THE Highlands Farmers & Settlers Association Inc (HFSA) has called on the Government to change its decision to park the NADP funds with Members of Parliament under the Districts and Joint Districts Budget Planning and Priorities Committee.
Despite the good intentions of the government to rejuvenate and promote agriculture and livestock industry in 2006, the monies that had been budgeted and disbursed over the years had minimum impact on smallholder farmers.
This and other concerns were echoed in a special general meeting organized by HFSA between various agriculture agencies located in EHP such as DAL, Fresh Food Development Corporation, Livestock Development Corporation, Livestock Development Corporation, Coffee Industry Corporation, National Agriculture & Quarantine Authority, National Agriculture Research Institute, Ministry of Culture & Tourism and Department of Lands and Physical Planning and Provincial government counterparts on Jan 6, 2010 to discuss various issues on agriculture, livestock, research and quarantine as well as culture and eco tourism at the DAL Highlands Regional Conference Room in Goroka.
The farmers are concerned that with the NADP funding directly to districts, many districts might engage in ad hoc funding schemes that might not coincide with the National Government objectives in various sub-sectors of the agriculture and livestock industry. For example, the districts might fund livestock projects which could not be feasible as the district might have land limitations to cater for 200 cattle or also due to geographical and altitude climate.
Further, some farmers are engaged in farming in other districts than they districts they originate from. For example, a bee farmer from Okapa district has bee hives in Kainantu and Lufa districts. The farmer is a voter and resident in Okapa but his projects are in another district with economic benefits spreading between various electorates. Furthermore, the NADP funding could well benefit only voters and supporters of the chairman of the JDBPPC, who is the Member of the electorate while genuine farmers might miss out.
Sir Sinake Giregire (President) and Wilson Thompson (Secretary) of HFSA said that the coffee industry has been the industry promoted by HFSA since 1956 had cautioned the CIC that the coffee production targets are attainable as no new coffee planting has been undertaken in the last 10 years due to many problems such as land disputes, customary land tenure system where farmers do not own large tracts of land, law and order, infrastructure and communication problems. This problem is compounded by fact that the plantation sector which catered for 85 percent of coffee production has collapsed and the emphasis is now on the smallholders to meet 95 percent of all coffee production.
They said the current coffee trees in smallholder firms and coffee plantations were planted between 1950-80s and are between 30 to 60 years old and the trees are going senile, old and are susceptible to disease and cannot produce as anticipated hence the CIC should look at wholesome nursery development and distribution program to replace ageing trees and to cater for infilling or dead and old trees. This could be achieved by encouraging schools to involve in nursery development and seedling distribution whilst HFSA called on CIC to appoint HFSA to engage in this project where it has land in Goroka, Daulo, Anglimp South Wahgi and North Wahgi and the farmer network to ensure this is executed.
Navi Anis, CEO of CIC acknowledge the HFSA, Goroka Chamber of Commerce and Industry and farmers representatives call for dialogue and open communication and willingness to work together with him and the CIC and stated that he would look into concerns and address them as he occupies the position.
Mawe. Gonapa, representing the National DAL acknowledged that coffee industry needs to be revamped due to the old ageing coffee trees and need to meet the National Government production and export targets.
He said that DAL would not work with the organisations and associations to engage in productive relations between government, CIC, provincial governments and farmers to encourage small farmers, who in most instances are left out sue to infrastructure and communication problems.
He encouraged farmers to be realistic and to work hard on the land and the government would not assist with finance directly but through various programs and intervention projects initiated under NAFP and other DAL programs such as Food Security and integrated Farming Projects.
The farmers and HFSA appreciated the meeting and commended DAL for its support to farmers over the years and in particular to HFSA to network and dialogue with farmers and the National Government through various initiatives over the years. The HFSA stated that it will conduct similar meetings in EHP and in Simbu and Jiwaka in the coming months.