At present doing postgraduate studies at the University of Adelaide, Michael is normally based at Labu Station, a National Agricultural Research Institute operation in Morobe Province.
Earlier this year, he and colleague Janet Pandi, from NARI’s high altitude highlands research centre at Tambul Station in the Western Highlands, presented a paper at a science and technology conference in Port Moresby.
“My session drew a crowd of six and a half people,” says Michael. “One person left half-way through my 15-minute talk to attend the more loud and argumentative session next door about funding for electrical engineers.
“But my audience discussed what I had presented in some depth, with much questioning and great feeling. It was all right.”
Well I’m hoping PNG Attitude can offer Michael a slightly bigger crowd.
The paper, which is available for download at the end of this article, argues that two innovations in animal feed technology have the potential to revolutionise PNG’s smallholder and subsistence agricultural system.
They have the capacity to enhance farm incomes, enabling farmers to respond in a resilient manner to economic and environmental change.
As I understand it, Michael and Janet’s research project sought to enhance feeding systems for pigs and poultry through better storage and also improved feed formulations to combine sweet potato and cassava with protein concentrate.
The outcome showed significant cost-benefit gains for farmers through greater animal performance in providing the stuff animals provide.
The importance of this to PNG cannot be underestimated. The country has more than 600,000 small-scale pig and poultry farmers. And as many as six million Papua New Guineans rely on rural farming for their livelihood.
“It is unrealistic to assume that the traditional Melanesian safety net of village life and subsistence agriculture will continue to provide sufficiently for both the household income and food security needs,” the paper says.
The authors advocate that PNG must more actively develop smallholder agriculture and livestock by taking advantage of research such as they have been doing.
After all, they infer, there is no point in research advising how to get better outcomes if it is not taken seriously by public policy makers.
“It is our firm belief that with the appropriate support and incentive, smallholder agriculture can become a vehicle for moving PNG towards achieving real development impacts, through science and technological innovations,” Michael and Janet say.
You can access Michael and Janet's full paper here - Download Harnessing science and technology for development