Farmers in high altitudes should have improved crop varieties in their gardens at all times to avoid food shortage as staples like sweet potato or kaukau are vulnerable to climatic stresses such as frost, says Dr Sergie Bang, NARI Director General.
Speaking to hundreds of women farmers in Ialibu during the launching of the Ialibu Resource Centre on December 11, Dr Bang said farmers in cooler climates should cultivate frost tolerant crops among their staples and adopt other interventions which can reduce labour input and increase profitability so that they can cope with climate change and related stresses.
The Ialibu Resource Centre has been developed through a climate change adaptation project, “Coping with Climate Change for Resilient PNG Agricultural Communities”, in which NARI has partnered with the Southern Highlands Women in Agriculture (SHWiA), through the PNG Women in Agriculture (PNGWiA), with the support of AusAID.
Dr Bang added that his organization has emphasis in supporting the work of women in agriculture and this has been captured in the Institute policy for NARI to work with them through PNGWiA. He said through this partnership, appropriate technologies and information on improved farming practices will reach out to districts and provinces for the benefit of farmers.
The centre has been equipped with communication and information materials on coping strategies of frost and other climate change related stresses for farmers to access. It also has demonstration plots of foundation materials – crops and livestock – for multiplication and distribution to farmers.
Dr Bang highlighted that these interventions are provided to enable farmers to be better equipped for any major climate related stresses, particularly frost and drought. He said wheat and Andean tuber, two frost tolerant crops, have been introduced for farmers to plant among their kaukau at all times so that they can have alternate foods when frost damages kaukau. Early maturing and drought tolerant kaukau varieties have also been multiplied at the centre.
Farmers were also encouraged to adopt improved feeding systems to support their livestock in bad times. Dr Bang said a new poultry feed has been made available and already farmers have enjoyed the end result. He said farmers can use kaukau and cassava to develop their own stock-feed, which will reduce the cost of feed and increase profitability.
The research boss also encouraged the farmers to use sweet potato silage for pig feed. He said silage developed in two weeks can be feed to pigs for up to four months and this will not only improve pig growth and nutrition but also it will reduce daily labour, allowing women to spend enough time doing other things.
With the proposed Western Pacific University in Ialibu, Dr Bang said farmers should not worry about markets. Potato late blight tolerant varieties are also available at their doorstep, he said, adding that Ialibu has good flat land which locals must utilize as this is an opportunity for NARI to work with farmers in Ialibu/Pangia through the women network. He said pig is always on high demand at high prices across the highlands due to never-ending social obligations.
Dr Bang also acknowledged the Australian Government for the funding support.
The event was witnessed by representatives from Ialibu/Pangia district, SHP government, PNGWiA, SHWiA, local leaders, and women groups from SHP and different parts of PNG.