Papua New Guinea is one of the world’s least explored countries, both culturally and geographically, but it is known to also be one of the most diverse countries. Its topography ranges from grassland to swamps to mountains and volcanoes. Rainfall ranges from over 8,000 mm/year to less than 1000 mm/year in different regions. And if that’s not enough variety, it is known that over 800 languages are spoken across the 600 islands!
Defined by rural populations
Only 18 percent of Papua New Guineans live in urban areas which also means it has one of the most rural populations. A common trend with rural populations is to see a high percentage of people active in smallholder farming – and Papua New Guinea is certainly no exception to this. More than 82 percent of citizens over the age of 10 are employed in agriculture. These people work small farms, largely growing food crops on land of less than two hectares in size.
This dominance of small farms results in only 2.6 percent of the land being devoted to agriculture and the focus on subsistence farming limits commercial production. Interestingly, 55 percent the population active in agriculture are women, on family farms women spend more time on food crop production and rearing livestock whereas men increasingly give more labour to cash crops.
The potential for commercial farming
Currently, on these small farms, mechanisation is low and therefore difficult to scale. But this is a trend that is set to change as more farmers are investing in tools, wheelbarrows and machinery.
The country has an abundance of surface water resources with very few large-scale consumers. This leaves ample and ideal resources for cash crop irrigation on small farms. This is most important and necessary during prolonged dry spells and droughts which occur from time to time and impact productivity.
These water sources are ideal for efficient micro irrigation systems – an opportunity which Solar Solutions Papua New Guinea has realised. They are using their distribution network to sell Futurepump solar pumps across the country. Technical support, often a challenge in rural locations, is supported by the Futurepump SF2’s integrated remote monitoring. A few months in, there are already positive reports from customers about how well the product is working for them.
A huge opportunity
The Papua New Guinean government estimates that 30 percent of the country’s land has moderate to high agricultural potential. Utilising this land, still mostly on a micro scale could be seriously beneficial to rural communities.
If you’re a small farm business owner, we would love to hear from you about how you plan to use these opportunities to grow your business or any challenges you face.