I read Malum Nalu’s recent blog on the views expressed on DAL, NADP and the agriculture sector at a recent CIMC meeting. Interesting comments but I’m not sure whether abolishing DAL or creating new bodies is the answer. I think at the heart of this whole debate is genuine frustration of people not being able to fully utilise a government agency on the one hand and on the other a government agency that is not able to fully carry out its mission. An ongoing but increasing perception that there is a prevailing paralysis in the organization is probably true but there are also some very hardworking, highly motivated and inspired officers in DAL who hold the fort come hell or high-water. More often than not achievement, hard work and innovation goes unnoticed and believe me that is a given!
Relevance of state institutions to its citizens is a common concern for anyone involved in development work and getting results. Relevance and meaningful involvement is a two-way mirror. What the sector and DAL need is a shot in both arms – in the form of a governance model that is able to adopt and sustain a more people-centred approach. With the existence of the NADP it seems to me that some rationalisation is needed and a better priority ranking accorded for agriculture on the totem pole whichever way you look at it.
More organizations are looking at the development dividends resulting from a people-centred approach in the way development programmes and projects are designed and delivered and in policy formulation. This is the only way to sustain hard-earned positive development results especially in this sector given that for the majority of the population it is an important source of their livelihood. We may not be a Christian country in the way we behave sometimes but we are for sure an agricultural country! It is a sector that provides the greatest opportunity for wealth creation and sustainable livelihoods for all Papua New Guineans.
Agriculture without a doubt is a grassroots business! It therefore needs a decentralised and flat governance structure that includes all the players in the agriculture sector. The NADP recognises and acknowledges this but the implementation seems to be another story altogether. People in the sector know what their problems are and more often than not are able to solve these problems if provided with the necessary resources, appropriate information and support. The sector needs to be governed by a fair and equal representation of its stakeholders and beneficiaries and would achieve much more than small units of bureaucracy filtering this, that and the other never reaching the intended and targeted beneficiaries. This people-centred approach is not a remote possibility, nor a pipe dream. Innovative approaches to governance are just a click away, as information technology continues single-handedly to be a major agent of change. PNG is no exception to this silent revolution – its agricultural proponents and beneficiaries could no longer remain passive spectators so don’t continue to treat them as such.
I hope that people in the agriculture sector will exercise their right, sooner rather than later, to become the direct architects of a truly representative governance structure for the sector which would best serve their aspirations for wealth creation and sustainable livelihoods for themselves, ol lain blong ol, the whole country and generations to come. Moreover, a less bureaucratic governance structure that enables effective and efficient two-way lesson-learning processes, facilitates easy access to knowledge, ideas and expertise by, for and with all players would sustain a much needed strengthened, 100% supported and consolidated collaboration for great results. The trick is not to re-invent the wheel. PNG already has all the ingredients – it is all there!
Finally, the issues highlighted by Kanua and others are not new but each year they seem to take on a new meaning and a new sense of urgency depending on who is more concerned about it at that time. What happens to past gains and proven strategies that worked? Creative (not dodgy) thinking is needed for DAL to remain relevant, current, responsive and be fit for purpose inorder to truly serve an agricultural sector that must be driven by a people-centred philosophy, be open and receptive to innovation, subscribes to excellent knowledge capture and management, and a compelling duty of care. Harnessing the strength and power of all of these qualities together guarantees a bright and progressive future for PNG’s agriculture sector.