Bougainville renforce ses systèmes alimentaires pour faire face à la COVID-19

Before the Coronavirus pandemic, food systems in Papua New Guinea were already under constant threat from both natural and human-made factors such as natural disasters, pests, and disease infestation (African Swine Fever, Fall Army Worm), climatic changes (El Nino) and challenges arising from its geographical context. According to a recent study, severe disruptions in agricultural production in PNG significantly impacts rural communities’ income and food consumption[1]. These communities are highly reliant on subsistence agriculture and traditional crops for food security. Given that 80 percent of people in PNG live in rural communities, there is an urgent need to ensure an adequate and stable supply of nutritious food. The COVID-19 pandemic has only heightened these issues by disrupting food supply systems and access to markets.

Bougainville, an autonomous region in PNG, is acting on opportunities to bolster food systems by improving the availability of disease and pest-resistant crops, as well as nutritional crop varieties. This initiative is funded through The Pacific Regional Integrated Food and Nutrition Security Initiative to COVID-19 (PRISCO19) project and spearheaded by the Bougainville Department for Primary Industries in collaboration with The Pacific Community (SPC) Land Resources Division. The project is primarily funded by the European Union and implemented by SPC LRD to respond to the immediate impacts of the pandemic in the region.

As part of the project, communities seek to conserve traditional food crops that are at risk of being lost. Food crops such as taro, sweet potato, banana, yam, capsicum, eggplant and local leafy vegetables and other traditional staple foods will be planted at established plots and newly built nurseries in the Central (Mabiri area), North (Tinputz area) and South (Konga Siwai area). PRISCO19 support included clearing and preparation of nursery sites, provision of building materials, construction services and seed supplies. The collected varieties will be conserved and evaluated before their distribution to the districts in a coordinated approach involving the relevant department and non-governmental organisations.

The project will benefit over 50,000 farmers, in the North, Atolls region, Central and South of Bougainville. Petronila Tieng, a farmer from Siwai, South Bougainville, said PRISCO19 empowered communities to protect, save and use their local food crops. At the same time, they recognised the need for more varieties and food types to improve nutritional security.

“We are happy to be able to use other introduced crops through these projects. With this development, we will be gathering our local food crops and others (varieties) that will be trialled here. Some of the local food crops have been lost through the process of urbanisation and commercialisation,” said Ms Tieng.

Women and youth were also engaged to clear the three sites, fostering ownership of initiative long-term impacts and awareness of sustainable agricultural practices. Landowners, farmers, and communities involved in the project have an opportunity to improve and gain new knowledge and skills to adopt climate-resilient and environmentally safe approaches to maintain a nutritious food supply. The project explores and promotes appropriate approaches to maintaining adequate strategic food reserves. At a time of emerging humanitarian issues due to COVID-19, this could improve coordination and streamline food distribution to vulnerable communities.

The Department for Primary Industries Officer in Central Bougainville, Amos Lepasa said PRISCO19 brought focus to an area of work that is often overlooked. There was a lack of resources and knowledge on improving food supply systems that the project helped address.

‘’This is a huge initiative and assistance, which was never anticipated before, and we’re very grateful to SPC and the PRISCO19 project,” said Lepasa. “Our traditional food crops that were almost lost can now be conserved, multiplied and distributed to many people in our districts and communities.”

“We will also use the set-up in the years to come in doing some basic applied crop research work.”

The initiative is the first for Bougainville and it raises awareness on the need for a comprehensive programme and similar projects to alleviate the impacts of food insecurity on vulnerable communities.

Acting Secretary for the Department of Primary Industries Kenneth Dovaro said that funding was often a challenge in order to ensure these projects were implemented and emphasised the importance of partnerships and collaborations that made them possible.

“We are so pleased as a department (Primary Industries) to have this support and partnership with SPC (PRISCO19 project). This initiative and support will go a long way in making sure that enough food crop varieties with desirable nutritional values are conserved and distributed to most farmers in need of food in a timely manner,” he said.

The PRISCO19 project is aimed at strengthening the capacity of biosecurity services and upgrading sustainable food production and value addition as a response to COVID-19.   The project is being implemented in 10 Pacific countries, including Cook Islands, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, PNG, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Timor Leste, Tonga and Tuvalu, in addition to Fiji and Vanuatu.

 

[1] Diao, Xinshen; Dorosh, Paul A.; Fang, Peixun; and Schmidt, Emily. 2021. Effects of COVID-19 and other shocks on Papua New Guinea’s food economy: A multi-market simulation analysis. IFPRI Discussion Paper 2004. Washington, DC: International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). https://cutt.ly/eOBXk9M

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Land Resources
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Land Resources
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Melanesia Regional Office
European Union (EU)
Land Resources (LRD) Division
Food systems
European Union (EU)
Land Resources (LRD) Division
Food systems
Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea