will produce seed potatoes en masse for the populace of Southern Highlands who, in turn, will do so for greater PNG.
This area, which has been aptly described by FPDA general-manager Mark Worinu as the “new frontier” of agriculture in PNG, is the perfect rural location to stage the Marape Government’s ‘Take Back PNG Through Agriculture’ drive.
Amidst this rugged, mountainous terrain, is some of the best agricultural land in the country which is only now being utilised.
Needless to say, there is a need for committed young Papua New Guineans – with a passion for agriculture and to serve the rural people – to work here.
The Marape Government is working hard to establish agriculture in the country and expects its agriculture agencies, including FPDA, to go out to rural areas and work with the people to achieve this.
At Poroma, a motley crew of bright young university graduates in agriculture, is spearheading this ambitious project.
Project manager James Kipe Mond, 38, from Banz in Jiwaka, graduated from University of Technology in Lae in 2007 with an agriculture degree and is leading the charge.
“I graduated from Unitech in 2007 in agriculture science,” he recalls as he takes a breather from supervising work at Poroma.
“My first job was as an extension officer with FPDA. I left FPDA in 2011, and I rejoined in 2012, after some time in the oil palm industry.
“I’ve spent quite some time with the potato programme, becoming a seed inspector for five years, and am now in charge of the seed inspection and certification programme.”
Mond says FPDA is breaking new ground with the Poroma project – set on six hectares of prime agriculture land.
“What we are doing is trying to show the community in the surrounding areas how to go about planting potatoes,” he explains.
“This is also a learning ground for farmers who’ve invested in growing potatoes, to come and have a look at the area and what is being done here, so they can take it back to their own families and households.”
The project started in May, following funding assistance from FPDA and SHPG, with training of 165 farmers from throughout the province.
“We have a big number of farmers who are trying to go into potato production, however, at the moment we can’t supply all the farmers with the seeds they want,” Mond adds.
“So what we have done is set up a model farm for them to come and have a feel of what potatoes are all about.
“This project will benefit all the farmers with surrounding communities to have access to clean seeds.
“Southern Highlands has a big potential (in potato production).
“As you can see, we have the Ialibu Plains, Upper Mendi and Kagua-Erave – so much fertile land.
“The potential in Southern Highlands, with the land mass it has, is huge for mass production of potatoes.
“This project will be a milestone achievement for the province, if we happen to produce seeds here.
“That will also enable farmers in Southern Highlands to produce enough potatoes for the market made available by the potato chips factory at Pangia.
“This will be much easier than taking to Lae or Port Moresby at a lot of cost.
“Meantime, Southern Highlands people should be happy to know that this is a special project, with the market just at their doorsteps.
“This is an opportunity that is being given now, so they should take it with both hands, to increase potato production to cater for household needs, school fees and so on.”
With bright young people like James Kipe Mond at the helm of agriculture, PNG can rest assured of a bountiful harvest, in 2022 and beyond in our ‘Garden of Eden’.

Malum Nalu works with the Office of the Prime Minister