Lack of support for farmers

Steven Bob is in his late 40s and has invested heavily in his children’s education through the proceeds from farming tomatoes and capsicum.

His first son Don Mosley is attending the University of PNG doing his third year all supported through his father’s sweat on the land.

Mr Bob has other sons doing Grades 10 and six while his youngest daughter is in Grade 4 at Anglimp Primary and high schools where he comes from.

Anglimp in Jiwaka Province is part of the vast Wahgi Valley and growing fruits and vegetables is part of life for the dwellers both locals and block holders.

However, tapping into semi commercial farming is a new concept and only a few people like Steven had to sacrifice their time and resources to do semi commercial farming.

Mr Bob was privileged to meet with consultants from the Market for Village Farmers (MVF) Project last week who visited his area to see the size of the farm land and how he managed to supply his produce to the markets.

Sigitas Bubnys from the Agriculture and Finance Consultants Limited (AFC) engaged by the International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD) under MVF project visited the farm with officers from Centre for Excellence in Financial Inclusion (CEFI) and FPDA.

Mr Bubnys was in Eastern Highlands, Jiwaka and Western Highlands visiting banks to see how farmers could have access to borrowing.

He visited the farm also to see how farmers were interacting with the banks if any, and to see if they had bank accounts with the banks and also find out if they were borrowing from the banks.

Mr Bob said he had an account with the banks but borrowing to do farming was not even an option because banks would not allow them.

“I have over 20 hectares of land I could do farming but funding is the biggest problem. I only rotate tomatoes and capsicum which I supply to aggregators per order and sell the rest at the open markets,” he said.

He said he was willing to expand his farms if he had enough funds so he could hire labour and buy farm inputs to do more.

“Right now, I only concentrate on the existing plots with support from my own wife and children,” he said.

Mr Bob who has been doing semi commercial farming in the past five years said all his children who are attending schools have been supported with money earned from the farm.

While community obligation has been a hurdle for Steven and his family, there was nil support from the district or the national government to assist him to expand his farm.

Mr Bubnys said market was not a problem for fresh produce but the problems were farmers not taught modern farming skills, market accessibility and lack of loan support from the banks among other issues.

He said PNG and especially the highlands region has the right climate and huge potential for agriculture innovation that can sustain the economy into the future.

Mr Bob has thanked FPDA, MVF and AFC for making time available to visit his farm.

“I am willing to expand my farm land, buy farm inputs and hire labour to work on my farm but funding has been my biggest problem and seeing you guys brings me hope to remain on the farm,” he said.

He further thanked FPDA for providing training at their office in Banz hoping they would visit his farm one day.

The Market for Village Farmers – Maket Bilong Villis Fama (MVF) is a Government of PNG project financed by IFAD, executed by National Department of Agriculture & Livestock, and implemented by Fresh Produce Development Agency (FPDA).

Freddy Mou