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FAO in Papua New Guinea

FAO and United Church strengthen partnership for Hela

FAO National Technical Officer, Ms Helmtrude Sikas-Iha (right), with Bishop Steven Bai from the United Church Hela Region, at the signing of the Letter of Agreement at the FAO Office in Port Moresby.

Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea: The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) had recently formalized a partnership arrangement with United Church Hela Region (UCHR) through the signing of a Letter of Agreement to collaborate on the delivery and implementation of sustainable agricultural livelihoods activities in the Hela Province.

The agreement is aimed at supporting communities by restoring food crop supplies through an increased variety of agricultural inputs and refresher trainings on best agricultural practices and improved adaptive techniques.

The aftermath of the February 2018 earthquake that struck the Highlands of Papua New Guinea, including the Hela Province with the epicentre in Hela, had resulted in the loss of large amounts of agricultural food gardens and livelihoods in the province.

This was because, at that time, most people fled their homes and relocated to Care Centres in fear of after-shocks of the earthquake. Subsequently, the abandoned food gardens were prone to pest and disease infestation, resulting in reduced quantity of food crops.

Even then, Hela’s disadvantaged situation had already been exacerbated by a number of reoccurring and perplexed natural disasters including drought and frost, affecting local communities’ food security, agricultural livelihoods and even worse, the negative impacts inflicted by tribal violence. As a result, the protracted crises in multiple sites in Hela had severely impacted the vulnerability of the population creating a food gap and causing distress on the traditional livelihoods and resilient coping strategies.

As part of agricultural recovery and to lessen the burden on local food supply, FAO has worked with local partners in conducting field activities both in Hela and Southern Highlands provinces and the recent signing was part of this engagement.

Specific to this agreement, FAO with its technical capacity will work with the United Church and the Hela church network and relevant government entities, in consultation with the Hela Provincial Government, to restore and improve agricultural food production.

UCHR as a faith-based organization that aims to build peace, reduce disaster risk and impact, address gender inequality and strengthen social inclusion. In line with this aim, and in collaboration with FAO, UCHR is expected to support and improve the food crop production of disadvantaged households in Hela. These will be undertaken through capacity building and multiplication and distribution of seeds, contributing to the recovery of the targeted population particularly in the Komo-Margarima and Tari-Pori districts. There is also possibility of expansion to other districts in the province.

UCHR Bishop Steven Bai, at the signing of the agreement in Port Moresby on the Friday 09th August, 2019, assured FAO that UCHR through this agreement, will strengthen and add value to peace interventions that churches are implementing in the province. Standing in FAO Country Representative and Head of Office, Mr. Ken Shimizu, FAO National Technical Officer Ms Helmtrude Sikas-Iha thanked the bishop and UCHR team for embracing the partnership arrangement.