|Floriculture is one of the agriculture activities supported through the SSSEP. Goroka women proudly show off their floral arrangements during a recent show|
Agricultural officers in the Eastern Highlands province have been urged to provide the best advice to help farmers to deal with the prolonged dry weather conditions currently affecting the region.
Many farmers in the rural areas are depending on the agriculture staff to assist in providing the most appropriate advice and technical support, according to John Gimisive, the province’s deputy administrator for district services and local government.
Gimisive said farmers in the province and elsewhere in the region now faced difficulties with their food gardens, coffee trees and livestock because of the prolonged dry weather.
The dry weather conditions have affected many food gardens and people were not harvesting their normal food staples resulting in widespread hunger.
Gimisive made the remarks when he officially opened a one-day workshop on the smallholder support services expansion Project (SSSEP) in Goroka recently.
Staff of the SSSEP under the Department of Agriculture and Livestock met with the Eastern Highlands provincial administration to discuss the SSSEP, district selection criteria and methods and processes for district agriculture planning.
The SSSEP is an agriculture smallholder extension concept successfully trialled in Eastern Highlands and Morobe and is now being expanded to other districts in these two provinces as well as Chimbu and Central provinces.
The pilot phase of the project, funded by the Asian Development Bank, proved successful during its trial phase.
The expansion phase has again been made possible by a K3 million grant provided by the New Zealand government through its aid agency, NZAid.
Gimisive said he hoped that through the expansion of SSSEP in the province, the provincial and district staff could utilise their knowledge, skills and experiences to assist farmers in dealing with dry weather conditions.
He said farmers needed to be encouraged to look at different farming options and alternatives instead of their traditional practices to overcome difficult situations.
He said the SSSEP was a good extension concept that had been well received and had improved agriculture extension and agriculture productivity in the Eastern Highlands and Morobe provinces.
He said three new districts in Eastern Highlands would be included in the expansion phase and he urged relevant district staff to give their best in making the concept work in the rural areas.
DAL’s Highlands' regional director Mawe Gonapa said region was densely populated and with the creation of two new provinces, Hela and Jiwaka, and increase in mining activities especially with the LNG project, the delivery of agricultural services was far more important than previously.
He said people were more willing to try out new innovations such as the SSSEP concept to improve their livelihood.
DAL will work in partnership with the provoincial administration and other stakeholders to promote agriculture initiatives that will bring benefits and change their lifestyles.
He said food crops including rice, vegetables, honey bee, fish farming, livestock and other activities were expected to get a boost with the expansion of SSSEP.
Eastern Highlands provincial agriculture advisor Bubia Muhuju said there were many challenges facing the administration including dry weather conditions which were leading to drought, and the LNG project which means there would be more demand for food.
He said there was inadequate capacity to meet the supply and demand and to deal with disaster situations, but he hoped that through the SSSEP there would be some ways and means to overcome these problems.
SSSEP will provide the opportunity to boost food production as well as introduction of high yielding crops with nutritional value.
He said officers in the districts lacked resources and funding and he appealed to political leaders to give more support to agriculture-based programmes.
Eastern Highlands deputy administrator for project management and coordination, Solomon Tato, in closing the workshop said the administration appreciated the support from DAL and NZAid and agreed that the SSSEP concept could be expanded to other sectors.
“Eastern Highlands depends on its natural resources because it does not have any mining, gas and oil, and it is therefore imperative that all stakeholders including politicians and leaders need to work together to improve agriculture productivity,” he said.
“District staff have also been urged to work as a team and make an impact in the communities they serve.”
Tato also pointed that a new structure was being finalised, which means there would be more new positions for agricultural officers in the districts.