Report on our Agricultural and Community Development Projects along the Kokoda Trail

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With the generous support of our Adventure Kokoda trekkers we have been able to establish Network Kokoda as a philanthropic organisation to honour the legacy of Papua New Guinean Wartime Carriers.

The organisation subscribes to the principles developed by the PNG Department of Community Development which, according to former Minister, Dame Carol Kidu, is based on local communities working together to develop sustainable initiatives which generate income to invest in their future.

Network Kokoda is registered in Australia and Papua New Guinea. We are hopeful that our application for tax deductibility will soon be approved.

The Australian body is chaired by Brigadier Phil McNamara AM (RL).  The Executive Officer is Lieutenant Colonel Rowan Tracey (RL).  Both served as officers with the Pacific Islands Regiment during their army careers and are fluent in Tok Pisin.

The PNG body is chaired by Major Charlie Lynn (RL).  The Board of Directors includes Dame Carol Kidu, former Minister for Community Development; Brigadier Ken Noga, former Chief of the PNG Defence Force and High Commissioner to Australia; and Marianna Ellingson, Secretary to the Office of Tourism, Arts and Culture.

Network Kokoda engaged the services of Mr Sandy Lawson BSc (Agric) as a consultant to engage local community leaders in the Sogeri area and report on the proposal to develop Agricultural Learning Development Centres in the area. Mr Lawson has more than 25 years experience in agriculture in PNG and is fluent in both Motu and Tok Pisin.

As a result of Mr Lawson’s recommendation Network Kokoda engaged a recent graduate of the Popondetta Agricultural College, Mr Oggie Erehe who was born in Kokoda and has a diploma in Tropical Agriculture from the University of Natural Resources and Environment in Popondetta.

We have found that the major challenge in bringing communities together is encouraging local people, clans and communities to work together. This is the most difficult phase and involves much discussion, many meetings, mutual obligations, partnerships and a path to local ownership.

Network Kokoda is therefore establishing a program of Integrated Community Agricultural Learning Centres on the Sogeri plateau. The program involves a series of carefully structured workshops and activities designed for high impact within chosen target production groups.

The aim of the project is to produce more knowledgeable and ’emancipated’ farmers capable of making their own farming decisions about their own commercial activities. The learning is therefore sustainable and ongoing, and not dependent on a continuous intensive input from an agriculturalist –  or handouts!

Work with the local schools is designed to awaken the students to the possibilities of agriculture as an enterprise and a means of making a good living, rather than something that grandparents and parents used to do, and not something that modern young people do.

We established our first partnership with the Sogeri National High School in 2011.  The Headmaster, Mr Benny Rayappan, agreed to provide accommodation for our Network Kokoda Field Officer, Mr Oggie Erehe, and three hectares of land for a market garden.

The market garden has now been operating for 12 months and provides fresh produce for more than 400 boarding students.  It also acts as a ‘magnet’ for the community who are also provided with fresh produce provided they agree to work in the garden on a voluntary basis.

We have since established a partnership with Iarowari High School. The Headmaster, Mr Andrew Moava, advised that the school’s vision for agriculture is to ‘Instil in students the appropriate knowledge and skills in agriculture so they become competent, productive and self-reliant citizens’.

Mr Moava has developed a corporate plan to have Iarowari High School transformed into an agricultural college within five years.  Network Kokoda will be a key partner in assisting with this transformation.

The Sogeri and Iarowari High School market gardens now act as a ‘showcase’ to introduce local villagers to our outreach program which is designed to encourage nearby villagers to develop their own market gardens.

Network Kokoda advises those who wish to participate in our outreach progeam.  The Chief Field Officer, Mr Oggie Erehe, facilitates village meetings and advises that Network Kokoda will provide a seed nursery, seedlings and technical advice.  The villagers must provide land and local labour.

We currently have six village projects operating and two of them are sowing their second crop.

Click here to read our inaugural report on our Agricultural and Community Learning Development Centres along the Kokoda Trail:

Network Kokoda Report on the status of village community and agricultural projects in PNG

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