PNG Sustainable Development Program (SDP) complements and supplements the Fly River Provincial Government’s efforts to provide lasting benefits for the people of Western Province. But rather than giving handouts, SDP believes partnerships with active community participation are the key to a successful project.
Malam village in South Fly district of Western Province is a case in point. Their airstrip had been closed for three years because of the lack of maintenance and this prevented SDP’s aerial health patrols from visiting the community and providing essential primary health care. The airstrip needed serious restoration work before it could be reopened.
Following an initial inspection by the SDP airstrip maintenance team, the community pitched in and undertook extensive works to fix the airstrip. During a month of intensive work guided by the SDP team, the community mowed the grass, dug a new drainage system and cleared trees from the approach. It was an amazing effort. For example, the depth and the alignment of the new drainage system were impeccably accurate with all that work being carried out manually.
There was never any discussion of the community receiving payments for their work….it was their contribution to the partnership.
“Not having access to government services and outside help, we saw the importance of having a functioning airstrip and we took it upon ourselves to help fix the problem,” said Pastor Joshua Ben Danipa.
Following recent inspections, the airstrip is now open to MAF flights and SDP Health has scheduled two health patrol visits over coming months. This will become an ongoing regular service for the community.
Malam is a community which takes the initiative to do things to help themselves. Aside from their airstrip remediation efforts, they have launched a cocoa farm and are distributing vanilla cuttings to the nearby communities.
However, this energy and enthusiasm is not enough to ensure the success of these initiatives. Recognising this, they reached out to SDP asking for support through another partnership arrangement. The community acknowledged the challenges they face in becoming active participants in the cash economy, specifically, pointing to the need for technical advice on how to grow and harvest their plants, how to transport their produce and how to process and market it.
In response to this request, SDP brought agricultural experts from their South Fly Agribusiness joint venture (which is developing cocoa, vanilla, black pepper and aquaculture projects on Daru and Oriomo) to inspect the crops at Malam as a first step towards planning a practical way forward.
Mr. Kingsley Mado said: “we are very happy to see that SDP is here. It means we can get some help with the crops we are growing.”
Bomso Maikong, one of the first vanilla farmers and a main distributor of vanilla cuttings to over 200 new farmers in Malam, Kondobol, Kinkin and Kwiwang communities, is excited that these new farmers are young people who have taken vanilla farming as a way to sustain themselves. “When we have an excited and an engaged community, good things happen,” he said.
Lake Murray is another example where SDP’s partnerships with the local community are working really well for the benefit of the people.
SDP approached the community with a suggestion to provide support for their rubber growers. The community responded with great enthusiasm and allocated land for a base that will provide a sophisticated extension service (technical advice) and improve logistics (frequent collections and payments). The response in terms of yields and grower incomes have been very encouraging.
SDP health patrols were complementing these efforts by flying in to provide primary health to the community.
Things were travelling really well but then a serious problem emerged. Dogs from the community lay on the airstrip and posed such a safety problem that MAF said they could no longer fly into Lake Murray. The consequences for both the health patrols and the agriculture initiative were dire.
The answer to the problem lay with the partnership. SDP sent two of its senior health staff to speak to the community. “We spoke with the community to help them understand the importance of them taking ownership of their airstrip and keeping it operational so the community can continue to access services provided by SDP and the government,” said Juddy Aoae, General Manager of SDP Health.
The community response was overwhelming. The leaders took control and explained to the dog owners why they shouldn’t let their dogs roam freely on the airstrip. Within a week, the dogs were sent to relatives at outlying villages and two weeks following that, the community leaders sent a letter to SDP to say that issue has been resolved. There was never any mention of compensation. This was a joint effort which delivered real benefits to the community.
MAF was also notified and since then flights have recommenced in and out of Lake Murray.