I BELIEVE THAT PETER O’NEILL’s vision of future Papua New Guinean megacities sharing three million immigrants from rural areas is an accurate view of what may lie ahead of tis nation.
The occupants of these places will have a miserable life. The megacities will have little industry and will gain their increase in population for the wrong reasons.
I believe that farming communities throughout PNG are not developing as they must. Our rural communities should offer an attractive lifestyle for most of our youth. The way to do this is to raise the level of their economic and social activities; but this will take massive improvement in infrastructure.
I admit there are occasional news articles about farmers which are written in positive terms. However, in general, farming communities (villages) are hardly seen to vibrate with an interest in new farming techniques.
Children and young people will play games with or without sport being promoted. Sports organisations have quite a lot of natural enthusiasm to build upon.
The same cannot be said about agriculture. Informed discussion relating to farming may take place when there are external inputs; otherwise villagers do their own thing as learnt at their father’s and grandfather’s knee.
Villagers will slide back into traditional ways without ongoing consistent extension work. There is little agricultural extension work done in the hinterland of Wau; information from other parts of PNG indicates a stop start nature to extension work.
An example is the Trobriands where the yam culture was very important. The people believed it was not improved agricultural practices that made the yams succeed but the excellent way the garden magic was performed.
In the sixties I was fixing alternators in the Trobriands and roamed around the gardens near Kaibola between boat and plane arrivals.
The ground was bare apart from the food crops, the old gardens were scrubby and there was no effort to grow improved green manures.
Toilet facilities near the village were cleaned up by the pigs, the result was luxuriant plant growth showing fertility gathered from the surrounding gardens. I imagine it is still the same.
The change has probably been that the young men cannot grow yams as well as their old people; they spent too much time at school learning about subjects of very limited use to an agrarian lifestyle.
The people used to get quite thin waiting for the yam harvest and the whys and wherefores of yam cultivation were of great interest where it had such a great impact and the yam harvest was a time of great celebration; a celebration from the heart and spirit and not for the tourist dollar.
Fifty years ago little kids would demand, not ask, for PK chewing gum. I saw male tourists throw shillings over the heads of girls so that they would turn and bend over to give a show.
The girls were modest and picked up the shillings as they always picked up articles from the ground; no show! I saw women tourists drop money into hands because they did not want to touch.
Any society that relies on tourism as a major income provider is a failed one and its core values will be undermined. The PNG government has effectively thrown it to the dogs.
Get agriculture on its feet and let tourism take its proper place as a minor part of life for the community at large.
I decided to be a small hobby general farmer as opposed to being a sweet potato grower. I went to Lae to obtain seeds as one would go to a seed and produce merchant in Australia or other country. I wanted commercial quantities of soy beans, green beans, corn and the like.
There were no seeds available in the kind of quantities that would be normally used by a small crop farmer in Africa or Asia. I got small packets of corn, soy bean and mung beans from the National Agricultural Research Institute and multiplied them. I obtained 25 white velvet bean (macuna) from Echo.org in America and multiplied them. I now have plenty of seeds.
There is still no availability of seed for any other farmer interested in farming rotations with green manure. I farmed the velvet seed production out to the small local farmers and have about 200 kg for sale to other farmers interested in planting a green manure.
I believe that if PNG had viable, vibrant (there is a popular word) village based agricultural economy we would see small manufactories as in Africa.
I would like to thresh my beans and winnow the seeds produced. There is no home grown workshop manufacturing small machinery. I believe that a two wheel hand cart with motorbike wheels would be very useful around my farm.
I would like a two wheeled chassis with various bodies that clip on; for sand and concrete, for bags of produce, for the transport of nursery boxes and with high sides for grass and light material.
There was a foundry in Lae that was allowed to collapse. Therefore we cannot manufacture items such as the cast cylinders for foot pumps for irrigation, the pump bodies for well pumps or other items such as corn shellers and other sundry small items.
So many people are engaged in subsistence farming in the rural communities that small improvements in agricultural techniques throughout
PNG will have large effects on the economy. The possibilities for advancement are measured by the size of technology gap between knowledge used and knowledge available.