The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations is an important development partner to Papua New Guinea and will continue to provide support in addressing food security problems. And the continued assistance provided by FAO over the years has been acknowledged at the recent 31st FAO regional conference for Asia and the Pacific held in Vietnam.
Head of the PNG delegation, Masayan Moat, who represented PNG at the Ministerial-level session of the conference, held after the senior officers meeting, said FAO has played an important role in helping to overcome some of the pressing problems affecting agriculture particularly in food security and nutrition.
PNG has been a beneficiary of many completed and ongoing FAO technical assistance programmes, some of which included the Special Program for Food Security (SPFS) 1996-2000 and 2004-2006, Regional Program for Food Security 2005-2007, Upscale of National Plan for Food Security 2006, Initiative on Soaring Food Prices 2008-2009, Telefood Projects, Food Security Sustainable Livelihood Program (FSSLP) 2011-2015, and in the formulation of the National Agriculture Development Programme.
Mr Moat also voiced his thanks to FAO for considering the strengthening of a country office in PNG.
“We are hoping the country office will, in the near future, develop into a fully-fledged FAO office with representation in PNG to meet the increasing needs due to the size of the country and in areas of climate change, REDD, Global Environment Facility and other areas of food, agriculture, forestry and fisheries.”
He said, however, PNG will continue to rely on FAO for technical assistance as per the Medium Term Priority Framework (MTPF) and FAO global and regional priorities and will fully support and cooperate with FAO to implement these priorities for improvement of food security and poverty reduction.
Agriculture in PNG is important because it is the main source of food, income and employment and supports about 85% of the population who are primarily rural-based. Economically, the agriculture sector, including forestry and fisheries, contributes about 24% of the total GDP and accounts for 17% of total value of exports. Hence, it plays a crucial role in improving food security and reducing poverty in rural areas through creation of employment and raising incomes.
Accessibility to food is still a major problem and due to low food production, among many other factors, PNG is still importing a lot of its food requirements. PNG with the help of development partners like FAO and World Health Organization is working hard to alleviate some of these problems causing low food production and nutrition.
The Government has in place relevant policies and strategies aimed at improving food security by reducing poverty through the promotion of income generation; and improving food availability, accessibility, utilization and sustainability; and stability in food production, said Mr Moat. These include the PNG National Food Security Policy 2000-2010; PNG Rice Development Policy 2004-2014; and the National Agriculture Development Plan 2007-2016. These policies have been aligned with long term plans such as PNG Development Strategic Plan 2010-2030 (PNGSDP); and PNG Vision 2050.
One of the key strategies is the Economic Corridor Concept, which will be implemented under the Medium Term Development Plan 2010-2030. This concept will focus on rural areas promoting entrepreneurship. One of the focal areas will be the transformation of subsistence farming to commercial farming, which will lead to increase in income and standard of living resulting in lowering of poverty.
PNG, in recognising the importance of climate change, has also established an office of Climate Change and formulated a climate change strategy called the “PNG Climate-Compatible Development Strategy”. This strategy aims to mitigate emissions of greenhouse gas by at least 50% by 2030 and PNG to be carbon neutral by 2050. The aim of adaptation is to reduce vulnerability to climate change associated risks from gradual hazards (eg diseases) and event-driven hazards (eg landslides, coastal flooding etc.). The strategy also embraces the REDD+ mechanism to alleviate the effect of Climate Change.
PNG is also actively participating in Research and Development (R&D) work on Climate Change in collaboration with European Union (EU), United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and Global Environment Fund to develop adaptive farming systems focusing on water management technologies, stress tolerant crops and stress resilience livestock farming systems. Technologies generated from this R&D work will be disseminated to farmers to help them cope with the effect of climate change and sustain their food production.