Like many rural outstations  in Papua New Guinea, Bandong, in the Morobe province  is beautiful and isolated.

To get to Bandong from Lae, you have to  make a four hour  journey on a four wheel drive over rugged terrain.  This is where more than 5000 people live  – scattered in small  hamlets all over the many ridges and plateaus of this mountainous area.   For the few who  live in villages accessible by road, the distance and the road condition continues to be a major challenge.

The statistics that come from  here  are just as bad as those in other rural and remote areas of Papua New Guinea.  It  reflect more than 20 years of government  neglect and isolation. In Bandong and surrounding areas, between 15 and 20  women and children die every year from  birth complications and other preventable diseases.   But those figures  come only  from villages nearest to the road.

Its half past 8 in the morning and Rex Puli, the Community health worker, has  already begun seeing the  first lot of patients. Rex is one of the very few community health workers  who  has chosen to work in Bandong in  long while.  He works in an aid post that  doesn’t have enough and supplies.

The  dispensary contains medicines that come from kits supplied by the Australian Government.  The kits are meant to supplement what should be an ongoing supply  of  medicines from the  Papua New Guinea Government.

But the flow of medical supplies is irregular and getting new stock  from the nearest health center  requires a 12 hour trek on foot to Boana.

After living and working in Bangdong for a year,   Rex agrees that the bad  road condition  is a major contributor to the unacceptably rate of  mother and child deaths. 

The education statistics are no better.   Leah Yalingu, the Bandong Primary School Principal  sees systematic  deficiencies in the education system  that  need to be urgently corrected.

Much of the problem stems from poor teacher training and an education inspection system that isn’t working. Illiteracy remains a major concern  and very few students  make it to high school. 

But the  people of  Bandong and other neighboring villages  are resilient and hardworking.   The road that leads to Bandong is an example of their achievements. It  was built  initially without any machinery by farmers usingspades and sticks. 

Later,  each person contributedtwenty kina and the communities hired a bulldozer to cut a road through the rugged terrain.

Using existing traditional leaderImageship structures, they banded other – their common bond has been the  coffee they’ve been planting for  over 60 years.

In 2008,   Mong Bungun, an elementary school teacher built on the 60 years of knowledge and expertise and founded the Neknasi Coffee Corporative with the aim of  creating a reliable income source for his people.

Halimbi Gim  is one of many farmers who joined the cooperative when it started.  He has more than one thousand coffee  trees on his land.  Through the Neknasi cooperative,  he has been able to build his cash income  and improve his family’s lifestyle.   In the villages  where members of the Neknasi cooperative live, there is a marked difference in the standard of living. 

More and more permanent houses are being built every year – funded by coffee money. Working together  has also  helped to reduce the financial burden of  transportation  on individual farmers.

Today, the Neknasi, cooperative  owns a landcruizer and a large truck that assists farmers to take their coffee to be  milled.

In 2010  they were certified by  Fairtrade International.   With assistance from Fairtrade, they’ve been able  get a good price  and  also  tap into a global market for organically grown coffee. 

Reclaiming Our Future

Posted: March 21, 2013 in Uncategorized

By Online Editor

ImageFor 38 years after Independence, we in Papua New Guinea (PNG) struggled as a nation to find our footing in this world, not that we never did, but at one stage, we were sure of it. I’m sure that when our forefathers, those who sat and wrote our beautiful constitution had a vision for our country and what it would be like today. They knew about the despair and loneliness of the urban cities, they saw people’s happiness and social security being diminished in the name of economic development, that human society became alienated as a the result of the current system. And that is why they cautioned us to be careful about the kind of development we bring into our resource full and beautiful country, and that every development should be pursued only through careful consideration of the consequences upon the social and spiritual fabric of our people. They warned us that for every development that takes place, we must first think of the well being of our people and what this development will do to our people, in every aspect of their lives, socially, economically and spiritually. That includes every woman and men, daughters and sons, bubu man’s (grandfathers) and bubu meri’s (grandmothers), our children and our children’s children, all citizens of this nation. It doesn’t matter what status they have in the community, whether they live in our cities or towns or the most remotest place in PNG, formally educated or not, all of our people matter! That is our cultural norm; we respect and take care of our people! That is our Melanesian way, one of our traits that identify us.

Today we hear of all kinds of violence against our mothers and sisters, we hear about brutless killings in our streets, we know of greed and corrupt dealings within our government system, we hear of billion kina investments in our country with no evidence of benefits to show, we see the destruction on our land, our forest and even our seas. We see the peril of such rapid exploitation of our natural resources and yet our leaders are ignorant of the fact that our small island country is slowly loosing all its natural wealth and beauty. We may one day wake up to see deserts and deserts of land, bare of trees, and huge craters where minerals were extracted from and our river systems polluted by mining activities and void of life and our children not having the opportunity to experience the beauty of it all.

And waiting for the government to wake up and save us may not happen in our lifetime. The system has confused their minds. We, as people of this nation need to start taking back our land and resources. Take it all back. And if we must use it, we must use it according to our own ways, with respect and consideration for the benefit of our community and our people. We need to wake up now and reclaim our future.

By Martyn Namorong

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Landowners from Turubu protest at the Commission of Inquiry into Special Purpose Agriculture Business Leases held in Wewak last year

In trying to understand the roots of corruption in PNG, I have drawn upon my life long interaction with the resources sector in PNG. Having grown up in a logging camp in the Western Province, I appreciated the services provided to the local communities by the logging company. It was also at that logging camp in the 1990s that I came across a Tok Pisin translation of extracts from the Barnett Inquiry into the Forestry sector.

The Barnett Inquiry was aninvestigation in widespread corruption in the Forestry sector. Its revelations led to the changes to the Forestry laws and regulations and the introduction of log export monitoring by the Swiss firm SGS. I believe the unintended consequence of the tightening of Forestry regulations has been the recent land grab known as the granting of Special Purpose Agriculture Business Leases (SPABLs or SABLs).

Next Tuesday I will be presenting a paper on Corruption in PNG at the Australia National University in Canberra. My trip to Canberra is part of an awards package, for the work I did in reporting the findings of the Commission of Inquiry into the Sepik SPABLs. There I saw extensive logging and very little agriculture activity which led me to believe that land had been acquired under the pretext of agriculture in order to circumvent strict Forestry regulations brought about following the Barnett Inquiry.

If the Forest Authority was granting Forest Clearance Authorities (FCAs), for agroforestry, one would expect to see plantation agriculture crops mixed with plantation trees. This would by definition be called agroforestry. To my knowledge and based on what I observed, there was no evidence of agroforestry but rampant logging activity with token agriculture plots.

As I’ve moved on in life, I am now confronted with the opportunities and challenges brought about by the mining industry. And it is through my close association with the industry that I have come to appreciate the Curse of the Rent Seekers.

The mining industry is the main engine of growth in PNG in recent times providing about a third of the Governments budgetary support. But as observed by the anthropologist Dan Jorgensen, this was not what the Founding Fathers of PNG intended the nation to be. Jorgensen wrote:

“In attempting to reconcile generic notions of tradition with modernist hopes, the ideology of the Melanesian Way also grappled with one of the worries that preoccupied planners and politicians in the state’s early days, namely, the tension between egalitarian goals and the reality that development often produces inequality.”

If you wish to understand what type of nation PNG was meant to be, read the Somare Government’s Eight Point Plan of 1972 which was subsequently incorporated into the Constitution as the National Goals and Directive Principles. This Papua New Guinean model of development focused on small holder agriculture and small business owned by Papua New Guineans and was successfully implemented in the first decade of independence.

As long time PNG watcher, Professor Ronald Mays observed,

“During the first decade or so of independence, economic performance was generally satisfactory: although increases in real GDP were small (averaging 1.4 per cent over the period 1976- 1985) they were, except for one year, positive; there was a gradual diminishing of dependence on aid; and, under the government’s ‘hard kina’ strategy, economic management was sound.”

Jorgensen states that a World Bank Report in the 1970s laid the groundwork for the shift from this Papua New Guinean model of development to the current neo-liberal capitalist model in the 1980S.

To put things in a Global perspective, the neo-liberalists had overthrown Salvador Allende, the Socialist President of Chile on September 11 1971 (It is ironic that the head of neoliberalism would be decapitated 40 years later on September 11 2001). As the world, through Ronald Reagan and Margareth Thatcher, moved towards embracing Milton Friedman’s neo-liberal capitalism; PNG shifted from empowering local people through agriculture and small business towards facilitating the exploitation of natural resources by Multinational Corporations.

The shift in developmental policy as recommended by the World Bank meant that by the 1980s, PNG became increasingly dependent on revenue from extractive industries while other sectors declined, exposing the nation to shocks in the resources sector. When revenue from Panguna ceased as a result of the Bougainville crisis, the state could barely plug the holes in the budget despite the existence of Ok Tedi and the Kutubu Oil Fields.

Apart from the well-known conflicts and environmental concerns, issues of corruption have become widespread. In the early 1990s Barnett Inquiry into the Forestry sector highlighted many corrupt practices involving public officials and logging companies. Most recently, the O’Neill Government will be investigating the abuse of funds earmarked for landowners associated with Exxon Mobil’s LNG project and a recent report by the National Research Institute (NRI) has called for greater transparency in the disbursement of revenue from the Pogera Mine.

The best times in PNG’s history as an independent nation were between 1975 and 1985 as highlighted above by Professor May and this was when a Papua New Guinean model of development that focused on agriculture and small scale development activities was being implemented. Following the shift to the World Bank’s neo-liberal model of development conflicts and environmental issues have dogged the nation along with governance issues surrounding the distribution of wealth.

Between 2005 and 2010, mining and petroleum projects paid K12.7 billion to the government amounting to about a third of government revenue.

Despite the growth in income from resource rents there is widespread inequality as Sir Mekere Morauta highlighted in a speech made in 1996, 21 years after Independence;

“GDP has grown five times but the distribution of income is more skewed and less equitable than in 1975. Nominal per capita income has more than doubled, but 80 per cent of the population actually earn less than the 1975 average. Corruption, both petty and profound, permeates society today.”

Corruption, when viewed from the perspective of the World Bank’s neo-liberal model of development, is the distortion of the distribution of natural resource wealth in favour of a few Multinational Corporations and a powerful rent-seeking class. It is this misapplication of the wealth of a nation that I refer to as the Curse of the Rent Seekers. The excessive demands by so called resource owners and the kickbacks demanded by public officials are classic examples of such greed-driven rent seeking behaviour.

The World Bank has now backing the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI) to address problems created by its prescribed model of development. But the EITI is just window-dressing by the World Bank as it does not address the fundamental issue of how those rents are distributed by the rent collectors.

I have tried to show the reader that the shift from the Papua New Guineanmodel of development to the World Bank’s neo-liberal model of development has created the problems that were foreseen by the Founding Fathers when they warned about the Darkness of Neon Lights in the Constitutional Planning Committee Report. It would be easy to say corruption concerns ethics, but let’s ask ourselves if the current model of development provides the conditions necessary for unethical behavior to thrive.

-ENDS-

Martyn Namorong is a multi-award winning writer currently on a two week study tour of Australia.

War on Betelnut Unnecessary

Posted: February 21, 2013 in Uncategorized

NCDC Governor Powes Parkop picks on buai sellers in Port Moresby but will not pick on beer sellers.

He is doing a very good job trying to clean up Port Moresby but the cleaning up must not stop at the physical appearance.

Buai and beer are both staining Port Moresby but Mr Parkop chooses to put his feet down on those who are trying to get by. He puts the blame of ugliness on a fruit locally produced and has gained economic prominence because the people have made it so. 

It is the local initiatives such as the buai traders who keep PNG’s local grassroots economy going. 

The ugly stains in Port Moresby are problems of habit just like the drunken on the streets. Port Moresby will be cleaner if Mr Parkop focuses on correcting habits of users. The “no spitting” signs are good starters but signs on a wall do not go far. 

While he is on the betelnut stains clean up maybe he should start a “no drunken” on the streets campaign.

And Mr Parkop please leave the betelnut traders alone.

Welcome back to Our Pacific Ways. This year kicks off with many promises for a better PNG. Schools children are smiling as they can now go to school without worrying about school fees. Health Minister Michael Malabag promises church health workers will be paid under normal government pay system. And Commerce and Trade Minister Richard Maru is shaking up small foreign business to upscale or get out.

At the same time Lae’s Angau Hospital must come to a standstill following a nurse’s rape and Goroka reports it must refer patients to Kundiawa and Mingende hospitals.

While many young people are happy to go to school many schools are without good classrooms fitted with proper desks and tables and worse is the lack of teaching resources especially books. 

On the ground locals are still trying to find a place in this now becoming industrialised nation. Cocoa farmers continue to carry loads on their backs to the nearest truck pick up point usually some 2 days away. Fresh produce farmers must deal with bad road conditions and unhygienic markets.

If 2013 is the year for a clean up then let’s see some real change in those critical areas.

Aside  —  Posted: February 21, 2013 in Uncategorized

Husband and wife team Mere and Igu Yawane have been teaching women in the Eastern Highlands how to make this delicious bread from cassava.

Cassava flour and bread

Cassava flour and bread

Cassava processor to produce the flour

Cassava processor to produce the flour

Not only is the bread more tasty than the one at the shop, it is a source of food that can be relied upon during times of drought. And, it’s a money-maker – Mere sells her own cassava loaves direct to customers for K6!

Cassava bread

Cassava bread

Mere explained the couple’s motivation for helping train women in this enterprise: “Things won’t always be good every year, we go through hard times too,” she said.

“At these times – insects eat the sweet potatoes, rice doesn’t grow well – we must store something. We can make this flour in readiness for these times of need. And use it to feed your family at that time.”

Mere Yawane, food security trainer and entrepreneur

Mere Yawane, food security trainer and entrepreneur

Savé PNG's Jennifer Waiko speaking at the Slow Foods festival in Italy last month

Savé PNG’s Jennifer Waiko speaking at the Slow Foods festival in Italy last month

PNG’s farmers and traditional cuisine took centre stage at one of the world’s major food events last month.

Markham Valley-based non-profit Savé PNG spoke at the Slow Foods (‘Salone del Gusto’) festival in Torino, Italy.

At the event, Savé PNG director Jennifer Waiko was invited to speak on a conference about ‘Indigenous Peoples and Local Food Sovereignty: A struggle for self determination’, where she said the farmers who are severely neglected by the PNG government hold the key to PNG’s economic independence.

“The majority of Papua New Guineas have is the ability to earn a livelihood from the land,” Waiko said. “We have the skills, but we need the training and market opportunities to gain financial independence.

“Political decisions in Papua New Guinea are based on money: that is, on short term aspirations. Make the people financially independent and they will make more choices based on long term aspirations.”

Savé PNG is working to inspire Papua New Guineans to embrace their cultural identity and protect their traditional foodways. They believe that celebrating traditional food is the first step towards community resiliency in the face of health, climate and cultural threats in PNG.

They are currently working on a educational video series called “Cafe Niugini” which explores indigenous cuisines and cultures of Papua New Guinea.

Slow Food is a global movement that aims to “counter the rise of fast food and fast life, the disappearance of local food traditions, and people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from, how it tastes and how our food choices affect the rest of the world.” At this year’s four-day festival, there were 950 food exhibitors from 130 countries.

Savé PNG’s Bao Waiko is hopeful PNG farmers will be represented at the 2014 Slow Food festival.

“Salone is the perfect opportunity for small local PNG food groups working on agricultural products such as coffee, chocolatecoconut oil, honey, dried fruits and other locally grown and processed products to gain international exposure and recognition”, Bao said.

If you would like to know more about Slow Food go to www.slowfood.com. Read more about Save PNG here or contact Jennifer and Bao at savepng@gmail.com.

Tomato growers at theSlow Food Festival in Italy

Tomato growers at theSlow Food Festival in Italy

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Damaris Loie and her husband Tella have worked together for over 20 years making honey in the frontyard of their home in Logofate, in Ungai-Bena District.

The couple have customers for their delicious, 100% organic honey from around the Highlands, but aren’t keeping their specialised knowledge to themselves: they’re trying to train other women in the Eastern Highlands, so they can help ‘kamapim’ others. “They will be happy, and you will be happy too,” Damaris said.

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Tella loves working with his wife, and says more PNG men could benefit from doing the same.”Working in partnership with women is very good,” he said. “We’re a team, and it makes our work much easier. Also, women are very good managers, especially in terms of finance.

“If PNG men have this mentality where they’re only thinking of themselves, it won’t work as well. But if we can team up and apply the wisdom of women – their management skills, their way of looking after their families and putting food on the table – if we can incorporate this attitude into our businesses, I think communities in PNG will be better off.”

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Sesame John is a flower-gardener in Kabiufa, Goroka. Every week she sells flowers, fetching up to K200 per pot! She also sells large amounts for events and celebrations, and regularly hires out her gorgeous posies to Goroka University for graduation ceremonies. Her beautiful garden contains literally thousands of kina in flowers.

Having worked profitably in floriculture for more than 20 years, Sesame is a firm believer in reaping what you sow. “We have our land, so we must work,” she told us. “Moni stap long graun (‘money is inside our land’). If we work hard, we make money. If we are lazy, and wait for someone else, it will be hard for us to survive.
“You must work, you must sweat. And you will reap the rewards of your hard work.”
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Serah Yasona decided to revive her father’s old fish farm after he passed away. A single mother, she had three children and one adopted child to provide for.

Last year she set about refurbishing the fish farm (in Komiufa, Goroka district), plastering the seven concerete ponds and fixing the pipe system with her own hands, from her own sweat. She went to her DPI office to get some advice about how to do it. She has even added two more large ponds. She plans to sell fish at the markets or direct to local buyers.


Serah said she was not only happy to have found to a way to support her family, but she’s come to realise her potential as a Papua New Guinean woman.”I saw that I had to do something so I could pay for my children’s school fees and other living expenses,” she said. “I taught myself how to do this and it’s really interesting. Now I want to work on my farm all the time!”