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Old 15-03-2004, 02:04 PM
***aCe*** ***aCe*** is offline
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PNGFA takes over full control of ENB Balsa project

…Howcroft farewelled

by Fay Duega

IT was as though the rain knew that the gathering was a sombre one, as it poured down in buckets, deafening everyone present and making it impossible to hear what was being said.
The occasion that Thursday, January 15, 2004, indeed was a sombre one as it was to farewell long time forester of the Papua New Guinea Forest Authority (PNGFA) Neville Howcroft who was leaving the ITTO- (International Tropical Timber Organisation) East New Britain Balsa Industry Strengthening Project (ITTO-ENBBISP) after heading it as the project manager/consultant for the last seven years.
On the other hand, the occasion was also to celebrate the successful implementation of the project and to witness the handover takeover of the project by the PNGFA.
The venue of the ceremony was the New Guinea Islands Forestry Office at Kerevat, East New Britain province where over 50 people had gathered.

PNGFA's Acting Director for the Policy and Aid Coordination Secretariat Danbis Kaip presents a gift to Mr Howcroft on behalf of the PNGFA.
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Old 15-03-2004, 02:22 PM
***aCe*** ***aCe*** is offline
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Originally from Queensland, Australia, Mr Howcroft who has been with the PNG forestry for the last 38 years first came to Papua New Guinea in 1965. He has a degree – Master of Philosophy from the University of Technology in Lae, Morobe province which he attained in 1994.

Since his arrival in the country he has been involved in different forestry sections including management, plantation and natural regeneration, silviculture, agro-forestry, tree breeding as well as in training. Besides working in the PNG forestry sector, Mr Howcroft has also clocked a number of years in the Australian forestry sector, making him a very experienced forester with a total of 49 years of forestry experience.

Apart from forestry, Mr Howcroft’s personal interests include forestry, botany and conservation. He is also an internationally recognised authority on New Guinea orchids and has published papers on this subject and described new species in these. Mr Howcroft was part of the Papua New Guinea Forest Research Institute staff in Lae, Morobe province since it was officially opened on April 7th, 1989 and left in
1996. He was the last of the original PNG forestry research officers who started research from Bulolo, Morobe province at that time.

Those who have worked with him over the years know him as a man who strives to get the job done and also has a heart for those he works and lives with.

Ruth Geob and John Ohana present their outgoing boss Mr Howcroft with some gifts.
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Old 15-03-2004, 02:39 PM
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How staff saw Mr Howcroft
Miti Katu Bradford who works at the Kerevat forestry office described him as very down to earth as he lived among Papua New Guineans.
“He does not live the life of a white man. He lived in a house in the forestry compound with us all, instead of away in some expensive rented accommodation. He’s a friend and a father to me. I don’t know about the others but his departure is a great loss to me. He’s also married my best friend Jessie,” Ms Bradford said.
She added that he is well liked by his inlaws, so much so, that a family in his wife’s village – Karavi in the East New Britain province has adopted him into their family.

Ms Bradford gave Mr Howcroft’s eulogy during the gathering at Kerevat that told of his life and work in PNG up to his leaving PNGFA.
John Ohana who replaces Mr Howcroft as the new Balsa project manager said: “I have learnt a lot from him. He helped me a lot. He trusts me and does not hold back things from me”.
“It is sad to see him go but opportunities may come for PNGFA to take him on board again.”

Ruth Geob, the Balsa Project Nursery Supervisor said: “I liked how he managed the office. When he saw that things were not right, he told you on the spot. And when he was happy with your work, he also commended you,” I appreciated this because it lifted staff morale.
“He was also quick to assist whenever he saw his staff in need. He was strict with some things, for example, the use of phones and the fax machine, However, that was for our own good.

“Even now that he is no longer working with us on the project, that kind of discipline is now in-built in us. When people come and ask us to use our phone and fax, we don’t allow them because we know that if we do, our office will end up having to pay for that huge bill.

“He (Neville) was a very good boss and we intend to carry on the good management practices he has instilled in us,” Ms Geob said.
Kokou Niara from the PNGFA Accounts office who often dealt with Mr Howcroft said: “He knew what he was doing in his field. He was a nice person to work with. I am glad to have come across him. He was an open person and talked freely to people. He has a nice personality.”

As part of the handover takeover, Mr Howcroft took PNGFA's acting Policy Secretariat Director Danbis Kaip (centre) and Mr Ohana to look at the balsa plantations at Kerevat.
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Old 15-03-2004, 02:46 PM
***aCe*** ***aCe*** is offline
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The ITTO project

Under Mr Howcroft’s leadership, the ITTO-ENBBISP has grown from strength to strength. The number of balsa farmers has increased over the years. The project started in October 1996 and at the end of 1998 it had recorded 97 farmers. This increased to 129 by November 1999 with 100 hectares of balsa planted from seedling distributed from the ITTO balsa nursery. In 2001, 300 balsa farmers were recorded and by the end of 2003 there were over 700 with 600 of them registered with the project.

The project had two phases. The first was to address the needs of the ENB balsa industry such as the re-establishment of the forestry nursery production, introduction of new balsa silvicultural techniques, reintroduction of an effective extension service; to establish and escalate an effective resource replacement program; and a tree improvement and seed production program.

When the project first started, serious losses in tree breeding and seed production material were evident. Prices were also unsatisfactory and management was non-existent, all of which had to be addressed.
It had to revive the industry by increasing the availability of genetically improved seed and planting stock to balsa growers. And the project has successfully accomplished this, with over 700 farmers in the province now planting balsa.

Phase one started behind schedule because of the twin volcanic eruptions of September 1994 and was not implemented until October 1996. The volcanic eruptions resulted in all previous information collected on balsa being lost. Acidic volcanic ash also defoliated many of the trees resulting in the twisted form of the survivors. The lost information has since been replaced by new information collected by the ITTO project and released to the rural community via occasional newsletters and field days.

Phase one was very successful and was granted an extension without funding up to June 1999. Because of its success, a second phase was approved by ITTO.
The second phase was to have started in October 1999 but funding was not received until mid 2000, resulting in it not finishing until the end of 2003.

What is balsa?
Balsa (Ochroma lagopus) is an introduced species from tropical South and Central America. Technically a hard wood species, it produces a lightweight wood well known to the hobby market and especially model aeroplane enthusiasts. The wood can be easily cut and fashioned to any desired shape. It has little durability to decay but is extremely a strong wood that is used in industry to form panels and three ply sheets etc.
Balsa is excellent for farm forestry but is not an agro-forestry species. Intercropping with balsa trees is possible using short term fast growing food crops.
Approximately 97 per cent of the world’s balsa production is in South America and is produced for both the hobby and industrial markets.

Why plant balsa
Balsa wood is very valuable to the East New Britain farmers when the prices of their regular agricultural cash crops are low because of its extremely rapid growth (0.5-1.5 centimetre diameter a month) compared to most other tree species. The trees are harvested between three and four years, with the latest harvesting at age six while most other trees take about 15-30 years before reaching commercial maturity.

Although it has been grown in East New Britain since pre-1938, the popularity of balsa farming soared to new heights when the ITTO funded project on balsa commenced in the province in October 1996.

Operational area and limitation of the project
The project has a mandate covering only New Ireland and East New Britain, but it has provided consultancy services to other provinces with special approval from the PNGFA, and to areas where there is a positive linkage with the East New Britain project such as the East Sepik, North Solomons province and West New Britain.

The Staff
Mr Howcroft has left behind an experienced and well qualified team to maintain continuity in the project’s activities and service to the communities of East New Britain and other provinces as the Balsa Extension Unit.

This includes Mr Ohana who graduated from the Bulolo Forestry College in 1989 and worked in Mt Hagen between 1989 and 1996 as an extension officer with pine and eucalyptus species. He was working with the forestry office in New Ireland when he was called upon to join the ITTO balsa project and had worked with Mr Howcroft as his second officer in charge since January 1998.

Ms Geob who graduated from the Bulolo Forestry College in 1999 is the project nursery officer. She has had industrial training in the timber industry at Goroka and Kimbe and has been on the balsa project since October 2nd, 2001.

Lydia Tameta who graduated from Sonoma Adventist College with Certificate in Secretarial Studies in 1993 joined the ITTO Balsa project in 2001 as office secretary. The project nursery and field operations are supported by three permanent casual staff and contract labourers which includes five men for nursery and field work and three women for seed extraction.

Mr Howcroft poses for a photograph with wife Jessie as he holds onto some of his gifts.
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Old 15-03-2004, 02:52 PM
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Some Achievements

Since the project started seven years ago, some of its achievements include:
  • It has improved farmers knowledge of growing and harvesting balsa;
  • The formation of the ENB Balsa Growers Association that replaces the Balsa Industry Working Committee. It is open to all members of the community;
  • The establishment of systems that will enable the PNGFA to monitor the activities and progress of the industry. This refers to the purchasing agreements, the tally sheets and the balsa farmers registration system; all of which are now in use and have proved their worth;
  • The nursery administration and production/extension system is functioning well. This refers to the increased nursery production, the use of seed batch numbers and the documentation of the distribution of these seedling batches by customers name, location and the number of seedlings. These systems make it possible to develop a credible estimate of the replacement of harvested resources and the level of genetic improvement of planting stock through the pioneer tree improvement program;
  • A seed collection, processing and documentation system, which did not exist previously in the balsa industry, is now in place and in use;
  • The balsa extension service, that had all but died out by 1994, has been reactivated to serve the industry and this it has done successfully with the balsa growers now over 700 with over 400 hectares of the crop planted and a replacement rate almost double that of the harvest rate;
  • The project has initiated the production of an occasional newsletter and completed a balsa manual and a training manual on seed collecting, processing and documentation. The first has been published. A third manual on Balsa Tree improvement is in preparation; and
  • Balsa farmer training will be an ongoing activity for the unit replacing the ITTO project. Staff from the ITTO project have gained valuable experience and knowledge which places them in an excellent position to train farmers and other forestry and company staff from other provinces. This position is further enhanced by the existence of balsa plantations in East New Britain that can contribute as training areas.
PNGFA’s Acting Director of Policy and Aid Coordination Secretariat Danbis Kaip who presided over the handover takeover ceremony on behalf of Acting Managing Director Terry Warra, who had a very busy schedule and could not attend, thanked Mr Howcroft and his team of hard workers for the successful implementation of the project. Mr Kaip also thanked ITTO for funding the project.

“We also extend our appreciation to ITTO for funding the project. Without its support we would not have come this far,” Mr Kaip said.
The ITTO has contributed US$325,468 towards the project while the PNG Government through PNGFA had put in its share of US$51,000.
Mr Howcroft in his report on the State and Activities of the Project at the time of handover/takeover said that the project appears to have produced more balsa resource than the mills can handle and there is an obvious need for more mills now.

Mr Ohana said that the three balsa mills PNG Balsa, Mantua Balsa and GS Model have cut an annual average of 10,000 cubic metres so there is more than enough balsa around to keep them going. He added that the resource can cater for two more mills.

“We think the resource can support two more mills if the current ones have reached their maximum production capacity.
He added that quite a number of farmers are still waiting to get their balsa harvested. However, he added that this may be so because of three reasons: a lot of balsa is ready for harvest; the farmer needs some money so he is trying to sell early; or the farmer wants to plant other crops.

Mr Kaip in response said:
“With only three balsa mills currently in operation in East New Britain, there appears to be an oversupply of balsa for the local industries as some farmers are being turned away. Hence there is a need to establish a few more industries. The PNGFA will do everything it can to assist.”
He added that Gazelle is now the home of PNG balsa and this will gradually be extended to other provinces of New Guinea Islands and possibly other regions as well. Mr Kaip said that the balsa project is in line with the government’s economic recovery objectives.

“The project is in line with the current government’s policy directives on economic recovery strategy which relates to empowerment of people, poverty alleviation, and export driven economic recovery strategy.
“It is therefore an important project for PNG and its people, particularly the people of East New Britain. Due to low commodity prices balsa has expanded to be a major source of income for the province and the nation.

“Having successfully completed the project, it is now a more mature industry with sufficient infrastructure and systems to be monitored by local experts.

“The PNGFA now accepts the takeover of the project from the ITTO Project management,” Mr Kaip said.



ITTO project staff: Mr Howcroft (sitting in the middle) flanked by Lydia Tameta (left) and Ruth Geob. Standing are (l-r) Lucas Maninga, Neson Tameta, Steven Anau and John Ohana.
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Old 19-06-2009, 10:53 PM
Shaun stenton Shaun stenton is offline
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Dear Sir / Madam

We are looking for a supplier of Balsa Lumber to import in to the U.K.

Could you Please quote price per M3 for random sizes of B or C Grade block 930mm lengths.

If you are unable to supply balsa lumber could you please suggest a company that may be of interest to us.

Shaun Stenton.

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Old 24-07-2011, 02:22 PM
kayu kayu is offline
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Are there any growers or suppliers looking for a market in Australia ? I have been using PNG balsa for years now, but the suppliers can be a bit unreliable sometimes. I like the timber. It's equal to anything grown in other places around the world.If anyone is interested please reply...thankyou....kayu
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Old 06-11-2013, 09:26 PM
BlueLotus1 BlueLotus1 is offline
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Rain is most beautiful natural thing. When it rains, it gives a fresh feeling to our soul and body and there are no other good feelings than drenching in a good rain to refresh your minds. I love listening to the music of rain.

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