World Food Prize Recipient: Make Agriculture Cool Again

This week’s Development Agriculture Wednesday shares some insights from this year’s World Food Prize recipient Akinwumi Adesina on how making agriculture cool for Africa’s youth can lift millions out of poverty and food insecurity.

The idea of an agrarian economy, or Banana republic, has long been associated with the third world. But, whilst agrarian economies dominated by a large number of small-hold farmers is a characteristic of many developing countries, it is by no means a source of causality. If anything – as Akinwumi Adesina, this year’s World Food Prize recipient believes – a strong agricultural sector is the pathway out of underdevelopment.

According to Adesina, the key to unlocking the potential of agriculture in developing countries is making Agriculture cool for young people.

With such high rates of youth unemployment across many parts of Africa (particularly in rural areas), it is no wonder there are such large flows of young migrants from the continent to search for work in Europe. As Adesina himself has said, this is not surprising, “even insects migrate from where it is dark to where there is light”.

On the plus side, Africa has the most youthful population in the world, with over 20% of the population aged between 15-24 years, and 40% under 15 years. Youth make up 36% of the total working age population. If the lead of Adesina can be followed, and agriculture can become a cool industry for youth, this then hosts enormous potential for the region. This is particularly important, given over 70% of Africa’s youth live in rural areas, and young people are more likely than any other age group to migrate from rural to urban areas. “We must turn rural areas from zones of economic misery to zones of economic prosperity” says Adesina.

The Problem

The facts really speak for themselves here:

  1. $35 billion every year is spent on food imports into Africa.
  2. Around 65% of the world’s uncultivated arable land is in Africa.
  3. Around 30% of the world’s food insecure live in Africa, according to the UNFAO.

Clearly there is much room for the agricultural sector to grow and expand. There is hope that African agriculture can expand into a net-exporter of food. This growth potential also includes vertical expansions into value-added industries of manufactured and finished goods which have less volatile prices, and could provide long term stable economic growth.

But this may be easier said than done. Rural parts of Africa are also some of the poorest parts of the world, and lack the infrastructure and economic conditions for such a large expansion.  

How do we do it?

According to Adesina , “this requires new agricultural innovations and transforming agriculture into a sector for creating wealth. We must make agriculture a really cool choice for young people. The future millionaires and billionaires of Africa will come initially from agriculture”. To do this, the region must focus on attracting investment to grow the industry. Not only will this allow the sector to expand, but it will enable the industry to become more industrialized, high-tech, and profitable.

“The key is to make agriculture a business. Agriculture is not a way of life, is not a development activity, it’s a business.”

Money is already being directed towards expanding the sector. Last year the AfDB invested $800 million in supporting young agro-entrepreneurs across 8 countries. They are also aiming to invest $12 billion into the energy sector, and is seeking a further $50 billion from the private sector.

Grassroots movements are also underway which utilise new technologies like mobile phones and apps to make agriculture and farming know-how more accessible. See our earlier articles on HelloTractor or Icow for example.

To sum up with the wise words of Adesina: “The future of African young people lies in a more prosperous and inclusive Africa, and there is no other sector that has greater power to create growth than the agricultural sector.”

For further information, check out the source article: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-africa-agriculture-prize-idUSKBN19H23O

Further References:

https://www.afdb.org/en/news-and-events/youth-employment-in-africa-migration-remittances-and-the-informal-sector-highlighted-9992/ 

https://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2013/aug/12/tackling-youth-unemployment-in-somaliland

http://www.prb.org/Publications/Articles/2009/youthunemployment.aspx

Part 2: Growing the Next Crop of Industry Leaders

In the last post in this series I delved into the odd similarities between virtual animal management and Pokémon Go. This week, in the second part of youth in agriculture and having recently celebrated the first anniversary of AgriEducate, I’ll look into the necessity of attracting more youth in agriculture and how exactly we’ll go about doing just that.

The problem of driving more youth into agriculture is not something limited to Australia. In Kenya, Samuel Munguti is looking at ways of promoting agriculture to youth by running education programs through his social enterprise Farmers Pride. In the US, there are many social media and government programs attempting to spread the message of agriculture and why it is so important that we appreciate and understand how the industry works. After all, we all need to eat and well informed consumers reduce wasted food and are less easily manipulated by misinformation from both sides of the fence.

Promisingly, enrolment in agriculture related courses has risen over the last five years across all major agricultural course providing universities, albeit from a low base. There is still work to be done!

“Enrolments in agriculture might be improving but they are still rising from a low base. Although the industry has seen a proliferation of new and interesting job titles in recent years, the overall percentage of students pursuing agricultural studies remains low.”

From the Australian Financial Review

Presenting solutions to a problem, first requires an exploration of the problem itself. Poor youth representation in agriculture appears to stem from urbanisation, perception and our food consumption culture.

Urbanisation
Australia sits 23rd in the world in terms of urbanisation, with just under 90% of our population living in urban centres. For context, the first 8 countries are entirely cities – such as the Vatican, Monaco and Singapore and the only European countries above Australia are San Marino, Belgium and Malta.

Urbanized_population.png
This is a heat map of urban centres. Note that Australia sits well above most of Europe (source)

While urbanisation presents a number of efficiency benefits in public service provision, (think public transport, proximity to hospitals etc.) a city-centric population means that fewer and fewer people have ties to the origin of food and hence the energy and labour that goes into producing food on a large scale. The ABC’s War on Waste highlighted the quantity of food wasted by Australians and its basis in poor understanding of and connection to agriculture, among other factors.

A further consequence of urbanisation and lack of exposure to agriculture is that a career in the industry is not in the forefront of our minds as we go through school and university. This translates into very low enrolment rates and has pushed universities to cut back on agriculture-related degrees. Fortunately in the last couple of years, enrolments have trended upwards and universities are beginning to offer more agricultural courses!

Perception

When considering studies in the agricultural field most people (quite reasonably perhaps) picture studying to be a farmer. Yet it is important to consider the breadth and multitude of career opportunities. A farmer plays one role, but there are also agronomists, machinists, agricultural engineers, physicists, programmers, salespeople, grain traders, economists, fruit and vegetable pickers, truck drivers and many many more varied and important roles.

All these people are involved in agriculture and it is critically important that if agriculture is to take on the next generation, the perception of agriculture must change to include these career opportunities. Doing so requires continued efforts from all aspects of the industry to promote the benefits of a career linked to agriculture.

As an additional point, owning and operating a farm can be risky business and requires a lot of financial capital. If someone does not inherit or have adequate capital owning a farm is unlikely. That’s where modern social enterprises come in such as Cultivate Farms which aim to improve movement back onto the farm with a type of matchmaking service.

Food Consumption

Then there’s our food consumption culture. The stores are always plentiful with fresh produce, food is always available and often much goes to waste. With such availability, the unit appreciation of each piece tends to decline as we take more for granted, perhaps as a consequence of this disconnect between food production and consumption.

The growing number of social enterprises (such as The Social Food Project), farmers markets, advertising campaigns are beginning a shift towards a focus on food provenance. A greater emphasis and understanding of the energy, water, labour and time put into each product would hope to improve decision making and reduce food waste. Understanding the story behind the food, as opposed to purely technical production characteristics, is said to improve the connection to the primary producer and improve consumer outcomes. Hence why Coles and Woolworths both have pictures of happy farmers or brief stories next to their food.

Solutions

In essence agriculture is all around us, and most of the professions out there are applicable in an agricultural context. Targeting school and tertiary levels of education increase the leverage of agricultural concepts and encourage the next generation of industry leaders to start thinking about agriculture early.

The change doesn’t need to be purely (as a primary education example) more class time on agriculture-specific concepts. In fact the class could look at new technology and use examples of agriculture, or look at the maths behind rates, speed, complex GPS calculations and incorporate the context of GPS guidance in tractors. Classes on economics or money could look at farm budgets, world markets in bulk commodities or futures markets in grain. Or how about chemistry of soaps as adjuvants in non water-soluble spray chemicals? The list is endless.

Of course, attracting the next generation will most definitely require the use of technology. Virtual reality, 360 degree photos, live streaming and augmented reality are all techniques that can break down distance barriers. Students in inner city schools could access footage direct from a dairy, grain harvester, capsicum grower, potato harvester, lettuce seeder right as it happens. The technology isn’t limited to the perception of agriculture as just farming either. Imagine viewing and interacting with researchers conducting new experiments, autonomous vehicles out in the paddock or designers working on new software.

In school we used to grow alfalfa on cotton wool in egg cartons. Imagine getting a class of students to control a robot on a 1 hectare paddock and grow a whole crop of wheat, or showing university students the important imaging tools and techniques used on farm by specialist UAV operators. Technology enables these things to happen and our creativity is the only barrier.

So where does that leave us? The trend of urbanisation will be difficult to slow, although higher house prices and cost of living may result in a market-dictated solution. Attempts to move the city to the country with relocation have drawn mixed feelings from the public. The ever growing number of agvocates, see our list of Agricultural Blogs, are spreading the good word about the agricultural industry and changing the tide of agriculture as seen in the recent statistics on enrolments, yet there remains a long way to go. Social enterprises and trends of food provenance are improving fringe awareness of production but leaving the majority behind (due to cost, time and availability of the services).

But if we plant the idea of agriculture early, imagine the wonderful field of opportunities for the industry that will arise from innovation, creativity and fresh ideas.

 

 

From Cupid to Cowpats: how a dating website inspired a farming revolution

AgriEducate is a great supporter of all enterprises aiming to help people rediscover agriculture. Cultivate Farms does just that by acting as a matchmaking service between interested future farmers and those looking to move on. Here Taryn Hunter delves into the beginnings of Cultivate Farms. Original article.

No longer is heading to the bar and flirting with the first person who eyes you across a vodka cranberry the first step to meeting the love of your life. Instead you jump online and wax lyrically about yourself in two short paragraphs, then cross your fingers and pray that the magical algorithm in the back end of some website will connect you with the love of your life.

This rise of the robot has also unfortunately resulted in a greater disconnect between our aging, retiring rural farming community, and the young guns who are itching to take their place. These up and comers might be ready to take on a farm, hoping these a perfect farm match is out there for them, but how do they make these connections when traditional courting rituals, (i.e. driving up every farm driveway, meeting at the footy, or at the RSL) won’t allow them to meet enough farmers to make the chances high?

And this is essentially how the ideal for Cultivate Farms was born.

Farm management and equity arrangements aren’t our skills. What we’re good at is connecting people, inspiring them, guiding them and working to find farm ownership solutions. So we thought, what if we just did the first bit, the match making, and left it up to those parties to work through the details of a farm arrangement with their trusted advisors?

At the end of the day, we can’t guarantee that people will hit it off; it’s as risky as meeting that guy online who “says” he’s 6 foot and doesn’t still live with his mother. But we should be able to get it right pretty often, because we know the qualities necessary and the vital attributes needed to successfully run a farming business, because it’s our passion and it’s in our blood.

The stakes too are just as high as matchmaking – you’re investing time and energy into something that is of high value, both emotionally and financially.

Just like dating, if a match doesn’t work, then we are there to help people move on and find that perfect farming match, for that investment that will hopefully last a lifetime.

And for the record, all the co-founders haven’t even used a dating website! So the idea definitely wasn’t to build a farm version. We always had the intention to get young people onto farms, but took inspiration from the love match-making world because at the end of the day it’s all about connections.

Big Data and Small-Hold Farmers: iCow

From iPhones to iCow – this weeks Development Agriculture article takes a look at Big Data! Big Data has revolutionised agriculture in many developed countries, but the wheels are only just starting to turn on what huge potential this field has for development agriculture.

“It’s time for smallholder farmers to stop looking at the sky and praying for rain”, according to Andy Jarvis, a research director for CIAT (International Centre for Tropical Agriculture). Smallholder farmers can now look down to smart phones to access big data which can make a big difference to both their farming practices and also farming systems globally. As discussed in previous weeks, in many cases people in developing countries often have more access to smart-phones than they have access to adequate food and water. However, the usage of technology in development agriculture is still far behind that of agriculture in developing countries.

One of the first steps to closing this gap is through data access. If farmers can access accurate weather forecasts, for example, they can know which crops to plant, when to plant them, what shocks they could anticipate and prepare for, and how to best manage their resources to suit the conditions. Jawoo Koo, a Senior Research Fellow at IFPRI (International Food Policy Research Institute) states that “With enormous expertise and processing power now at our disposal, this is the next frontier in agricultural research-for-development”.

This week, we take a look at some current Big Data research projects, innovations and impacts agricultural research-for-development is having in the field of data.

What is Big Data

Data is a valuable commodity globally. Access to data enables access to knowledge which is vital for overcoming challenges such as food insecurity, climate change, and malnutrition. Big data can be characterised as having high volume, velocity, variety, and variability. The origins of Big Data in agriculture focused on precision farming and plot productivity variability. Now, the scope of big data is expanding with focus now shifting to agricultural development.

Agriculture globally has seen a big data revolution. Advancements in technology and infrastructure into rural areas has meant farmers are now in a better position to receive and send data which is crucial to decision-making and investments. This includes data about weather, market conditions, market access, management practices, pest controls and shocks. But despite the spread of big data across the world, many smallholder farmers in developing countries do not have access. Jarvis continues that:

“There’s no reason for precision farming to be the preserve of the fortunate few any more… While the data revolution has been a boom for farmers in richer countries, it needs to be democratized so that the world’s 500 million smallholders can benefit too – after all, they produce 70% of the world’s food.”

Thankfully though, there are many organisations leading efforts to close the digital divide. This includes CGIAR, the World Bank, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Kings College London, Penn State and Michigan State universities, and PepsiCo. Today we’ll take a deeper look at the innovation iCow and the CGIAR Platform for Big Data in Agriculture.

iCow

Kenya is a hub for novel ICT-based innovations which transform traditional agricultural extension concepts. iCow is one of the examples of the successes big data access can have in developing countries like Kenya. The program is the first mobile phone system which  provides a platform for smallholder farmers to access verified agricultural content. iCow sends SMS messages with information on improving productivity to farmers, in their language of choice. The platform also has more permanent information access systems for farmers to access on demand.

The story of Peter and iCow

Peter started using iCow in 2011, for his 80 x 200m farm in Banana Hill, Kenya.

Peter explains that he receives knowledge from iCow on how to efficiently compost the materials on his farm by layering the materials and covering them with banana leaves to stay moist.

Peter also speaks of the Mashauri Cow product on iCow, which involves sharing knowledge of how to increase fodder production and animal nutrient diversity by planting fodder trees (luceana and calliandra), which also improve soil fertility.

iCow also covers topics of animal feed. The milk yields from Peter’s cow (which he affectionately has named ‘Boss’) fluctuates depending on the quality of feed. Peter learnt from iCow that younger maize which included the cobs at their milky stage would help to increase and stabilize the yields.

For the full story of Peter and iCow be sure to check out this link.

 

CGIAR Platform for Big Data in Agriculture

On a larger scale, the CGIAR Platform for Big Data in Agriculture aims to produce more accurate and reliable data for both farmers and policymakers by combining the knowledge of crop scientists, with the skills of software engineers. The platform was launched in Hyderabad India earlier this year, following a successful big data program in Colombia in 2013. The Colombian program involved providing recommendations of sowing times based on local meteorological data, and data from the Rice Growers Federation. The successes were enormous –  US$3.6million is s estimated to have been saved in input costs in one season. CGIAR’s Platform for Big Data aims to fast-track international agricultural research, to make it more accessible and impactful in all regions of the world.

It’s important to also note, however, that Big Data too has its problems. Many claim that big data accentuates divides between the rich and poor within small communities, that infrastructure is insufficient, maintenance may not be available, services could be unreliable, or that larger challenges will continue to prevail. However, for all the successes that big data has already shown, we can see that this area is one with huge potential for research in agricultural development.  This is certainly an interesting space to keep an eye on as new innovations and technologies continue to reshape agriculture for many around the world.

Closing the digital divide between farmers in developed and developing regions of the world could be one of the fastest and most efficient ways towards food security. Ensuring that both farmers and policy-makers have access to sufficient data to make informed choices is key to increasing food production, efficiently managing resources, adapting to environmental change, and improving conditions/practices for farmers globally.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Horn of Africa Food Crisis

You may have heard on the news this week about the deepening food crisis in Ethiopia and across the Horn of Africa. Reports of food shortages across Africa may initially appear common place – but particular attention should be paid to this unique crisis for a variety of reasons.  The crisis has been described as the worst food crisis the world has seen since World War 2.

Screen Shot 2017-06-14 at 6.35.49 PM.png
World wheat prices as an indicator of wheat availability. Note the incredibly high wheat prices during the 2008 food crisis (source).

This is puzzling given global food production is at one of the highest points since this time (see above). Clearly then, the problem isn’t just a shortage of food, and the solution can’t be just increased production. The current problem of food insecurity in the Horn of Africa is complex, and will evidently require a revolutionary approach to development agriculture in a very short space of time. So this week for AgriEducate’s Development Agriculture Wednesday we take a look into the current Horn of Africa food crisis with a focus on Ethiopia.

horn africa.gif
Horn of Africa – the area currently impacted by severe food shortages (source).

The Situation
The Facts:

  • Up to 23 million people are at risk of starvation
  • Described as the worst humanitarian disaster since World War II
  • Experts predict this crisis has the potential to become one of the worst famines in human history
  • The United Nations’ definition of famine is when 20% of a population faces extreme food shortages, 30% of people experience acute malnutrition, and at least two people per 10,000 die every day (in Australia that would look like 2400 people a day).

The United Nations announced in March that 20 million people were on the cusp of famine in 4 countries in the Horn of Africa. Cuts to emergency food aid at the end of the month, could mean the number affected could increase suddenly by 2 million people. The Ethiopian Government has just updated its figures for the number of people in need of emergency food aid from 5.6 million to 7.7 million. To put this in perspective, that is the equivalent of about one third the population of Australia who are on the cusp of famine.

The story so far
Ethiopia has recently emerged as a powerhouse of Africa, rising as a leader in economics, trade, migration in-take, and showing booming infrastructure (particularly in cities such as Addis Ababa). This was all a positive sign considering the devastating drought of the 1980s that rippled throughout the country. However, last year the Highland region faced severe drought which caused hunger to affect 10.2 million people. The government has been praised for their response which managed to avert famine in the area. However, now the Lowland region (bordering Somalia) is facing drought, but funds have dried up given last year’s huge spending on drought mitigation.

The drought is believed to be caused by warming ocean temperatures in the Indian Ocean which have altered climatic conditions. Food production in the Lowland region was concentrated on nomadic herders. The lack of rain has caused the livestock numbers to deplete, and consequently, sparked food insecurity. Nomads are now stationed in camps which receive food aid from the government, foreign governments, and international agencies. The situation is worsened given that Ethiopia absorbs large numbers of refugees displaced within the region as a result of famine or conflict. To make things worse, the camps now face cholera outbreaks.

The Current Problem
The problem is now two fold. Firstly, the initial problem is that such a huge number of people are now relying on food aid – and the current amount of aid will only last until the end of June. Secondly, the fundamental problem is that the system of agricultural production (nomadic herds) is losing feasibility given changed climatic conditions and unpredictable weather. This means an incredible agricultural change might be on the cards in the region.

Around 17 million people in the Horn of Africa now rely on food aid. It is believed that Ethiopia requires at least AUD$1 billion in aid funding to confront the crisis. During the Highland crisis last year the Ethiopian government spent $400 million to prevent famine. This year, with the Lowland crisis, the Ethiopian spending has dropped to only $47 million. This is mostly believed to be caused by the exhausted budget from last year’s big expenditure. Mitiku Kassa, head of Ethiopia’s National Disaster Risk Management Commission has said “last year, we spent a lot of money to confront this type of drought… It is very challenging”.

Foreign aid funding is also drying up. The United Nations World Food Program (WFP) is short $121 million for this year’s operations in Ethiopia. Food rations have already dropped to 80%, and it is expected that further cuts will be made by the end of June. The predictions are that rations will be cut to just 420 calories per person – or about 1 burger per person per day. This is not adequate energy intake for any healthy person, and it is almost certain other health problems will be sparked if these cuts are made. Many claim this is a result of donor fatigue, whilst others argue the numbers are simply too overwhelming for donors to be able to manage.

Furthermore, the US (the world’s largest funder of aid), has proposed significant cuts in their next budget to foreign aid. This includes a 30% cut to USAID (the main International Development agency of the US), and the total elimination of Title II For Peace – a $1.7billion loss to global food assistance.

Positive Responses
Amidst all the bad news, it’s important to shed some light on the positives responses that have also resulted. Turkish based organisations (such as Turkish Red Crescent and Turkey Diyanet Foundation) have shipped over 60,000 tons of humanitarian aid to affected countries such as Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen. This comes during the Ramadan month which symbolises generosity and solidarity.

Australia, despite recent cuts to the aid budget, pledged an initial $68 million towards the crisis, and Julie Bishop announced last month that this will be expanded by $19 million.

Changing Climate
The Horn of Africa could be described as a magnifying glass showing the consequences of a changing climate globally for one small region of the world. The drought of 2015-16 in Ethiopia’s Highlands is largely attributed to the El-Nino ocean warming in the Pacific. The UN World Meteorological Organisation has said this week that there is a 50-60% chance that the Pacific will again face strong warming trends, sending radar alarms once again to effected areas – such as Ethiopia’s Highlands.

Herders, such as those with such a large role in Ethiopia’s food production systems, are said to have one of the smallest carbon footprints, but are also probably one of the most affected groups by climate change. McDonough says “You talk to any farmer, how are the rains now compared to 20-30 years ago, they see a difference in their lifetimes, particularly the older ones”. This is because droughts are now more frequent and more severe.

The Response for Agricultural Development
Michael Windfuhr from the German Institute of Human Rights has said that “the neglect of agricultural development is one of the main reasons why nothing is changing”, particularly referencing shortages of agrarian counselling, infrastructure and research. Windfuhr notes that in the 1980s, 20% of Assistance in International Development (AID) went towards agricultural development, but by 2005 this has dropped to 3-4%.

The current crisis, whilst deeply saddening, will introduce a new pivotal role and emphasis on development agriculture, and should present some key future evolutions in the area for longer term developments. Keep in mind that it was the post WW2 food security crisis that largely pushed the Green Revolution for developing countries to become self-sufficient in food production, and the 2007-08 Global Food Crisis that expanded economic opportunities for developing country farmers to use microfinance in systems such as those provided by the Grameen Bank. History shows us that the solutions to these global challenges are in innovation, technology, and creativity. One of the great things about Development Agriculture is that people from all backgrounds and disciplines can contribute to it, and in doing so, save millions of lives.

Now, with this huge crisis at present, it is crucial that people from all areas – those in agriculture, economics, politics, science, law, business, etc – turn our thinking caps on to what innovative ideas we can come up with that will benefit global food production in the long term. With a rapidly changing climate, we need rapidly changing strategies to respond. The Ethiopian food crisis demands a stronger role than ever for development agriculture in all fields, and shows why agricultural development is so important. Agrieducate would like to send our deepest sympathies to those affected by this crisis, thank those working towards alleviating the crisis, and encourage people to follow the situation as it develops.

Cover image source

You Call that a Banana? This is a Banana.

 

60kg banana bunches & farms without boundaries – where else but PNG!

Agriculture in PNG is considered one of the oldest systems in the world (10,000 years). This history of successes of PNG agriculture is due to the careful selection and rejection of crops, and innovative land management practices (such as draining, composting, and fencing). Subsistence farming is crucial to food security in PNG (most importantly the sweet potato), as well as cash crop production (Arabica coffee, cocoa, palm oil, vanilla, rubber and tea). Smallholder farmers produce 96% of total agricultural produce.

The farming system in PNG is unique.  There is rarely private land ownership as we know in Australia or many other Western countries. Rather, land is owned by families, tribal groups, or villages, and a farmer is given the right to use the land. The UNFAO states that “a farmer in PNG lives in an agricultural system that is not easily definable”.

Agriculture in PNG is characterised by high crop diversity and density. Each plot is given careful consideration to produce food that is harvested periodically.  Leafy vegetables are planted first, followed by root crops, then tree crops (bananas, various fruits, and nuts).

Each region has a dominant food crop for subsistence. In the Highlands, sweet potato is the most common staple crop.  Dry coastal zones have a Banana-Yam-Cassava based system (Yams are harvested first, then banana, then cassava). In the lowlands, the predominant crop is taro – that purple root vegetable just becoming popular as a superfood – to which PNG has the world’s largest genetic diversity of taro.  Sago dominates low marshland regions.

PNG is widely recognised as a world leader for biodiversity. This is particularly prominent in the humble banana.

There are at least 15 types of banana commonly grown and eaten in PNG, even including bananas which are red or orange.  These include the marafri (a short and pale banana that is prevented from being sold in local culture), the jirab (a long red banana). Bananas are both sweet and savoury treats, and are traditionally cooked in clay pots. A traditional dish is gananzub da umatnyari (a fragrant mash of taro and ripe marafri).

 

bananas.jpg
Bananas at market.

PNG even has the world largest banana species – the Musa Ingens – weighing in at an average of 30-60kg per bunch! The tree itself can grow to 25m tall, and 2 meters in diameter, with the leaves reaching around 5 meters in length. This species is rather rare, it only grows at altitudes over 1000m, and takes a long time before it will bear any fruit. The fruit is also full of hard black seeds, so it’s not the nicest thing to be eating!

musa ingens.jpg
How’s that for a banana tree! Source

Mythbusters:

  1. PNG has a food deficit – FALSE

A country is considered food deficit by the UNFAO if it imports more grain than it exports. In PNG, an estimated 83% of food energy (and 76% of protein) is produced locally. The countries main exports include palm oil, coffee, cocoa, tea and coffee.

  1. The main diet in PNG is imported rice – FALSE

Locals eat about 30kg of imported rice per person per year, compared to over 500kg of locally produced root crops (sweet potato), banana and sago.

  1. PNG has an abundance of fertile agricultural land – FALSE

Three quarters of PNGs land mass is considered unsuitable for agriculture because of steep slopes, high altitudes, or frequent flooding.

  1. PNG is food secure and free of poverty – FALSE

In rural PNG one million people are considered to be in severe poverty. Whilst carbohydrate intake is generally sufficient, protein deficiency is common.

And to finish off, if you’re interested in butterflies and sustainable farming you should check out this (old) but fantastic video on butterfly farming in the PNG highlands.