Seeding resilience against uncertainty in PNG’s South Fly

Above: The sweet potato single vine planting technique being introduced at Masingara training site. Photo: Faulkingham Jogo/ADRA PNG

In Papua New Guinea’s Western Province, high cases of COVID-19 have compounded existing inequalities.

In South Fly District, households are seriously disadvantaged relative to other districts of PNG. There is limited agricultural production, sparse access to services and very few ways to earn cash incomes – selling fish and animal products is one of the few ways to earn cash.

People along the Binaturi and Oriomo river systems travel 2-6 hours by boat to the provincial capital, Daru, to access services and markets, but movement has been restricted by the pandemic.

Through the Australian Humanitarian Partnership COVID-19 activation, ADRA PNG is working to improve the resilience of these communities through food security, livelihoods support, improved nutrition and disaster risk reduction (DRR) programs. These efforts are designed to protect against future shocks, whether that be a spike in COVID-19 cases or another disaster.

Multiplying seeds, multiplying benefits

Along the Binaturi and Oriomo rivers, ADRA PNG supported the development of seed multiplication and distribution gardens in four local government wards, which have been used as sites for training.

Some 95 participants in the training sessions so far have been equipped with knowledge and skills on improved farming techniques, how to grow climate smart crops, nutrition and crop processing, as well as disaster preparedness.

Some of the practical skills transferred at the workshops to improve crop yields included techniques for single-vine planting of sweet potato and the incorporation of legume crops to improve soil. Participants also learned how to process local tubers and starch into products like flour using clean energy and simple handheld grinders. These products can enhance household nutrition or be sold at community markets for cash.

The combined food security and DRR sessions mean that participants now understand how they can plan ahead for shocks, both from a community perspective, as well as for individuals or households. Local knowledge from the community was drawn upon to enhance discussions on DRR, supporting thinking on how to prepare for unexpected disasters.

Since the training sessions, communities have increased the number of seed multiplication and distribution gardens in their respective areas, improving access to high yielding, climate smart and disease-free seedlings. New varieties of taro crops in the distribution gardens, for example, will help address the problem of low taro yields as a result of taro leaf blight infestations.

By the end of the program, it is expected that 170 people will have taken part in the food security and DRR training, sharing their lessons with their own communities and families.