MANUS Provincial Government is finding new ways to bring essential agriculture extension services to its people, to compensate for the national government’s blind eye to this critical service.
The provincial government teamed up with the PNG Cocoa Coconut Institute Limited (PNG CCIL) for a project that aims to train women to increase the value of the local copra industry.
Copra has been the backbone of Manus’ economy for the past 100 years, providing the main means for the island’s population to pay for children’s education, health, transport and essential needs.
But in recent times, the copra world market price has deteriorated. Coupled with changing climactic conditions, the inflated cost of goods and a growing population, it is clear enhanced agricultural techniques are needed. But the National Government has largely abandoned agricultural extension services to rural areas.
Recognising this, the Manus virgin coconut oil project trains local women in coconut downstream processing. Women learn how to produce quality coconut virgin oil, using traditional Manus methods updated with new knowledge and techniques.
While the virgin oil is the primary product, value-adding processes can be used to create charcoal, soap, feed meal and bakery products. Importantly, women are encouraged to bring their knowledge back to other members of their community.
The project was piloted in the Sapolau ward of the Lele Masih Bupi Chupeu LLG in Manus Province. It is hoped the project will be extended to other areas, and eventually the oil will be sold in stores.
The partners agreed women should be at the forefront of the project.
“In Manus women play an important role in food production, feeding and caring for the family but remain suppressed and neglected as in other parts of the country,” project leader Kanah Pouru said.
“Women are the most productive work force of the country and efforts must be made to legitimize their involvement and their representation in decision making and resource sharing.”
Pouru said the PNG CCIL teamed up with the Manus Provincial Government to fill the hole in agriculture extension services caused by lack of National Government funding. They said government neglect of these services had a major impact on PNG’s mainly rural population.
“Agriculture is the mainstay of 86% of PNG’s population and contributes significantly to their food security and cash income,” Pouru said. “To keep abreast with the changing times they need to know how to use new and improved agricultural technologies and information that is generated by research institutions.
“With all the challenges facing our farmers, provision of extension services is more vital than ever.”