Mount Elimbari
PNG ban on visas on arrival for Australians starts Saturday

If we're serious, we must first win battle for rural development

Infrastructure creationJOHN K KAMASUA

An entry in The Crocodile Prize
PNG Chamber of Mines & Petroleum
Award for Essays & Journalism

THE O’NEILL-Dion government shifted the focus of implementing the 2013 budget to the districts. The year was declared unequivocally as the “Year of Implementation.” Donors and international development agencies were to swing behind this policy.

But there were genuine fears among many sectors of the community on the lack of capacity in the districts. This was further compounded by the state of infrastructure such as roads and bridges and the often skeleton staff without adequate resource support who were unable to dispense their duties as required.

Debate raged in the newspapers, on social media and in commentaries on radio and television about how we were shaping up to redistribute the wealth generated from PNG’s resources for the majority of people in rural areas.

In 2014, this debate on service delivery to the districts must continue. The responses to a suggestion to appoint 89 Australian advisors in the districts were varied. Commentators used several arguments to support or oppose it.

Many dwelled on neo-colonialism and PNG’s sovereignty. Others argued that there is capacity in the districts which only requires adequate resource support and political will.

Critics should wake up to the fact that Australians are not interested in recolonising our country or trampling on our sovereignty. Those using these arguments to resist the efforts to seriously address the problems should realise that it is PNG and not Australia which needs to salvage the situation in the districts.

Some commentators welcomed the idea based on the premise that it will improve transparency and accountability in the management and disbursements of funds. This may be so for as long as the advisors are around, but once they leave the system needs to continue to function rigorously and effectively serve the population.

Australian Advisors if they come will assist in building capacity, add value to the work of planning, budgeting, and ensure that funds are used judiciously towards development ends. However, the specific roles that these advisors may play are not clear.

The demise of the districts and all the services connected with them is an internal problem for PNG to address.  Leadership at both the political and bureaucratic level is required to ensure the best outcomes are achieved for any investment in this regard. Australian assistance can only be sought if it is requested by the PNG government and only when such assistance is deemed to be relevant.

Although it appeared that the proposal to have Australian Advisors in the districts was shelved, the spotlight it shed on the districts was worth the effort.

The lack of leadership at the political level over the years has been the key factor in determining whether districts are doing well or not.

Generally districts in the country are at their various levels of development. Not two districts are alike or have developed on the same path. And although the administrative structure for the districts are the same, the level of development and staff strength and capacity, the infrastructure and other assets on the ground differ markedly from one to another.

Natural resources endowments, accessibility to markets and services for very remote areas, good leadership and effective governance systems, and so forth are inherent factors that have a bearing on the level of development in all districts of PNG.

This means that some districts will require longer term assistance with the development of offices, vehicles and staff with favourable support services available, while others will require less support.

There are genuine issues related to skills and performances of District staff that provincial governments and district administration need to address. Some of the skills needed for rural development are: planning and budgeting, community mobilisation at the LLG and ward levels, reporting, researching and establishing baseline data for the purposes of planning, and the review and evaluation of planned activities and programs against achievements.  Many personnel in the districts may require training and up-skilling in these areas to effectively dispense their responsibilities.

Implementing the rural-focused budget for 2013 required improvements/maintenance to basic infrastructure for some districts, while for others it will mean re-skilling staff and realigning pressing development needs at the Wards and LLG levels with national development priorities.  There are signs that a few provinces are beginning to head in that direction. But more quality work needs to be done.

Some of the inherent conditions such as difficult terrain, conflicts and lack of community cohesion, unequal distribution of development grants and benefits, and lack of leadership and so forth also contribute to doing  development work in rural areas an ever pressing challenge.

In many rural districts, we have left behind whole generations of people who cannot even effectively participate in the business of “nation building” because they are already disadvantaged in many respects.  

Ironically it is these group and their generations who will hold back the progress of the country towards social development and economic prosperity. Evidently we have already begun importing some of the problems related to rural development into the urban centres and cities on the back of rural-urban drifts!

The verdict after many years is this: We have progressively allowed our rural areas to deteriorate to levels in which it will require sustained efforts over a long period of time to turn things around.

Our responses to some of the appalling conditions in the districts must be gradual, and yet consistent in the long term. Our politicians and bureaucrats including planners must have a long term view of addressing the lack of development in the districts. Therefore, having qualified advisors and consultants to start looking at improving service delivery is only a part of the picture. 

We need to articulate the values and principles that underpin why we do what we do, such as the universal principles of human dignity, the value of life, and so forth need to guide what we do in the name of development. Among these we must embrace the universal value of Truth.

There is a need to work towards Minimum Standards for service delivery and development in the districts. For a given district, what are essential minimum standards in terms of staff, infrastructure and administrative support to maintain and deliver the core services to the people? What should constitute the minimum standards? And who should be involved in framing these standards?

In many ways these minimum standards are already provided for in the Organic Law on Provincial and Local Level governments.

The Office of Rural Development and the Department of National Planning can be supported to take the leading roles in ensuring that these minimum standards are agreed upon among all main government departments, line agencies and the provinces. These standards can be used as a guide by each district in developing and maintaining the core services and priority areas. Districts that lag behind in these standards can be considered as being in a situation of crisis and swiftly assisted.

Adopting minimum standards should enhance the optimal use of limited resources for many districts.

Scheduled monitoring and evaluation/audits must be done by independent auditors and evaluators, if this can be allowed. This needs to be encouraged to ensure that funds are used on priority areas while benefits and positive impacts can be properly accounted for.

The Auditor General’s Office can also be factored in for such monitoring and review/auditing work. Whether Australian advisors or national consultants can be contracted to carry out some of these responsibilities is left to critical judgement. This can enhance the work of the Office of Rural Development in monitoring and reporting.

In the final analysis, if we are serious as a country to progress with the times, we must first win the battle with the crisis in rural development at the districts and LLG levels. It is not rocket science, and can be done with a little bit of right attitude in the new year.

Priorities need to be worked out. Where it is more proper to do maintenance on existing infrastructures than erect new infrastructure, it must be done. Where it will benefit the majority of the population to improve schools and hospitals, and infrastructure, it must be done rather than vehicles or machinery.

John K Kamasua heads the Social Work Strand under the School of Humanities at UPNG and teaches courses related to social and community development planning, social planning and community development planning, with extensive experiences in rural development, development planning and management. The views expressed here are his own and do not represent those of the University.


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Mrs Barbara Short

Thank You Michael - shock tactics!

Here is something from Gordon Kuias - My understanding and interpretation of development is change of Mind & Heart first. Developing a Human person first then you can expect better changes to take place with other resources.

Other resources are owned by human beings, if these owners mind and hearts are not developed properly, other people will come and steal from the rightful owners. Just like what many Asians are doing to our people, they are stealing and stealing millions.

Sepiks let us all work hard to develop our people. The more people we develop the better our society will be in future.

Michael Dom

Barbara, here's something for your friends on the SRDDF site.

Sijo for the Sepik

Your forests will be felled, your bush burned and your swampland drained out,
To plant palm oil by the hectare, to get your share of foreign wealth.
Foreigners will make films, to show your grand-kids what you sold off.

Mrs Barbara Short

Today on the Sepik Region Development Discussion Forum we are continuing with the discussion - what is development?

The academics are now writing in and seem to be thinking of it from a theoretical angle and not applying it to what is actually going on in the Sepik.

Dunstan Lawihin says - Most of what has been said is of course imply our many interpretations of what development is, making it one of the very complex aspects of life to achieve especially for those who are disadvantaged to define clearly this concept. I teach social development course in the social work program of the University of Papua New Guinea and would like to contribute here. Development encompasses economic, human, political and social developments with the human aspect being the basis/foundation in which other developments take roots. You develop humans first in those three aspects of communities to initiate desired development and progress from the current state of affairs. But let me state this, development projects large scale or small always have both positive and negative outcomes/impact. The best way can manage development is to reduce negative impacts so that the positive results benefit the majority of the population. Now in saying that, development can be natural or intentional, positive progress or distorted, development or underdevelopment. Underdevelopment and distorted development comes with negative and development disorder in community and people's lives while intended and positive progress lead to happy and healthy lifestyles. To cut the long lecture short, Cox 1996 and Midgely 1995 provided two similar definitions of development that I always recommend for my students. It is my desire and hope that these definitions may help members of this page understand development better. ............ Development is a process of social change designed to promote well-being of a population as a whole, or is an approach to social welfare which offers an effective developmental response to the situation of a socially and/or economically deprived population (Cox,1996). ...........Similarly, it ‘… is a process of planned social change designed to promote the well-being of the population as a whole in conjunction with the whole dynamic process of economic development’ (Midgely, 1995). Please note: this is development defined from the basis of promoting social development (social welfare and wellbeing aspects of life and communities). My view, development must be planned so that it can be effectively managed to achieve desired outcomes and impact. Thanks

Benjamin Barcson says - Development is a broad theme that covers many aspects. It may be the increase in GDP/GNP, access to vital services; such as education and health, good and reliable infrastructure, empowerment of the individual in their localities and the list goes on. On a general note I believe it is about better socio-economic opportunities for everybody. However, that too is a broad concept, thus in my opinion the answer would be to refer to specific developments such education development, literacy development, infrastructure development, income earning developments, etc... that I think would be more specific. Secondly, GDP/GNP values are poor indicators of actual socio-economic situation on the ground. High figures does not necessarily mean all is well, in fact much research has noted that it is only the elite/wealthiest percentage of the population, expatriates and foreign based entities who are recipients of this high GDP/GNP figure. On the other hand is the problem of converting these benefits into real time development outcomes, which seems to be quite a problem in the PNG case. Take for instance the PNG situation right now. In 2012 PNG had a GDP of US$ 15.65 billion and was classified as a Lower Middle Income country. However the state of services such rural infrastructure, access to services etc .. do not reflect this, on the contrary they tend to reflect a country with poor resources and low GDP as much of this GDP does not reach the bottom where it matters most. It was due to such factors that the concept Human Development Index (HDI) arose. The HDI places priority on access to health, education and other goods which empower people to enjoy a better condition of well being rather then numeric values such as GDP. Thus, my answer to the question would be to define it alongside our needs; be it in rural development, urban unemployment, job opportunities, service delivery, infrastructure, etc ... simply lumping it together as one entity is definitely a misconception, rather each areas must be defined on its own based on the need addressed. Cheers

If this Yangoru-Saussia Oil Palm plantation goes ahead there won't be any villages left. The people will be living in Malaysian kampongs! These Sepik intellectuals seem to be tied up in theory. I hope they will come down from their high mountain peaks of academia and confront all the problems that need to be dealt with when it comes to this planned Yangoru-Saussia development.

John Kaupa Kamasua

Hi Barbara - It seems that there is something up in the air. Many forums and discussions I am engaging in are talking about meaningful and gainful engagement of the people regardless of where they are.

Which brings me to the comment from a participant of the Sepik Region Development Discussion Forum that I have included below.

"A good read and thanks Barbara for sharing. My view is that development efforts should go further down. Right down to the village level. Build this country one village at a time. How can this be done?

"PNG has provided education for many of its citizens and 99.9% of us will claim to have a village? If each of us, the modern educated persons, can go to our villages and start a tangible project, that will be one small step for a village and a giant leap for the district that village is in."

Mrs Barbara Short

I must be stupid. I don't know how to find page 8.

John Kaupa Kamasua

It is in today's National newspaper, Friday 21 March 2014.

John Kaupa Kamasua

Hi Barbara, Michael and others. Please note that Foreign Affairs Minister and Member for Wapenamada, Rimbink Pato, has come out openly admitting the lack of capacity for rural development in his electorate; one of the few MPs to admit it.

To see full story go online to The National newspaper on page 8.

He has mentioned many of the issues identified in my original article.

John Kaupa Kamasua

Any Foreign Direct Investments (FDI), must not be rushed, in the name of rural development where negative consequences will outweigh the good and the benefits.

On a related front, the manner in which many indigenous people have been treated even on their own land where large projects are implemented are almost atrocious. Taking away people's dignity and rights is evil.

We are a civilised, educated and progressive country. Yet sometimes education, and knowledge do not always translated into wisdom, values and principles.

Maybe that in itself is a challenge for the country.

When everything is said and done, and it is up there on the wall for every one to see, the question that begs to be asked is: what now?

John Kaupa Kamasua

It is good to see the Sepiks themselves engaging in this debate on an important topic.

Mrs Barbara Short

Maybe Gary Juffa has some views on Oil Palm in Oro Province. Here is another comment from a Sepik who lives in Oro Province.

I've been in Oro Province for almost 6 years now and have seen the great negative impacts the Oil Palm industry has brought to the Province.

People become slaves on their own land by getting the lowest wages compared to shop cashiers. The poverty rate increases,there are land shortages,high leaching of chemicals are spoiling water sources and land infertility is rising.

Oil palm is a very dangerous industry compared to other cash crops.I feel sorry to see how landowners become labourers.

If the father is a worker, you will see the entire family helping out just to earn a lousy K185 in 2 solid week of hard labour.

Infant mortality is very high,there are many social problems,unwanted pregnancies etc..

Please East Sepik Province lets venture into the cocoa industry rather than oil palm.

Mrs Barbara Short

John and Michael, some interesting comments by Nelson Simbikin on the Sepik Oil Palm project. He is replying to a fellow who seems to be pushing the project.

"Cosmas Umabut, I disagree with your ambigious comments on the good side of oil palm. Kimbe or WNBP, Popondetta (Oro province), Milne Bay and who else has not shifted into a business class yet per your understanding of Malaysia.

Oilpalm is not the only driving force for development. Malaysia invested hugely in its human resources in the early days and the promotion of SMEs and other economic actvities combined. Food crop and cocoa industries improved in tandem. (he hasn't mentioned the rubber plantations and small holdings)

Same in other Asian countries. Oil palm serves only a ruling class of Malaysians. Will this reoccur in PNG?

Not even mining, oil and gas are any better at improving rural livelihood. In the provinces were oil palm and extractive industries are based, rural populace are worse off.

Yet, why is Western Province still backward in its development index, rural population suffering from curable diseases and literacy rate below national average.

Development is supposed to bring improved living standards and greater participation in econmic activities by citizens.

Oil palm has not brought improvement to the development index of WNBP, Oro and Milne Bay. Did it?

Take a closer look at Cocoa and Coffee in PNG. These two crops bring direct benefit right into the remotest parts of this country and every rural dweller can feel, touch, hear, see and eat the benefits derived from these crops.

Cocoa and coffee serves 50-70% of population of PNG, whereas oil palm impacts less than 10% of PNG population. Life is pretty much enriched in the highlands of PNG and East New Britain with coffee and cocoa respectively.

I know of coffee that can make a simple villager, a nobody, into a rich somebody.

Multitudes of Who is Who (meaning succesful individuals) in the highlands of PNG had their humble beginning in coffee. Cocoa has its own success stories.

What about oil palm? Whose benefit is it?"

Mrs Barbara Short

Sadly, this guy has some important job in Fiji. He is trying to calm everyone down from afar.

Maru's telephone message box is full and it is likely that all these Sepik educated men and women who write on SRDDF do not have any way of talking to Maru.

They probably have given cell phones to their family members so they can stay in touch. Through these phones they can suggest to their fathers what they should do.

Michael Dom

Barbara, I guess this fellow is talking to Minister Maru.

Mrs Barbara Short

The Sepik educated elites are working and studying all over the world but are able to keep in touch with what is going on back in their village via Facebook. They are very worried and here is what one fellow, who I think lives in Fiji, has said on the SRDDF:-

"OK - all I see here are emotionally charged comments and you guys have every right to do so, as land owners, educated elites and true Sepiks.

Since we, Sepiks, like to boast that we are intellectually blessed, let us, for the sake of all parties - MP Maru, landowners and all other interested parties, dissect the whole situation and analyse all perspectives of the issue.

Firstly, there is the landowning issue. I agree, consultation must be done and benefits clearly outlined and DOCUMENTED and signed by GENUINE parties, not fly-by-nighters.

First RED flag - Sepik pulap lo kaikai man, mi tok tasol yupla yet save.

Secondly, the desire for development. Sepiks have been crying for development since 1975 - and you guys say it in many different ways through this forum.

I will call any one of you who deny this a hypocrite as I have been following this forum for a while now.

Maru is making an unprecended and brave move no other elected MP of East Sepik has ever done.

Name every Yangoru Sausoia MP since 1975 - what did they do? The only Sepik MP who fought for development was Pita Lus - to rice in Bainik, Maprik.

I am referring to here about MPs who use initiative, and not wait for government funds to go around distributing as if it is coming from their pockets.

Second RED flag - Sepik pulap lo save man, so husait bai toktok, na husait bai harim?

The most important issue - landownership. Now I could be wrong here, and if I am I stand to be corrected, but I have to highlight it anyway. From my understanding, the proposed oil palm project will cover almost the entire 'Sepik Plains' as seen from the air - and this is an estimate from newspaper reports - from Urimo down to join with the Turubu oil palm project and up to include parts of Maprik and Wosera/Gawi electorate.

The biggest problem here is that the Turubu Oil Palm project already is covered under a SABL arrangement that absorbs a good part of the oil palm project proposed by MP Maru under the existing SABL arrangement - whatever the number is.

This SABL is one of the 75 declared by the COI as illegal as proper processes and procedure were not followed in the awarding of this SABL.

RED Flag number 3 - who is the landowner? The state owns what used to be Urimo cattle station and associated land. The developer of Turubu Oil Palm project, under the SABL number ???, own a good portion of land of the oil palm project proposed by MP Maru - so where does that leave the origional and genuine landowners?

Don't take me wrong, I am only raising some points that I believe will shed some light on the different perspectives the respective interested parties to this project have.

I hope now you can see where the different parties are coming from. Time to sit down and talk - threats, arrests, intimidation will not work. The key is communication and consultation or we are in for a long rough ride."

Michael Dom

If it is true there is nothing new.

John Kaupa Kamasua

That if true, is both sad and unfortunate!

If it will set a precedent for other projects, what prospects do landowners and communities have of engaging with developers and their leaders on a sustainable, meaningful and beneficial manner.

Mrs Barbara Short

Here is a report from Maik Koimo who says he represents the people who claim ownership of the Urimo land :-

"To all who have commented in support of our pursuit against the oil palm project on the Urimo land portion 126 and those who have given constructive criticisms for the member of parliament, let me take this time to give you more information.

There is no dispute that the land appears as state land. This is a pre independence land acquisition in 1967. After 1975 there is no such declarations of the land being given national land status.
Refer to section 9 of the national land registration act.

Despite this, the Urimo cattle farm was already operating up to or around 1989/90 when due to funding issue, livestock development corporation abandoned the station and left.

There was no extermination process or transfer of the animals on the land. They left just like that.

Goats went wild and were killed as protein hence are now extinct.

The cows and buffalos went far and wide onto customary land causing substantial environmental damage to gardens, water supply, sacred site and hunting sites. Villagers also fell victim too with buffalo injuries.

No other development took place for over 23 years now. The land remains as it is.

Therefore under the land act section 121/122 land should be declared customary and given back or landowners apply for a lease. This process started in September 2013.

The landowners want their land back and want environmental damage paid for. The government of PNG had blood on its hands. This issue must be sorted out first if the state wants to continue to claim ownership of land.

I raised those issues in the paper in February 2014 and Marus' response downplayed those issues and only questioned my credibility as the chairman and landowner.

Apart from that, there is no consultation whatsoever. Landowners are only fed information as and when the member of parliament is on the ground.

The project agreement also had a lot to be desired on. It is more like extortion by the state.

I urge all elites of Wamba, Kanauki and Yangoru mining area to take this fight. I know the same kind of tactic is being employed.

We are just the David against this Goliath."

....So evidently the government is acting true to form and there has not been good consultation between the original village landowners of the Urimo Cattle Station and the government.

Mrs Barbara Short

Unfortunately a report has just come in that Urimo landowners, who set up banners at the scene this morning have been arrested by 04 mobile squad and are now on their way to Yangoru to be charged.

The situation is getting nasty. It appears that this is an act of suppression of free speech by the landowners.

John Kaupa Kamasua

Hi Barbara

I saw the news on the project very briefly. Maru was in the electorate and talking to people. But I am not sure that constituted consultation and provides a forum in which people can be better informed, and importantly air their views.

The Minister ( who is a well educated and articulate person, who appears to be always on the side of resource and landowners) may need to do the honourable thing and have an audience with the people whose lives and environment will be changed forever - good or bad.

Mrs Barbara Short

I just rang Richard Maru's mobile phone number. He wasn't there and his mail box was full.
Oh dear!

Mrs Barbara Short

Very good point, Michael.

They are circulating Richard Maru's mobile phone number. They are texting him. But will he respond? Will he even read their views?

When the educated people from Yangoru are probably all scattered over PNG and even the world, it may be hard to hold a good meeting, even in Wewak.

If Richard Maru does not take any notice of what the people are saying on the SRDDF then he is a bigger fool than I thought he was.
God help Yangoru!

John Kaupa Kamasua

I concur with Michael on the point that SRDDF has to develop and access to the leaderhsip, and the movers and shakers to influence decisions and outcomes.

SRDDF among other stakeholders are in a position to do that for many rural and people in the electorate who may not have a voice.

John Kaupa Kamasua

Hi Barbara

thank you for engendering further discussions on the Oil Palm Project in Yangoru-Sausia.

The people who will have the biggest impact or influence on how well the project will be managed are the people of East Sepik, the electorate itself and the intellectuals of the area. It is good that inteleectuals like the lady from the areas are talking.

I am definitely making reference to this project in our social planning case studies discussions; and probably students from the province and the electorate (if there are any) to offer their own views and make their own conclusions.

Projects of such scale given the economic imperative will most likely go ahead.

But the project now presents an opportunity to get a better deal for themseves and for their environment; and the need on the part of the developers

I think Michael also rasied some valid points with respect to the behaviour and outcomes of similar projects delaing with companies from a particular country.

But as I pointed out better deals needed to be secured for the people and projects or programs included in MOA/MOU must be honoured. I think this is part of the process that leadership will be needed. And Minister Maru who is not really new to such projects having involved in many before his political career will try and get a better deal for the people.

Michael Dom

Barbara - you provide some very interesting comments from the Sepik Regional Development Discussion Forum. Obviously many commentators have strong feelings, honorable intentions and provide valid reasoning.

But what about interaction with leadership towards taking affirmative action? What about the 'movers & shakers'? How are the feelings, intentions and reasoning of these good people carried forward to the leaders and adminstrators of the day, who make the final decisions?

Is there a process by which their voices are being heard, other than building-up the considerable 'social network sympathy' that oft time becomes focussed at incidences of violence and vandalism and culminates in court cases where individual landowners are eventually worn down?

In other words, who in the decision making faction is in direct and formal dialogue with the good people of SRDDF?

If the SRDDF does have that essential line of communication to leadership then the rest of the regions may learn a valuable lesson from them, and as they say, the Sepiks would have led the way yet again.

Otherwise, bye-bye mighty Wara Sepik coz the Malaysians are here and your number is up.

Mrs Barbara Short

Another good comment -
The good side of oil plam is to turn the swamp or waterlogged areas into dry ground.

Oilpalm sucks out a lot of water. Areas further toward the Sepik mud plains (or marginal, degraded soils/land) can be utilised.

There's still potential for Oil palm in both Sepik Provinces.

Life after oilpalm (or post-oil palm cultivation) in those marginal areas is actually pretty good. Oil palm areas can be converted to grazing with appropriate leguminous grass.

After cattle, and on a rotational basis, rice, peanut and other shallow rooting crops including banana can be grown.

Crops such as Taro and yam may need fertlizer or good compost in post-oil palm soil.

The point here and from all these discussions is, there must be "consultation" with landowners and villagers that will be affected for good or worse.

Let the people demand change if they want it, not forced onto them for credibility by the proposers.

I think Sepiks have to refer back to their Melanesian democracy - consultation before engagement.

Mrs Barbara Short

The Sepiks want to set a precedent - Consultation.

As learned and intellectual Sepiks, we have a duty to our people and land which brought us up and this not forget. We have to be asking the questions now as how the Oil Palm project will impact our land and people (Sepik) for generations to come.

Let us not be naive and jump into the bandwagon of so called 'development' and wait for an accident to happen or the lower Sepik River to become unusable for fishing before we ask questions.

Have we explored all farming/business opportunities for savanah grass/wetlands?

Agricultural experts have spoken,... let us weigh things out. I'm sure if Richard Maru called a meeting in Wewak town tomorrow, he will definetly get an audience.

Mind you, I don't think any parliamentarian in PNG has ever called for consultation with his/her electorate for anything. But we (Sepiks), we make history, we set the pace for everyone and everything else to follow. We want consultation, period. Wanbel

Mrs Barbara Short

John, here are some of the good comments on the SRDDF site at the moment -
There is nothing wrong with development projects in the Sepik. We need economic development that will create economical spin-offs activities, employment and generate the economy and incomes to circulate locally.

For this K50 Million oil-palm project, wider consultations should be conducted with the landowners and rest of the Sepik. Proper social mapping within the area on which the project will be initiated should be conducted.

The local MP/government should only be the facilitator to initiate this project. Genuine landowners should be the ones having direct discussion with the developer/investor on what agricultural developments they think should be utilised on their land.

We all know the environmental consequences of oil palms, and the effects that it will have on general eco-systems.

In the Sepiks, we already have a number of oil palm projects (Turubu, Aitape, Bewani, etc..) and there is no need to establish additional oil palm project, when the Sepik Plain could be used for other agricultural economic activities (rice, sugar, wheat, livestock, etc..).

I hope there is a change of Government tomorrow, and Maru's K50 Million kina project will be on history book and will not eventuate.

.....There was also another good comment reminding people that the government must consult them.
For those of you who do not know the meaning of the word CONSULTATION, here's the meaning: the act of consulting is to hold a conference or a meeting for deliberation, discussion,and or evaluate before a decision is reached.

Obviously the decision to go ahead on the Yangoru-Saussia Oil Palm Project has been made. BUT; there are still other things to discuss, for example;

1. spin off benefits for the locals (are they going to be automatically given first priority for employment at the farm?

2. Are they going to be given free medical treatment at the farm clinic?

3. Are their children going to be sponsored all the way to Uni?

4. Is the kind of work they will be doing on the farm more worthwhile (labour/financial) than the subsistance lives they are currently living?

5. Will they be given free electricity?

6. Will any more land be required of them, to build living quarters and medical centre for the farm employees? ..since the government land on which Urimo cattle currently stands,(govt land) will be planted.

7. How will the loads of fertilizers that will be used on the farm not negatively affect the greater Sepik River via waterways and run-offs?

8... Feel free to add.... This is a SIMPLE plea... it is not negative, and it is not pairap nating nating... this is a genuine call for dialogue for the MP with the people. What is wrong about asking to speak to someone to be educated on the matter?

I add....The people from Yangoru are not stupid people. They are thinking people and they need to be given the opportunity to take part in the planning of this project. It is wrong of the local MP and the Prime Minister to come into the area and do everything in an authoritarian manner and not consult the people properly.

Mrs Barbara Short

John, I think it would be an excellent idea for you and your students to do a Social Impact Study on this Yangoru-Saussia area over the next few years.

At the moment there are some good discussions taking place on this topic on the Sepik Region Development Discussion Forum on Facebook.

They are also very interested in the Environmental Impact and have various worries - one Yangoru lady who is trained in science, and is presently studying in New Zealand, has written - "The Sepik River will be affected due to added nitrogen from fertizers via runoff into the waterways.... affecting the fresh water ecosystems... the River people downstream from Urimo will have to be made aware too, not just the landowners."

Mrs Barbara Short

Hi John. I guess it is good that they are starting off this project on the Urimo Cattle Station which is government owned land.

But if they move on to take over the lands owned by the villages around Yangoru the impact will be greater.

At the moment I assume the people still live in small villages or hamlets and farm various vegetable/fruit crops but with yams being their staple crop. They are probably capable farmers and are used to being independent.

I assume if their farm lands are taken over for oil palm plantations they will lose the ability to grow their own food supply.

If they live in company housing - Malaysian kampong style, they will be employees. They will have lost their land ownership to pass on to their children. They won't even own their house.

Their wage will determine how well they live. One assumes the company will set up shops where they can buy their food and other requirements. They may find their diet will now be rice and tinned fish.

The company evidently plans to set up clinics so the Sepik people of Yangoru will have their lives controlled by a group of Malaysians.

Will the attitude of the Malaysians to the local people be similar to what has been going on in the West Sepik with the timber company e.g. the amount of money going to the previous land owners is very small and the women have started to earn enough money to survive by going into prostitution. (similar to what has evidently happened in Wewak at the fish canning factory where the wages are very low).

So Papua New Guinean people, in order to have commercial enterprises which can pay a tax to the central government, lose their land and become paid employees of foreign companies which are now using their land to grow an export crop and probably make good profits for their shareholders.

John Kaupa Kamasua

Hi Barbara. Your comments on 11 March 2014, have given me something to relate to a course I am teaching under our program.

It is called Social Planning, and looks at the need to seriously and properly plan for aspects of development that are social in nature.

In a country like PNG, it is no longer fashionable to expect the "Trickle-down Effect" to address the social aspects of development including address the welfare and well-being needs of the people.

Development models emphasised during the 1960's and 1070's to concentrate on economic aspects of growth. The outcomes from such hasve been a mixed bag: few people becoming well-o ith many peopple worse off in some instances. So the point is that extended economic growth is no panacea to poverty alleviation and meeting welfare needs of people.

Given the points you have raised, I am seriously considering using the Oil Palm porject as a possible Case Study in tutorials. We have used the Bougainville Copper as a case study and this will be a good one being current.

It is interesting as the lessons and experinces from Bougainvilee Copper continue to inform decisions to develop other major projects. Take for instance the need to do proper Social Impact udies and Evironmental Impact Assessment for such big projects - which are both legal reuirements.

Thank you again for sharing it.

John Kaupa Kamasua

Hi Barbara - Thank you for sharing your views on the big oil palm project that is about to be commissioned in Yangoru-Sausia, East Sepik.

I saw the news on EMTV briefly, and had mixed feelings given experiences and lessons from other similar projects around the country.

On the face of it, the project appears to be a major economic impact project with many positive benefits and externalities for the electorate and local communities. In this

With any economic impact project, the economic imperative is such that they are normally pushed through.

I hope that Environmental Impact Assessments and Social Impact Studies are properly done for this project; and that throughout the life of the project, deliberate attempts are made through protocols put in place to minimise and even prevent the adverse effects on the people and the environment.

I wish that the people get what they are promised and the environment is not compromised.

Landowners and the impacted communities will need to get a good bargain out of the project.

Mrs Barbara Short

Another Sepik fellow is writing about his worries concerning allowing this huge Yangoru-Saussia oil palm project to go ahead -

"Oil palms destroy the soil and the waterways permanently and it will never recover.The land become useless for agriculture use.

I hope an agronomist can urgently advise our good Member urgently.

The Member's intention is good, but if the land could be used for food production, such as rice, wheat,animal husbandry or other food crop production, of which we still can make money by exporting them and at the same time provide food for people. Our district has the highest rate of malnutrition in the country."

Maybe there are some Australian didimen reading this blog who worked at Urimo cattle station and can pass their comments on this planned project to turn the Yangoru-Saussia grasslands into one of the biggest oil palm projects in the world.

Mrs Barbara Short

John, what are your views on these huge oil palm projects getting the go-ahead in the East Sepik?

They may certainly get "rural development" but it will be at the expense of the traditional way of life.

Here is what one Sepik fellow said about the Yangoru-Saussia oil palm project -
"There are several things to consider, both advantages and disadvantages. First, this project is going to be the biggest oil palm project ever in PNG, and even to some that I have visited in Malaysia.

ESP is one of the least developed and economically poor provinces in PNG. With this project, revenue for the province, and business spin-offs will come, and socio-economic infrastructure including the construction of Wewak Port which will take overseas vessels direct.

The PNG Government has committed K100 million to put in place infrastructure such as roads, bridges and power lines to support the oil palm project.

Besides these, there are some other benefits that I have not mentioned, including township development (school, clinic, utilities, roads, water, housing, shops etc that will be part of the package).

The villages/villagers that will be affected maybe resettled into what is called a kampung (compound) like what they do in Malaysia.

With all development projects, compromises must be made, and soil nutrition will be deeply affected as the oil palm crop will require heavy use of fertilizers such as NPK and urea.

Research has shown that, heavy use of nitrogen based fertilizers are detrimental to soil nutrition. Soil porosity is also increased and water holding capacity will be greatly reduced, leading to poor crop performance.

Herbicides and pesticides will be used regularly to control weeds and insects, and leached chemicals are very toxic to aquatic life (fish etc).

However, I am sure the company will not just dump chemical waste into streams, rivers, waterways etc.

Regarding community consultations, yes, I do agree that more needs to be done, and everyone in the affected areas are involved, including the ESP Provincial Admin, Wewak Agriculture Development Ltd, Mr Aaron Malijiwi and his Turubu Oil Palm Project, Wisma (Malaysian company) and other stakeholders...all need to be involved to find a positive way forward."

So this is "rural development" in a way that I would never have thought of. PNG is allowing Malaysian companies to come in and take over everything, the timber, the land, the people, and the PNG traditional way of life will be replaced by the Malaysian way of life.

Interesting, I taught Asian Studies in the past and enjoyed teaching Australian kids about the Malaysian "way of life" on their kampongs. It is very different from the traditional PNG way of life. But, if this is the way the PNG politicians think the country should go, I guess it will happen.

At least we are talking about it on Facebook!

John Kaupa Kamasua

Thanks Barbara for that initiative.

The rural development crisis is being met head on by very some very committed and unsung heroes in the districts and LLGs.

Many MPs are doing something...they jsut need to be supported to do quality work rather than reiventing the wheels.

Some NGOs are at the disrtict level...working with communities.

There may be companies and private sector organisations working in collaboration with districts to address needs.

So its not all doom and gloom, but there are real and glaring isses.

It is everyone's busines.

Mrs Barbara Short

Another interesting story. A very talented PNG man comes to stay at our place at times. He has a top job in Australia but he was telling me that he is helping a local Rotary Club to work in with Australian Doctors International to hopefully set up a better reliable permanent water-supply system at Namantanai hospital.

Once, on a visit to Namatanai High School, with Manggai students, a great earthquake occurred, and I watched horrified as all the watertanks at the High School shook from side to side and burst open.

My PNG friend has been trained in project development so hopefully he is going to work out a feasible way for his local Rotary Club to set up a suitable infrastructure so Namatanai hospital and ADI can be assured of a reliable water supply no matter what emergencies may occur.

Mrs Barbara Short

John. I put your article on the Sepik Region Development Discussion Group Forum on Facebook and had this reply -
A good read and thanks Barbara for sharing. My view is that development efforts should go further down. Right down to the village level. Build this country one village at a time. How can this be done? PNG has provided education for many of its citizensand 99.9% of us will claim to have a village? If each of us, the modern educated persons, can go to our villages and start a tangible project, that will be one small step for a village and a giant leap for the district that village is in.

We have to some how find an avenue where our village people can be engaged meaningfully. Connecting with them by involving our village people in such some project will give them this sense of ownership and meaningful participation. This country should be build one village at a time. Think big, start small but act now.

I just added this comment -
An excellent idea Gilbert. A group like the Sepik Region Development Discussion Forum should be a group that could try out your idea. I heard from Dr Clement Malau earlier in the year and he said he wanted to be involved in one such project. I suggest a group of like-minded people could work together to pilot such projects in the Sepik. I was thrilled to hear about the men at Samap who had bought equipment to saw timber to make permanent houses. This is mentioned elsewhere on this Forum by a member of an NGO working with people in the Turubu area. Money from development projects, e.g. timber, must not be just used on consumer goods. It must be used to buy capital goods, or education, or anything that can allow the village people to improve their standard of living. The saw is a capital good that can allow them to use their own timber to build fine new houses that should last a long time.

John K Kamasua

Thanks Barbara!

Those of us in PNG who are optimistic about the future despite the gloom and negativity, say that the rural areas and their plethora of problems can be salvaged.

It is not rocket science and can be done. There are sufficient resources at the district level to begin to go in that direction.

Those of us who have that hope must continue that fight to contribute. We cannot give up, not yet.

Mrs Barbara Short

Sounds great to me. If I had my life to live over again I would quickly offer to come up and help. As that is impossible I'll continue to back you up.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)