Improving the Papua New Guinea balsa value chain to enhance smallholder livelihoods
ACIAR Research Program Manager
Global demand for balsa wood products is strong and projected to continue increasing - driven by expanding markets in the energy and transport sectors. Balsa (Ochroma pyramidale) growing and processing for export is an established industry in the East New Britain (ENB) Province of Papua New Guinea. PNG is the world's second largest balsa supplier after Ecuador, with an 8% market share by volume and 6% by value. The current balsa resource is estimated to be 3500 ha, grown on a 5-7 year rotation, and this should expand to 6200 ha by 2012.
Balsa cultivation is an attractive and competitive land-use option for both large- and small-scale landowners in ENB, with few barriers to entry, and its appeal to smallholders is likely to increase as a consequence of the impact of the cocoa pod borer on smallholder cocoa production.
The aim of this project is to enhance the value, value recovery and international competitiveness of the PNG balsa industry and, by doing so, to optimise its benefits for smallholder growers. It will address the significant challenges and opportunities identified for the PNG balsa industry in an ACIAR Scoping Study. The project will comprise the following activities: 1) analysis of smallholder livelihoods, decision processes and farming systems; 2) identification and facilitation of smallholder organisation and communication strategies and structures; 3) optimising value recovery in balsa processing, including wood delivery logistics and primary and secondary processing; 4) optimising supply of improved germplasm and crop management for smallholders; 5) development of enabling systems for the certification of Papua New Guinea smallholder balsa.
Project outcomes will enable more informed advice on the outlook and options for strengthening the medium- to long-term global market position of the Papua New Guinea balsa industry.
Progress Reports (Year 1, 2, 3 etc)
The project effectively began on 1 June 2011, and a project Inception Meeting was held at UNRE, Vudal, 1-2 September 2011. Some 40 participants, comprising key PNG and ENB stakeholders and project team members, participated. Following discussions at the inception meeting, ACIAR approved additional investment in the project to support the participation of UNRE's integrated Agriculture Training Program in the project, specifically to develop and deliver extension materials and training, and of PNG FRI in the genetic and silvicultural trials and related work. A ENB Local Advisory Group of key stakeholders was established, and met three times in the reporting period. A project officer, seconded from PNG Forest Authority, was appointed early in 2012.
Project work followed the workplan, focusing on:
an update of the scoping study from which the project was developed, including of the market context of balsa from PNG;
a review of forest certification and constraints to its implementation in the ENB balsa sector;
design of a genetics trial, collection of seed from candidate trees, and raising of seedlings in the nursery for trail establishment at 4 sites;
development of a communications strategy;
planning for a ENB Balsa Scenarios workshop (April 2012) and smallholder survey;
planning of initial stages of work in product development of balsa.
Most Australian and PNG partners and researchers participated in the Inception Meeting, and in associated meetings and site visits related to their project activities; most were preparing to participate in the April 2012 Scenarios workshop. Project Manager Peter Kanowski, PNG Country Coordinator Kulala Mulung, and Australian researchers Braden Jenkin and Hamish Crawford spent additional periods in ENB associated with their project responsibilities.
Overall, the first stage of the project proceeded largely according to plan. Key PNG and ENB stakeholders and partners demonstrated a high level of commitment to the project. This was assisted by ACIAR's favourable response to the Project Manager's request that additional resources be committed to enable the participation of IATP and PNG FRI. As a result, the project established a firm foundation for subsequent activities.