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Bougainville strengthens food systems in response to COVID-19

The ABG Department of Primary Industries is strengthening its food systems through improvements on the availability of disease and pest-resistant crops as well as nutritional crop varieties.

This initiative is being done through a partnership with The Pacific Community Land Resources Division through the Pacific Regional Integrated Food and Nutrition Security Initiative to COVID-19 project.

As part of the project, communities seek to conserve traditional food crops that are at risk of being lost. Food crops such as taro, sweet potato, banana, yam, capsicum, eggplant and local leafy vegetables and other traditional staple foods will be planted at established plots and newly built nurseries in the Central (Mabiri area), North (Tinputz area) and South (Konga Siwai area).

Through this support, the selected communities will be provided with building materials for the construction of the nurseries and seed supplies. The collected varieties will be conserved and evaluated before their distribution to the districts in a coordinated approach involving the relevant department and non-governmental organisations.

Acting Secretary for the Department of Primary Industries Kenneth Dovaro said that funding was often a challenge in order to ensure these projects were implemented and emphasised the importance of partnerships and collaborations that made them possible.

“We are so pleased as a department to have this support and partnership with SPC (PRISCO-19 project). This initiative and support will go a long way in making sure that enough food crop varieties with desirable nutritional values are conserved and distributed to most farmers in need of food in a timely manner,” he said.

The project is estimated to benefit over 50,000 farmers, in the North, Atolls region, Central and South of Bougainville.

DPI Area Manager for Central Bougainville, Amos Lepasa said through this project, it has brought focus to an area of work that is often overlooked. There was a lack of resources and knowledge on improving food supply systems that the project has helped address.

‘’This is a huge initiative and assistance, which was never anticipated before, and we’re very grateful to SPC and the PRISCO-19 project,” said Lepasa.

“Our traditional food crops that were almost lost can now be conserved, multiplied and distributed to many people in our districts and communities.”

“We will also use the set-up in the years to come in doing some basic applied crop research work.”

Petronila Tieng, a farmer from Siwai, South Bougainville, said this project has empowered communities to protect, save and use their local food crops. At the same time, they recognised the need for more varieties and food types to improve nutritional security.

“We are happy to be able to use other introduced crops through these projects. With this development, we will be gathering our local food crops and others (varieties) that will be trialled here. Some of the local food crops have been lost through the process of urbanisation and commercialisation,” said Ms Tieng.

The initiative is the first for Bougainville and it raises awareness on the need for a comprehensive programme and similar projects to alleviate the impacts of food insecurity on vulnerable communities.

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