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Food Security and Alternative Income Crop: Organic Rice Farming in Yangaru Saussia District in PNG

By Hon Richard Maru- Member for Yangoru-Saussia

 Yesterday [Tuesday 25 August] was a special day for me when my people of Wamangu Village in Urimo, Ward 17, Sausso LLG, took me on a tour of their rice farming and treated me to lunch with the best 100% organic rice I’ve ever tasted – from their farm to the pot!

I’m really impressed with the people of Wamangu. Their self-help project makes it easier for me to trial out some of my innovative concepts to address food security. In fact, food and nutrition security is one of Yangoru Saussia District Development Authority’s [YSDDA] key investment areas.

The community first trialled out family rice farming following the JICA project in Angoram. Today, 73 families are involved in rice farming. They’re doing family rice farming, with each family member having his/her plots. The community aggregates the production and take to Angoram for milling and packaging – which comes out as Sepik Organic Rice.

They cultivate the dry land rice variety – tabash mati – from India. Planting to harvest duration is 4 months. From one family’s first trial, five (5) cups of seedlings produced 500 kilos (half a tonne of rice), selling at K7 per kilo.

The beauty of this is the rice is 100% organic, produced by small family farmers and does not leave any negative environmental footprint. The rice is cultivated for both home consumption and for trade, and it is cultivated alongside traditional crops like yam, taro, banana and cassava.

I encouraged the people to increase production by getting more farmers in the Urimo Ring into rice farming. The YSDDA will assist small-scale rice farming as it ensures food for families and rice as an alternate income earner.

There is already a big market for rice in YS District alone. I encouraged the farmers that if they produce volume, their first market is the three (3) boarding secondary schools in the District whose food budget is predominantly rice. With increased population, the demand for rice will keep increasing.

Rice is now a staple food for PNG, yet 85% of our rice is imported with an import value of over K600 Million per year. It is about time PNG become self-reliant in rice production and stop transferring our wealth to overseas farmers. In YS District, commercial rice production in the Sepik Plains is in our plans.

Our rice strategy is to support family rice farming as the start, and then venture into scientific research into soil fertility, plant health issues, variety trials, climatic conditions, etc, to make help us make informed decisions for large-scale commercial rice farming in the near future.

The large-scale commercial farming may have a business model similar to the Chicken project, where out-growers family-farms will aggregate and supply for increased production.

Rice is a strategic commodity. Opportunities also exist for “green” or “organic” products that have clear market niches.

I encourage farmers, especially those in Urimo Ring, to consider going into rice farming. I am ready to help you take rice farming to the next level and help you secure markets within the District and rest of PNG. There’s already a big market. You have to show determination and commitment to make family rice-farming work.

The YSDDA will install a milling and packaging machine at Wamangu Village in the next few weeks as part of our support for economic empowerment of farmers. I look forward to seeing increased production of YS Organic Rice in the coming months.

Images: Organic Rice farmer Gordon Swemo In his dad’s plot, Wamangu Organic rice packed in container for family consumption, 1 cup rice seedings and a plate of our own rice.

Photo's by Richard Maru

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The Rituals in East Sepik - PNG

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