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Old 28-09-2002, 11:20 PM
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Threats to Food Security - 1997 El-Nino Driven Drought

The main threats to food security in PNG are:
  • High population growth rates
  • Land degradation
  • Extreme climatic conditions and
  • Low cash incomes

At present growth rate, PNG's population will double in 30 years. This obviously means that food supply must also double in that time.

While the nation is blessed with much land, population pressure has led to the irresponsible use of available arable land. Repeated use can result in reduction of soil fertility which in turn can reduce food production.

The climate, most importantly high rainfall and to a lesser extent periodic drought and frost, continue to influence food production.

Cash incomes, which in many places remain very low and are getting lower, give people less chances of purchasing food when they need to.

The 1997 El-Nino driven drought devastated subsistence gardens in parts of the highlands :
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Old 28-09-2002, 11:28 PM
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Threats to food security are greater in some parts of PNG than others. For example, locations most vulnerable to populaton pressure and consequent degradation are small islands with high population densities (over 1000 people per square kilometer) and high altitude locations (above 2200 metres above sea level).

The capacity of people in PNG to counter some of these threats to food security is less now than it was 20 years ago. The major gains in food security in the last 100 years brought about by the adoption of new and superior food crops are unlikely to be repeated, as most of the possible introductions have now been made.

There are two broad areas, however, through which food security in PNG could be enchanced. The first is carefully focused research on:
  • The improvement of crop and animal production
  • Resource Management issues, including soil fertility maintenance;
  • The agronomic and economic evaluation of alternative cash crops
  • The transport and marketing of locally proeduced foods, including root crops; and
  • The International marketing of agricultural produce
The second is improvement of the cash earning capacity of the poorest peoplek, both urban and rural. Small improvements in cash incomes for very pooor people will result in disproprotionately large improvements in the food security, as well as in other aspects of their lives, including their ability to access health and education services.

A boy holds a sweek potatoe tuber which was stunted following the 1997 drought.
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Old 28-09-2002, 11:33 PM
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Factors that will enhance people's cash income include:
  • maintenance of transport infrastructure, including roads, bridges, wharves and airstrips
  • maintenance of communications infrastructure, through which information can be distributed to rural areas particularly radio, print media and telephone communications;
  • delivery of information to villagers, particularly on subsistence food production, animal production and cash crops;
  • improvements in the provision of financial services to rural pe4ople, including the ability to securely move small amounts of money around the country at low cost; and
  • securing public highways and ports against criminal activity, which seriously limits people's willingness to travel to markets to sell produce.

Population Distribution by Provinces, Papua New Guinea 2000
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