PNG Resources Week: Allan Bird on Impact of Agriculture-Cocoa in East Sepik

By: Roselyn Erehe July 08, 2024

Governor for East Sepik Province in PNG, Hon. Allan Bird addressing the delegates and sharing insights on the Impacts of Agriculture, specifically Cocoa in East Sepik Province during Day 3 theme, of PNG Resources Week at UPNG. Port Moresby. PNG.

The Papua New Guinea Resources Week allowed presenters to share information, network opportunities, and PNG’s national content.

East Sepik Governor Allan Bird took the opportunity to articulate a bold vision for the future of his province, highlighting significant strides in agriculture and community empowerment.

In his presentation during the Resource Week Day 3 themed “Impact in Agriculture,” Bird underscored the challenges faced and the innovative solutions implemented to drive sustainable development in East Sepik.

Agricultural Transformation

Governor Bird emphasized the pivotal role of agriculture in East Sepik's economic scope, particularly focusing on cocoa production.

He revealed ambitious plans to equip each of the province's estimated 128,000 cocoa farmers with the skills and resources needed to increase productivity.

Through the establishment of over 600 village nurseries, Bird's administration has empowered local farmers to manage their cocoa plots independently, fostering self-sufficiency and boosting production capacity.

“We tried to bring all of that together to develop an economic base. Moving forward obviously we picked cocoa, we tried to go to every single village and I think as of today we've established more than 600 village nurseries. So essentially every village has its own cocoa nursery,” Gov. Bird said.

“Then we spent money training our people on what to do with the nursery. So how to select their clones, how to produce a new seedling, essentially trying to upgrade them from what they were doing before in terms of their skills so that they can become self-sustaining.

“That was the whole idea, to give them the skills they need. In 2017, the entire province had about 12 people. We had about 3 nurseries in the whole province. Today we have more than 600 nurseries. We have close to 50,000 local farmers. We have people who can produce their own clones.

“So essentially they can make their own decisions as to what they want to do with their land, with their resources, their labor, how to apply it. And I think we've been pretty successful at that. We were amongst the top five cocoa producers in the country. Our target is to try to get each one of our 128,000 cocoa farmers to produce one pound of cocoa. That's our challenge. That's our goal.”

"Today, we've already produced one and a half million seedlings this year alone," Bird announced, illustrating the province's rapid agricultural expansion.

By investing in training programs and infrastructure, East Sepik aims to lead PNG in cocoa production, a significant achievement for a region once struggling with agricultural viability, the governor said.

Community Empowerment and Infrastructure Development

Beyond agriculture, Gov. Bird highlighted initiatives aimed at enhancing community resilience and infrastructure.

He recounted success stories from villages like Changriwa in East Sepik Province, where every household now owns a cocoa plot, thanks to collaborative efforts between the provincial government and local communities.

Solar power initiatives have also been pivotal, providing sustainable energy solutions to remote areas previously lacking in basic services.

"We've managed to create many villages where self-sufficiency is the norm," Gov. Bird noted, pointing out the transformative impact of these initiatives on local livelihoods.

From improved housing to enhanced access to essential services, communities across East Sepik are experiencing tangible improvements in quality of life.

Bird acknowledged persistent challenges, including logistical hurdles and financial constraints. He stressed the importance of continued support from national and international partners to sustain momentum and expand initiatives across the province.

"We need bigger ships to bring stock into Wewak," Bird remarked, noting they are working towards solutions to match the growing demands of East Sepik's economy while preserving its environment.

Governor Bird expressed gratitude for the growing support from both public and governmental organisations. He credited increased public engagement and collaboration with overcoming initial resistance to reform initiatives, emphasizing the importance of transparent governance and community involvement in decision-making processes.

"In the last two years, public support has been crucial," Bird stated, further assuring his commitment to empowering local communities and revitalizing agriculture.

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