Farmers benefit from soil management training

soils xxxFarmers from Ungai/Bena in Eastern Highlands have acquired new techniques on soil fertility and moisture management during a training program at Korefegu, conducted by NARI’s Aiyura-based Highlands Regional Centre during December 15-17, 2014.

Trainer and NARI researcher, Jeffery Yapo, said over 40 participants, including women and youth, attended the program over three days on garden preparation during climatic stresses, especially droughts. Mr Yapo said farmers learnt different types of organic fertilizers or organic farming systems which could improve soil health and fertility for better crop yield and production with high nutrition.

The training, both in theory and live demonstrations, was delivered at the Korefegu Resource Centre in the Lower Bena LLG, a drought hotspot area in PNG. The event was conducted as part of a climate change adaptation project, “Coping with Climate Change for Resilient PNG Agricultural Communities”, implemented in the area to increase awareness and develop capacity of local beneficiaries for improved soil management practices and coping with dry periods and related climatic stresses.

Mr Yapo said demonstrations were conducted on simple soil moisture management techniques, both for sloppy and flat lands. Awareness was also conducted on the causes of climate change and its impacts on food and agriculture.

Organic farming hasn’t been practiced much here before, Mr Yapo said. Slash and burning have been a common practice of preparing land for gardens. He said while some farmers have practiced improved methods of gardening, they still found new interventions useful for soil moisture preservation and soil fertility improvement during critical times like prolonged dry spells which are common in Benabena. He stressed that farmers need to practice compost mounding, which hasn’t been the case, to improve soil nourishment. The participants appreciated the skills they acquired.

Mr Yapo also noted that the communities need other related skills and knowledge in food processing, management of diseases and pests like sweet potato weevils, and adopt drought tolerant root crops such as cassava and sweet potato.

Korefegu is one of the four sites of the climate change adaptation project, implemented by NARI with support from AusAID. The other sites are Gumine (Simbu), Duke of York (ENBP) and Ialibu (SHP), which address high moisture, salinity and frost respectively. The Korefegu Resource Centre has been resourced with print and audio-visual information materials on a range of agriculture-based drought coping strategies. The centre also has VSAT and other information technology devices, supported by solar power supply; for communication, public awareness and access online information on climate change and related stresses and their coping strategies.

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