By ELIZABETH VUVU
AusAID’s Agriculture and Innovation Grant Scheme (AIGS) continues to play a major role in developing agriculture and agricultural methods in Papua New Guinea, The National reports.
The scheme, which has changed the livelihoods of many rural Papua New Guineans, is once again in the forefront of another innovative project, this time funding the Banana Scab Moth (BSM) and Banana Fruit Fly (BFF) management farmer training in East New Britain (ENB).
The project, which is estimated at more than K143, 000 will be undertaken collaboratively by the University of Natural Resources & Environment (UNRE) as lead organisation; and National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI) as partner 1.
It aims to introduce farmers to a systematic combined management approach to contain the two pests, increase banana production and improve their (farmers) livelihoods through increased income.
The university’s farmer training arm, Kairak Vudal Resource Training Centre (KVRTC) is listed as partner 2 and is responsible for the actual training of farmers.
According to project initiator, former UNRE lecturer Dr Mark Ero, the pests were serious threats in ENB.
Ero, who was speaking at an introductory meeting of project partners last Friday, said because the Cocoa Pod Borer had affected the production of cocoa, the province’s mainstay cash crop, it was important that alternative cash crops were introduced to sustain the provincial economy.
“Banana can be one such alternative crop to help farmers earn an income, particularly because of its importance and high diversity in the province,” he said.
“Like any other crop, though, it has its pests, so this project will train farmers how to manage these pests to increase their production.”
While UNRE through Ero initiated the project, the technology of a local pole injector as a cheaper alternative to the commercial bell injector used in developed countries, was developed by NARI’s Islands Regional Centre in Kerevat.
It will be used to apply chemicals at fruit onset to control BSM (Nacolea octasema Myerick).
This technology will be used together with other field hygiene approaches as a single management package to concurrently manage both pests.
Explaining the combined management strategy, Ero said once the spraying was done, farmers would also need to remove dead leaves from the stem of the banana to eliminate the possibility of the adult moths hiding and the pupae developing.
To contain BFF (Bactrocera musae Tryon), which occurs when the banana is mature, farmers must cover spray once all fingers are formed.
The cover spray prevents other minor pests as well.
Ero said the banana bunch must be bagged before maturity; and weeds and debris must be removed from around the perimeter of the plants to disrupt the breeding cycle,” he said.
“But the timing is critical.
“You must know when to carry out each step and that is where the training comes in.”
Reiterating Ero’s comments, NARI’s John Bokosou, said the success of the pest management strategy depended on the commitment of the farmers themselves.
He said the current success rate of the approach observed through trials was about 90% and with alert management, farmers could take this to 100% retention of the banana bunch.
“However, they themselves must be committed to follow all the steps at the right time,” Bokosou said.
About 200 farmers are expected to be trained under the project by the end of April.
The training will also include awareness on cross-cutting issues such as gender equity, HIV/AIDS and good nutrition.
Ero, who is leaving the university this week to take up a new job offer, wished all team members the best in the project.
Another UNRE lecturer, James Aipa, will take over as caretaker project leader.