SSGM Agriculture and Livelihoods Project
The population of Papua New Guinea (PNG) has doubled in the last thirty years and is expected to double again by 2030. About eighty seven per cent of the total population, or roughly six million people, live in rural areas. Approximately fifty per cent of these rural people live in difficult environments where agricultural production is constrained by steep slopes, high rainfall, frequent flooding or poor soils.
Most rural people are sustained by their own agricultural production. While population growth is significant in PNG, there has been little expansion in the area of land used for agriculture. This has resulted in the intensification of agriculture. Common methods of intensification include the shortening of bush fallows, longer cropping periods and the adoption of more efficient crops such as sweet potato, Chinese taro and triploid bananas. Where intensification has not been matched by improved management practices, considerable pressure has been put on land resources. This often results in land degradation and reduced garden productivity.
Most rural people have minor cash incomes through the sale of export products such as coffee, cocoa, copra and oil palm, or domestic products such as betel nut, fresh food and fish. Cash earning activities in PNG have increased in recent years, particularly in areas with reliable access to markets. Over the same period, the provision of basic services such as schools, hospitals, aid posts, roads and transport has declined in many rural areas. The result of these changes is an increasing number of poor and remote communities with limited development opportunities.
The goal of the Land Management Group, now situated within the State, Society and Governance in Melanesia Program, is to understand the critical role of land managers in sustaining production from the land.