IN PAPUA NEW GUINEA rural industry is most noticeable by its absence.
Other countries with most of their people in rural areas offer some appearance of rural business to support the agronomy practiced by the majority. But not PNG
Agronomy itself has much more to show for itself in countries with a longer tradition of mixed farming.
But in PNG, simple farming practices to improve the land and fertility are not readily available to the farmer.
There are no large quantities of seed available for planting green manure or cover crops as in parts of Africa and most developed countries.
Neither are there commercial amounts of soy bean, mung bean and corn seed.
There are no supplies of cover crop seed able to supply bulk humus to the soil or legume seeds to supply nitrogen. Each has its place but none is available.
There are no inoculant is available for leguminous cash or cover crops, peanuts, soybeans, pasture legumes and the like. There is no pasture grass or pasture legume seeds available.
The use of corn as a staple crop is ignored, yet this is more suitable than rice in many areas. It is a staple in many countries including Africa.
No one in PNG apparently has any idea of nixtamalisation, which is the treatment of dried corn by wood ash solution or kambang solution to remove the skin and improve its nutritional value.
PNG imports tonnes of peanut butter and peanut products. If anyone wished to go again produce peanut butter, which we used to do, there is no peanut seed available. One reason the Atzera peanut factory collapsed was said to be poor seed.
Markhams and Highlanders are probably still selling the best and planting the rest.
There are no locally produced machines for farmers; like simple peanut threshers so the Markhams don’t wear out their fingers hulling peanuts.
Neither are there winnowers for seed crops, treadle water pumps and other such small machines.
I might mention that a casting foundry in Lae was allowed to collapse partly due to lack of demand for cast items by the hundreds of thousands of farmers in PNG. Almost without exception they operate without the benefit of basic farming tools; just bush knives, spades and the dibble stick. Not every farmer even has an axe or tomahawk.
PNG should have a viable local manufacturing base given the number of consumers available; not to mention the possibility of export to other island states.
Viable farming communities need small, simple machines for efficiency - made here and with local mechanics to adjust and fix them.
The forest industry produces only timber; other countries without exception also produce commercial quantities of charcoal as a by-product. Sometimes charcoal is the only product from areas of forest and savannah.
Truckloads of charcoal can be seen in Africa. Charcoal transfers wealth from the cities and towns to the countryside because townspeople spend money on a local product rather than fuel from international suppliers.
Charcoal also has several benefits overlooked by the blinkered aid providers. I assert that without the smoke from normal cooking fires there would be fewer children with pneumonia brought on by breathing smoke.
I also believe the undeveloped lungs of small babies are damaged by exposure to smoke, and that this has contributed to subsequent death and incapacity. How many requests for sotwin marasin have I received?
Charcoal needs locally produced clay stoves for efficient cooking and suitable clay is available almost anywhere in PNG. There is no reason to import or to construct clay charcoal stoves from imported materials.
Furthermore, utensils for everyday cooking and eating can be easily made from clay.
We often see on television that someone has donated building materials to some remote area or that the school has stopped operating for lack of repair.
Clay bricks can be made almost anywhere and most remote areas have ample supplies of timber for the firing of clay bricks, pipes and roof tiles.
On a hill above Bogia there is an old mission station with circular holes in the ground. I looked inside and there was a bottle shaped brick room for water storage.
When the grader shaved off the karanas on the main road to Bogia through the Catholic plantation there was a red brick road underneath.
All from when transport was by sailing boat and ox cart. I suppose the tourists will go poking around Bogia now. It would be nice if Divine Word students find any remaining artefacts and keep them displayed at the University.
I would be more than happy to learn that others are working in these matters and have successfully commercialised them.
I would also like to exchange ideas if anyone is interested in this important area of economic self-sufficiency.