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March 2, 2021

Communities Could’ve Been Better Prepared for Drought

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By Sasha Pei-Silovo – EM TV, Port Moresby

As the effects of the El Nino weather pattern continues to throw Papua New Guinea into havoc, with areas facing severe drought and frost.

The National Agriculture Research Institute (NARI) has revealed that the PNG Government had knocked back its request for funding to develop strategies to deal with the El Nino-crisis, soon after the National Weather Service had issued warnings of a drought.

NARI has expressed their disappointment over the lack of attention given to the impact of the El Nino on communities, despite previous warnings over the years.

Director General of NARI, Dr Sergie Bang, says that more notice should have been given to the situation when it was developing.

Speaking on Pacific Beat, Dr Bang says that communities could have been better informed through awareness from NARI on how to prepare themselves for drought and frost, through the dissemination and adaptation of drought-coping strategies in rural communities. 

NARI is now preparing to supply seedlings and simple irrigation systems to affected communities.

Dr Bang said that although NARI has had a Drought Response Program in place, the organisation had not received funding to carry out its drought-coping strategies, which would have enabled communities to be aware of how to cope with the onslaught of severe weather patterns.

A drought tolerant cassava variety

Dr Bang says that if funding had been made available to NARI and other relevant stakeholders, communities now affected could have been educated on drought coping strategies, which include: the cultivation of varieties of drought tolerant crops where it was recommended that farmers plant some drought tolerant crops or crop varieties, mostly staple foods, in every garden every year. These include sweet potato (kaukau), banana and cassava varieties that NARI has released for both the lowlands and highlands.

NARI has developed a series of drought-coping strategies for rural communities in PNG through a World Bank funded research project aimed at developing and adapting technologies to manage impacts of droughts and frosts in PNG.

From their research, several strategies and adaptive mechanisms had been identified and documented by NARI researchers with contributions from members of the National Drought Response Committee and AusAID’s ACNARS project.

The publication Drought Response: On-Farm Coping Strategies, NARI Information Bulletin No. 6 is also available online at www.nari.org.pg

NARI also documented the use of traditional drought coping mechanisms by farmers during the 1997 drought and can be found in Indigenous Drought Coping Strategies and Risk Management against El Nino in Papua New Guinea by Dr Sergie Bang and Kud Sitango (CGPRT Centre Working Paper No.74).

NARI, in 2012, made the recommendation for the the adoption and implementation of the coping strategies, including some traditional coping mechanisms. Coping strategies are categorised into those to use before, during and after a drought.

The strategies are presented under three headings:

  • Pre-drought – when there is a forecast of dry conditions and crops face severe water deficits;
  • Mid-drought – when crops face severe water deficits and crops fail; and
  • Post-drought – between when good rains fall and harvest of first sown/planted crop.


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