Papua New Guinea (PNG), officially the Independent State of Papua New Guinea occupies the eastern half of the island of New Guinea and numerous offshore islands (the western portion of the island is occupied by the Indonesian provinces of Papua and West Irian). It is located in Melanesia, in the south-western Pacific Ocean. The capital is Port Moresby. It is one of the most diverse countries on Earth, with over 850 indigenous languages and at least as many traditional societies, in a population of just over seven million. It is also one of the most rural, with only 18 per cent of its people living in urban centres. The country is also one of the world's least explored, culturally and geographically, and many undiscovered species of plants and animals are thought to exist in the interior of Papua New Guinea.
The majority of the population live in traditional societies and practise subsistence-farming agriculture. These societies have some explicit acknowledgement within the nation's constitutional framework. The PNG Constitution expresses the wish for traditional villages and communities to remain as viable units of Papua New Guinean society, and for active steps to be taken in their preservation.
The population of Papua New Guinea is one of the most heterogeneous in the world. Papua New Guinea has several thousand separate communities, most with only a few hundred people. The largest portion of the population lives in fertile highlands valleys that were unknown to the outside world until the 1930s. Divided by language, customs, and tradition, until recently some of these were unaware of the existence of neighbouring groups only a few kilometres away. Some have engaged in low-scale tribal conflict with their neighbours for millennia.
Approximately 96% of the population is Christian. The churches with the largest number of members are the Roman Catholic Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church, the United Church, the Seventh Day Adventist church, and the Anglican Church. The major churches are all under indigenous leadership, although a large number of foreign missionaries continue to work in the remote areas of the country.
Most Papua New Guineans continue to adhere strongly to a traditional social structure, which has its roots in village life.
The country's geography is diverse and, in places, extremely rugged. A spine of mountains runs the length of the island of New Guinea, forming a populous highlands region. Dense rainforest can be found in the lowlands and coastal areas. This terrain has made it difficult for the country to develop transportation infrastructure. In some areas, planes are the only mode of transport.
Papua New Guinea is rich in natural resources, including minerals, oil, gas, timber, and fish, and produces a variety of commercial agricultural products. The economy generally can be separated into an informal sector centred on subsistence agriculture and a formal sector centred on resources. Approximately 75% of the country's population relies primarily on the subsistence economy.
Papua New Guinea is richly endowed with gold, copper, oil, natural gas, and other minerals. The minerals, timber, and fish sectors are dominated by foreign investors. In 2006 minerals and oil export receipts accounted for 82% of GDP and continue to account for over 60% of GDP. Government revenues and foreign exchange earnings depend heavily on mineral and oil exports.
Agriculture currently accounts for 32% of GDP and supports more than 75% of the population. Cash crops ranked by value are coffee, oil, cocoa, copra, tea, rubber, and sugar. Papua New Guinea has an active tuna industry, but much of the catch is made by boats of other nations fishing in Papua New Guinea waters under license.
After being colonised by the three external powers since 1884, Papua New Guinea gained its independence from Australia on 16 September 1975.
• Land area: 462,840 sq. km..
• Cities: Capital--Port Moresby (307, 643). Other cities--Lae (190,178), Mt. Hagen (39,003).
• Major language: English, Tok Pisin, Hiri Motu
• Life expectancy: 61 years (men), 66 years (women) (UN)
• Monetary unit: 1 kina = 100 toea
• Main exports: Gold, petroleum, copper, coffee, palm oil, logs
• GNI per capita: US $1,300 (World Bank, 2010) The UN Human Development Index ranks PNG 153 in the world. Bangladesh is ranked 146, and New Zealand is ranked 5.
Rice is gaining prominence at meal times in Papua New Guinea. Though not a traditional food, many families are now making rice part of their staple diet. In 2003, almost 90% of the urban population of Papua New Guinea, and 25% of the rural population, were eating rice on a daily basis, and those numbers seem to be rising.
Papua New Guinea relies heavily on rice imports to meet the needs of its population, and here lies a great opportunity for impoverished farmers in the Baiyer Valley; working in partnership with the Baptist Union of Papua New Guinea, Banzaid is teaching local farmers how to grow rice as an extra source of food for their families and communities, and as a way of diversifying their cash crops and improving their economic situation.
In recent months we have established demonstration fields in the Baiyer Valley to show local farmers best practices for growing rice. Working with a rice specialist from the Christian Leaders Training College (CLTC), the demonstration fields were prepared, and rice nurseries were set up, so farmers could learn about effective rice planting methods.
We have been greatly encouraged by the enthusiasm and interest shown by local farmers towards growing rice. Thanks to your support we will be able to supply 70 farmers with rice seeds for free, and in early November they will begin to sow their fields. From half a kilogram of seeds, a farmer should be able to produce 21 kilograms of milled rice – what a fantastic return!
In addition, your support is allowing us to provide a tractor and plough, and construct a milling shed, to help farmers prepare their fields and mill their rice. Come March next year, farmers will begin to harvest their rice. We will purchase their rice off them for onward sale, to ensure they get a good result for their hard work.
In addition to rice, we have planted 214 hybrid orange trees in the area, and will soon plant other varieties of citrus fruit. We have also set up a nursery for new coffee trees, which farmers will be able to buy off us to start to replace some of their trees that have passed their best production period (see pictures of seedlings below).
The coffee buying season is coming to an end. Since the season began in May we have traded around NZD $260,000 worth of parchment coffee. The local staff we have worked with have done well, and have gained valuable experience in buying and trading coffee. We had hoped to make a profit from our coffee trading but, for various reasons, it looks likely that we made a slight loss. Lessons have been learnt however, and we are optimistic that we will see great results next year.
Visit our Facebook page for more pictures of the project!
Thank you for your support for this project. Your support enables us to get funds from the New Zealand Aid Programme and from the Government of Papua New Guinea. Please tell others about this project, and encourage them to donate to support us. Donations can be made through our online Donations Page
 The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, Nutrition Country Profile, 2003.
In 1948 Christian missionaries from Australia arrived and settled in the Baiyer River Valley of the Papua New Guinea Western Highlands Province. Tinsley Hospital in the Baiyer ValleyAt that time the Australian Government had been mandated by the United Nations to govern and prepare PNG for independence. The world was recovering from the effects of World War II. During the war the northern coastal regions had been invaded by Japanese forces and later repulsed by the Australian and American armies. Before the war traders and missionaries had mostly worked in the coastal areas, and the Highland regions were untouched and unexplored. Now no longer could PNG remain an isolated group of islands populated by isolated and primitive tribes. The world was about to arrive and PNG was about to take its place in the world.
The early missionaries of the Australian Baptist Missionary Society were readily accepted and a vigorous Christian church network grew.
Alongside their preaching the missionaries began to address issues that were adversely affecting the lives of the people. These were:
Health and Nutrition - A very adequate hospital and rural health networks were put in place which transformed the health and well being of the population.
Education - in order to prepare the people to take advantage of and enter into the process of nation building and participation in the world culture, schools and training centres were established enabling children to be well educated.
Economic development – to enable people to be active in the new nation that was about to emerge on to the world scene.
With the aim of economic development in mind, one of the early missionaries, the Rev. Ken Osborne researched the various possibilities for economic development and with the advice of officers of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries of the Australian governing authority, decided to introduce the growing of coffee. It had been foreseen that this would become a product of high demand worldwide and that the soils and climate of the Highland regions would produce a good product. Ken obtained some good seed and planted a nursery - all the while training local men in the skills of coffee growing.
In order to facilitate the development of the industry and other agricultural products, one hundred acres of land was leased to establish an agricultural training program. Dr Thelma Becroft was a New Zealander, seconded to the Australian Baptists and working in the mission hospital in the valley. She was very keen to see economic development improving the situation for people, and promoted in New Zealand the need for an agriculturalist to build and run a training program. At this stage I (Rob Thomson a 23 year old from Nelson) heard about this, got excited about it, and in due process was recruited to build and run this facility. This began in 1961. For the next 24 years my wife Win and I had the privilege of working with and among the Enga people in the Baiyer/Lumusa area and were able to see a church and a coffee industry grow and flourish during that time.
The aim of the agricultural training was to upskill growers in good growing practices, harvesting and processing procedures in order to bring the coffee bean to the dried parchment stage where it would then be ready for marketing. So that the growers could obtain a fair price for their product we set up a growers co-operative which would purchase the parchment bean from the growers, process it further to the green bean stage and onsell it to the international coffee traders. To facilitate this we engaged the services of Rev Don Moore, an Australian with knowledge of commerce. This entity began life as "The Enga Co-op" and would become B.L.U. Enterprises. Growers bought shares in this enterprise and received good dividends as well as a fair price at the "farm gate" for their product. The economic advancement of the whole area was largely based upon coffee growing and coffee trading. Schools flourished and medical services became more available to every person.
B.L.U. Enterprises flourished for around 20 years and the community thrived. From the mid 1980's until 2007 a dark evil overcame the whole region. Tribal wars of the most vicious kind broke out. The B.L.U. Enterprise factory and facility and much of the individual and tribal coffee crops were destroyed or neglected. Poverty, malnutrition and disease became common place and most schools closed or were destroyed. Roads and airstrips fell in to disrepair and could no longer be used. Those who could still produce coffee had to get their crop to market with great difficulty and at great risk. Once at the market they had to receive whatever the trader decided to pay them and in many cases they received much less than their product was worth.
By 2008, through the courageous and persistent efforts and prayers of church men and church women, peace had been restored to the people and their therefore their land. The skill base for producing good coffee still remains and good crops of coffee are being re-established. Roads are being reopened and airstrips repaired. Economically the region is recovering but the coffee growers are still at the mercy of the traders. I suspect they are not receiving a fair price for their product and are certainly not receiving a dividend.
The coffee growing industry still remains the base industry of the whole area. Every aspect of social life that requires finance is highly dependent upon the success of this industry. Every effort to rebuild this industry back to its full potential with growers receiving a good return is enormously worthwhile.
By Rob Thomson, a former missionary to the Baiyer Valley
The ads have been out there—invest in Mighty River Power! Banzaid is offering an investment also, but it's of a different sort. We're inviting you to invest in the coffee growers of the Baiyer Valley in Papua New Guinea. It's a high risk investment, with no loyalty bonuses and absolutely no chance of on-selling to the Australians!
The investment is in BU Kofi Company Ltd. The company has been set up by Banzaid and the Baptist Union of PNG in response to a need; the coffee growers of the Baiyer Valley are not getting a fair deal for their crop.
Our research shows that we can do better. We can pay the growers a fair trade price for their parchment coffee, sort and grade it, transport it to Mount Hagen, pay for processing into green bean, and still make a profit on our on-sale to the national PNG coffee markets.
We're not talking micro-enterprise, but the establishment of an SME (small to medium size enterprise) business. A sizeable capital investment is required to set the business on a strong trading foundation, with the aim being a self-sustaining business that will have a lasting and positive impact in the community.
The trading income of the company will pay for training and advisory services for the farmers, and support a demonstration farm which will research alternative crops to help reduce susceptibility to fluctuations in the international prices of coffee.
BU Kofi Company Ltd will be a company with a 'triple bottom line': a viable business enterprise with positive community and environmental impacts. Our undertaking with our partner, the Baptist Union of PNG, is that all profits from the venture will go back into community health and education services that reach the people of the Baiyer Valley.
Any work in Papua New Guinea carries a high level of risk. The country is politically unstable, and a level of civil disorder and violence is ever present. This project is rebuilding services destroyed by 10 years of clan fighting. The Baptist Union has worked hard to build a peace settlement, however, and there is a strong desire in the community to see this work.
Banzaid is asking our supporters for $100,000 over the next three years. This will be matched by $700,000 from the New Zealand Aid Programme and $575,000 from the Government of Papua New Guinea. We believe that this is an exciting and positive project, and one that will be a good investment for your money!
Papua New Guinea faces enormous challenges. The population of PNG is one of the most heterogeneous in the world. Several thousand separate communities, some with only a few hundred people, and all divided by language, customs, traditions and the difficult terrain. The people in the next valley may have a different language and set of customs and traditions. With an annual GDP of only US$2500 per person PNG ranks 177 in the world, with only two of the Pacific Island nations being poorer.
Recent significant discoveries of mineral resources mean potential prosperity – if they can find ways to ensure that the minerals bring a significant return not just to the mining companies, but to the country as a whole. To do this they will have to overcome their tribal and linguistic divisions as well as a high level of political corruption. Achieving this will require leadership from the churches. The churches are well placed to do this since PNG claims to be over 95% Christian.
NZ and Australian Baptist missionaries left PNG in the 1990s, but as happened in Tripura, so the timing was right and the Baptist Union of PNG has gained in strength and confidence as they have taken responsibility for their own programmes. They are concerned for the spiritual, physical and economic needs of their people. Their slogan is “Believing God and Serving Holistically”, and so they are running several hospitals and over 40 schools, and looking to reach a level of economic sustainability.
Banzaid is talking with BUPNG about possible projects that we can support, particularly around the opportunities to become economically self supporting.
Agriculture is important in this process. 85% of the population are dependent on subsistence farming. There have to be ways to help people not just to feed themselves, but also to start earning income from their land. Growing urban populations will require feeding, and the opportunity is there if rural farmers can be helped to get their crops to the cities. Coffee is another opportunity for a cash crop. The reputation of PNG coffee is growing, and can earn valuable foreign exchange for the country.
Banzaid is uniquely positioned to help the BUPNG with the goals that they have set for themselves. The New Zealand Government funding schemes want to see a focus on economic development. We have people with skills in development, agriculture and business. MPIL is already marketing PNG coffee in NZ.
In August 2011 Banzaid Manager Paul Thompson and tranzsend Director Neil Perry made a trip to PNG to talk with the Baptist Union of PNG about possible projects that we could work on together. The map belowshows the places we visited. Click on any of the markers for more information, or zoom in for more detail.
Watch here for more information as we build this new relationship with the Baptists of PNG.