I CALL ON all state and commercial institutions to put their money where their mouth is when it comes to rural development.
In making this plea I will raise issues about discrepancies between political rhetoric and real development assistance on the ground in the Melkoi LLG area of Pomio in the East New Britain Province.
The crux of my issue is that the state and commercial institutions set up to assist and implement national development programs are not responding constructively and conscientiously to rural needs and initiatives.
These include entities like the National Development Bank, the Small Business Development Corporation, Electoral Offices and provincial agricultural advisors.
I am a newcomer to rural development, especially in the agri-business sector. But, having roots in the Melkoi LLG area, I have invested my own money to develop and support initiatives of my clan members and other related clans and sub-clans relations in the Melkoi area.
I have supported and set up several cocoa fermentaries and bought cocoa seedlings in partnership with other operators. In order to effectively manage and coordinate these initiatives by our people (who I have also assisted to set up small businesses in the villages) we have implemented a Memorandum of Agreement for those keen to be part of our program.
After five years, subscribers to the MoA can either continue being part of our program or go on their own. Our MoA has generated so much interest in many parts of the Melkoi area that 45 farmers have signed up while another 75 are waiting to sign.
Since we started late last year our operations have engaged various community groups – youth, women and sporting groups - to undertake work to generate their own income. The interest among rural farmers and the support of my clan and associated clans is very high, and of course expectations are likewise high.
Our investments are not only in cocoa trading. We have also invested in an oil palm block in the Biala District and two blocks of poultry farms at Nadzab on the Okuk Highway. I have more than ten employees in these agri-business initiatives.
These initial investments have exhausted my money.
So I decided to seek outside help. In order to seek a bank loan, I prepared a business plan and other documents with assistance from suitably qualified people.
I took the business plan to various state institutions and a commercial bank. Seeking help, I also went to the Port Moresby Office of our MP and the Kokopo Office of our Governor with a copy of the plan.
I have not received a response. Nothing. Not an email, a phone call or something courteous like that from all the institutions and offices to which I submitted copies of our plan.
This to me is blatantly disrespectful and downright arrogant. The officers of these institutions are entrusted with the roles and responsibilities of assisting to develop rural areas in commerce and social and economic enhancement. Communication is an essential part of this.
I call on their political masters who always encourage rural and ordinary citizens to “develop the land and agriculture because these are the backbone of PNG” to strengthen the link between political rhetoric and the realities of rural farmers and entrepreneurs so that true development can take place, not only in concept but in the real lives of all participants.
I do not normally resort to the media to express such views. I do this now due to the unnecessarily long period of chasing after people whose task is to contact me and advise of the status of our submission and representation.
Thank you for helping me to express these views; not only mine but on behalf of our rural farmers in the Melkoi LLG area.
Basil Peutalo is founding principal of Freedom Enterprises Ltd, a commercial entity incorporated with the Investment Promotion Authority of PNG in 2005. He is also founder and director of the Freedom Sustainable Livelihood Foundation