Jiwaka in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea is the first province to undergo E-Agriculture piloting. Following a scoping mission to the province in December 2017 by a technical team comprising the Department of Agriculture and Livestock (DAL), Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) and the National Information & Communications Technology Authority (NICTA); an initial AgriTech training was conducted for the Jiwaka Women and Youth in Agriculture during August 7-9 2018 at Kingku Training Centre at Kurumul in the Anglimp South Whagi District.
Twenty eager farmers, who are active farmers and members of the Jiwaka Women and Youth in Agriculture, attended this extra ordinary event with much interest and enthusiasm.
The inaugural AgriTech training focused on developing capacity of young women and youths on the use of relevant and basic ICT applications in the promotion and marketing of their agriculture produce. It was facilitated by FAO, NICTA, DAL, International Telecommunication Union, Fresh Produce Development Agency and the Jiwaka Provincial Administration.
Digital literacy and AgriTech will be key interventions initially, besides application of basic ICT knowledge for improved access to information, data storage and sharing, and communication. Three resource centres have been identified to kick start the roll-out of e-agriculture in the province.
Jiwaka is a new province (separated from Western Highlands Province [WHP] in 2011); comprising North Whagi, South Whagi and Jimi districts; with a total land area close to 5 000 km² and population of 350 000 (approx.). It shares boarders with WHP to the west and Simbu Province to the east. While Banz town in North Whagi and Minj station in South Whagi are existing government establishments which share most of the administrative and commercial activities, Kurumul village along the Highlands Highway has been developed into the new administrative centre (capital) for the province. Jiwaka covers the fertile Whagi valley, home of PNG’s tea and coffee industries and a wide range of horticultural crops and livestock. It has a good road network in both North and South Whagi, however Jimi is a little isolated. Human resources and entrepreneurship capabilities are other assets to the province.
ICT Developments in Jiwaka
The province’s North Whagi and the Anglimp South Whagi districts are extensively covered by 3G telecommunication network, with parts of Jimi accessible through 2G. The Jiwaka Provincial Government has invested significantly on ICT infrastructure, which includes a 65m tower, arguably the biggest and tallest in the highlands region; a large and modern server, a digital radio station (FM Jiwaka) with a backup recording studio, unified phone system with handsets, and two operating licenses (network and content) from NICTA.
Agricultural Challenges in Jiwaka
Jiwaka sits nicely in the fertile Waghi Valley with a huge agriculture potential. However the main agriculture challenges are in production (improved varieties, good agriculture practices), postharvest and handling, transportation (logistics), pest and disease (including animal health, coffee berry borer), markets (access and prices), finance (credit facilities), and lack of information resources and extension services.