Friday, May 29, 2009

South Korean government invests in agro-tourism project in Morobe

NARI director-general Dr Raghunath Ghodake (left) and team leader of Korean investor and professor of Kangwon National University Dr Jeon Un-Seong signing the agreement at NARI Head Office in Lae last Friday. Picture by SENIORL ANZU

By SENIORL ANZU of National Agriculture Research Institute

The South Korean Government will invest a total of US$58, 900 in a new village movement concept, focusing on agricultural and eco-tourism development which will be trialed at Gabensis village in the Huon district of Morobe province.
The pilot project will include the production and processing of yam and construction of a yam-based tourism facility known as Saemaul Eco-Lodge.
Last Friday, a memorandum of agreement was signed between South Korea’s University-Industry Cooperation Foundation (UICF) of Kangwon National University and PNG’s National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI) to pave way for this collaborative initiative.
UICF is a new research and cooperation organisation of the Kangwon National University, which has served to develop university-industry in the world.
With funds from central and local governments in South Korea, UICF’s objective is to contribute to the development of rural communities in domestic and foreign countries through various researches and professional consulting for improving agricultural technologies, residential environment and reforming social structure.
The university had proposed to NARI early this year to pilot the concept in PNG and Gabensis was chosen.
Last week, three Korean professors were in Morobe, inspecting NARI research facilities at Bubia and discussing with local scientists.
They also visited Gabensis, talking to farmers and identifying suitable sites where the one-year project will be conducted.
In signing the MOA on behalf of NARI, director general Dr Raghunath Ghodake told the South Koreans investors that yam was a traditional crop in PNG with huge potential for development.
“Yam is grown widely in PNG mostly for raw consumption,” he said.
“There is no processing, no exporting but there is big potential for development”.
He said that NARI had expertise in yam agronomy and economics and would be willing to collaborate and work together to assist farmers in adding value to the crop and getting it to markets.
He also suggested for the processing technology to be done on other crops such as taro, cassava and kaukau.
South Korean spokesperson Prof Cheol Ho Park expressed satisfaction on cooperation and willingness by both NARI and Gabensis villagers and hoped that the pilot project would be successful.
“This is a community-based cooperation,” he said.
“It is a pioneer concept in university-industry research and consulting with a view to contribute to the development of rural communities.”
Team leader Prof Jeon Un-Seong said PNG had big potential in eco-tourism and Gabensis was an ideal site.
He said the village, food gardens, lake and other natural features in the locality provided
a good natural setting for tourism development and UICF was keen to invest and capture that potential, particularly from an agro-tourism perspective.
Under the agreement, the South Korean government through UICF would provide financial and technical support for the project, which includes the establishment of machinery for yam processing, training of NARI staff on the same and construction of the yam-based eco-lodge.

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