The annual World Food Day is a special moment for us to join hands with the global community in celebrating the importance of the day in showcasing and sharing the message on food and nutrition security, poverty and hunger and issues that affect them.
As we celebrate the 2019 World Food Day today, let us reflect on the theme “Our Actions are our Future. Healthy Diets for a #ZeroHunger World.”
The theme reminds us of the essence of regular access to safe, nutritious and sufficient food and calls for actions to make healthy and sustainable diets affordable and accessible to everyone. #ZeroHunger is the 2ndagenda of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations and is the target shared by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) globally.
In Papua New Guinea (PNG), the key challenges to food security are poor quality dietary, poverty, obesity, climate change and disasters. Dietary deficiencies are caused by limited access to protein foods, leading to high rate of malnutrition as shown by stunting of about 48% children under the age of five. Rural poverty is primarily caused by low level of incomes and poor access to socio-economic services like schools, hospitals and markets. Climate change effects such as the El Nino-induced drought are a common climate change related threat to PNG that reduces food supply, impacting on food security. In the last El Nino drought (2015/2016), up to three million people, especially in the Highlands, were affected. The 2018 natural disasters – highlands earthquake and Momase volcanic activities – have exerted further pressure on household food security.
However the country is also presented with opportunities – the rising food prices, food crisis, niche markets of organic foods and food-derived biofuel. The comparative and absolute advantages that PNG has over its foods and natural resources, including the underutilised and indigenous species need to be further exploited.
Our government, the current Marape-Steven Government, has prioritized and issued key policy instructions to Taking Back PNG, and make PNG become the Richest Black Christian National where No Child is Left Behindthrough serious investment on agriculture across the nation. The intention in fitting and timely as agriculture, with an approximately 30% GDP contribution, is the foundation and heart of the rural PNG economy with over 85% of the eight million people depending on the sector for their daily livelihood sustainability.
The Marape-Steven government’s target for agriculture is to increase cash crops and livestock production and increase downstream processing of all commodities by 30% by 2022. Thus it is important to align sectoral planning with the Medium Term Development Plan III (2018-2022) and other higher level strategies and visions to achieve these targets. In consultation and with the support from development partners and other stakeholders, DAL has just completed the formulation of the Agriculture and Livestock Sector Development Plan (ALSDP, 2020-2022) as the overarching sector plan for PNG agriculture in alignment to the MTDP III.
The ALSDP framework encompasses plans and programmes of the ten (10) commodity boards and agencies within the sector including DAL as their lead agency. The commodity boards and agencies include Oil Palm Industry Corporation, Coffee Industry Corporation, PNG Cocoa Board, Kokonas Indastri Koporesen, Rubber Board, Livestock Development Corporation, Fresh Produce Development Agency, Spice Industry Board, National Agriculture Research Institute, and National Agriculture Quarantine Inspection Authority.
The Government’s focus is timely as the sector, over the last five years, has organised itself and embarked on a reform agenda that places agriculture in a strategic position to take on the challenges to grow and drive our economy. This includes policy interventions, such as the development of the National Food Security Policy (2018-2028) and the National E-Agriculture Strategy (2017-2023) with technical support from FAO.
The sector is greatly honoured and we stand ready and willing to serve and deliver as per the Government’s expectation. As the employer of some 85% people, making agriculture the primary sector for economic development is indeed giving a golden opportunity to our people to own the economy through productive and efficient utilisation of available resources.
We will continue to maintain strong partnerships with our collaborators and partners and advance our efforts for sustainable agriculture with market linkages based on the many lessons and experiences such as the PPAP for the coffee and cocoa sub-sectors. The Market for Village Farmers Project for the horticulture industry has just commenced and we embark on the establishment of agriculture industrial parks across the country and similar interventions in livestock, rice and grain, coconuts, spices and other horticultural crops. The department is also embarking on the Agriculture in Aviation Concept to transport organically grown agricultural produce to our neighbours within Asia Pacific. The intervention is intended to bring in much needed foreign reserves to trigger our economy, thereby improving the GDP while increasing the rural cash flow.
DAL will continue to ensure capacities are developed and outputs are delivered based on sound policy directions, effective planning, good governance and innovations with sufficient budgetary support. Our people will become the centre of attention in our efforts towards a modern and internationally competitive agriculture sector. Food producers and actors along the value chain development need improved capacity, skills and knowledge best suited to the changing environment.
PNG has been part of the global community in observing the annual World Food Day over the years to share the message of food security and healthy livelihood. Today we join hands with others in over 130 countries with our main World Food Day celebration at the University of Papua New Guinea in Port Moresby.
Our fight to reduce hunger, poverty and malnutrition will be a never ending one. DAL is open to work with all stakeholders, including our farmers, to transform the sector to provide healthy, nutritious and sufficient food; bring in income and improve livelihoods.
To conclude, I would like to take this opportunity to invite all government agencies, the private sector, international development partners, Non-Government Organizations, communities and family units to join hands in celebrating this important event.
Happy 2019 World Food Day Celebrations
Mr Daniel Kombuk
Department of Agriculture and Livestock