By Soldier Buruka
Smallholder farmers can expect more government support for rice development in PNG’s rural communities. The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has come on board to support Phase Two of the Smallholder Rice Promotion Project with a funding of approximately K7.2 million for over three and a half years, starting this month. The documents were signed recently by JICA and the Department of Agriculture and Livestock (DAL) in Port Moresby.
The initiative is a follow on from Phase One which had been successfully implemented from 2003 to 2008, particularly in the Madang and East Sepik provinces.
The project aims to enable smallholder rice farming extension by applying and improving the Model Farmer Approach and its support system in target provinces.
Its main activities are to improve the implementation structure of rice extension services of Model Farmer Approach and its support system, by conducting supplementary training for model farmers and improving the monitoring system. Other activities will include improving the existing mechanical milling services of public and private milling service stations, and strengthening the implementation of rice policies by DAL’s Food Security Branch and Rice Extension Unit.
DAL Acting Secretary, Anton Benjamin, said the project has already made an impact in the provinces where it was trialled and he was confident that it would bring more success to other areas. The project, in utilising the model farmer approach, will enhance rice production in the rural communities where rice is becoming a main food staple for village households. Mt Benjamin said DAL and relevant agencies are committed to working with JICA to promote smallholder rice production. He thanked JICA for helping to address some of the constraints affecting rice development in PNG.
JICA Resident Representative, Takashi Tsuji, said he was pleased to participate in the signing of the agreement and stressed that JICA will continue its efforts to support the PNG government in promoting smallholder rice. He said the concept has proven that model farmer approach is sustainable, and it is also aligned to the PNG government policies including Vision 2050. He wished DAL and its stakeholders every success in implementing the project, saying JICA will provide much needed technical advisory support services and hopefully many rural farmers can benefit.
Department of National Planning and Monitoring’s Acting FAS – FAD, Koney Samuel, who also signed the document, reaffirmed the government’s commitment with counterpart funding to be provided.