You are not currently logged in.

Login through your institution for access.


Log in through your institution.

Food and Agriculture in Papua New Guinea

Food and Agriculture in Papua New Guinea OPEN ACCESS

R. Michael Bourke
Tracy Harwood
Copyright Date: 2009
Published by: ANU Press
Stable URL:
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Food and Agriculture in Papua New Guinea
    Book Description:

    Agriculture dominates the rural economy of Papua New Guinea (PNG). More than five million rural dwellers (80% of the population) earn a living from subsistence agriculture and selling crops in domestic and international markets. Many aspects of agriculture in PNG are described in this data-rich book. Topics include agricultural environments in which crops are grown; production of food crops, cash crops and animals; land use; soils; demography; migration; the macro-economic environment; gender issues; governance of agricultural institutions; and transport. The history of agriculture over the 50 000 years that PNG has been occupied by humans is summarised. Much of the information presented is not readily available within PNG. The book contains results of many new analyses, including a food budget for the entire nation. The text is supported by 165 tables and 215 maps and figures.

    eISBN: 978-1-921536-61-8
    Subjects: Sociology
    × Close Overlay

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations
  1. Foreword (pp. vii-vii)
    Charles W. Lepani

    It gives me great pleasure to contribute the Foreword to this impressive book.

    I have long held the view that subsistence agriculture underwrites the PNG cash economy. The cash sector should supplement and complement but not replace the subsistence sector. Agriculture in PNG provides direct benefits to over 80% of our population. A strong subsistence sector and the wantok system provide surrogate social welfare support for many people. The resilience of the rural majority was seen recently when steep increases in food prices caused considerable distress in many parts of the world. However, most rural people in PNG were spared...

  2. Introduction (pp. 5-9)
    R. Michael Bourke and Bryant Allen

    Agriculture is the most important activity carried out by the vast majority of Papua New Guineans. For most people, agriculture fills their lives, physically, culturally, economically, socially and nutritionally. Yet agriculture is the most undervalued and misunderstood part of PNG life (see Twenty myths about PNG agriculture, page 1). The reasons for this are partly because mineral and oil exports make PNG comparatively wealthy for a developing country; partly because agriculture is practised in the countryside, away from towns, and is therefore largely ‘invisible’ to urban people and international visitors; and partly because agriculture is viewed as not being ‘modern’....

  3. R. Michael Bourke

    The history of agriculture in PNG is about 10 000 years old. This history is reviewed here in the context of 50 000 years of human occupation of the Australia – New Guinea region.¹ More is known about what has happened nearer to the present, especially since 1870, than about the distant past. Much of the early history (prehistory) of PNG was unknown until about 50 years ago, but since 1959 there has been a lot of research on the prehistory of PNG, with a major focus on agriculture. However, this is a rapidly evolving field of study and our...

  4. Bryant Allen and R. Michael Bourke

    The numbers of people in a country and the rate at which they are increasing is a critical issue in any discussion of agriculture and the production of food.

    The 2000 National Census gives the total population of Papua New Guinea as 5.2 million. Around 81%, or about 4.2 million of these people live in rural villages (Table 1.1.1). Around 5% live in the National Capital District city of Port Moresby, 8% in other urban areas and 6% in small stations, missions, schools, logging camps and mines, known as ‘rural non-village’ locations. Only Rwanda, Bhutan, Nepal and Uganda have a...

  5. R. Michael Bourke, John Gibson, Alan Quartermain, Kate Barclay, Bryant Allen and Jean Kennedy

    Food is made up of three major components – proteins, carbohydrates and fats – and each is necessary for growth and healthy living. Although all three provide energy, carbohydrates, which consist of starches and sugars, provide the highest proportion of the food energy (or fuel) that human bodies need to function. Protein, used for building and repairing the body, comes from animal products such as meat, fish, and milk, but also from grains and vegetable foods. Small quantities of fats and oils are also important in a balanced diet. They provide more food energy per gram than either carbohydrates or...

  6. R. Michael Bourke and Bryant Allen

    Sweet potato, sago, banana, yam, taro, Chinese taro, cassava, sugar cane, coconut, Irish potato and corn are the main staple foods eaten by rural villagers in PNG. They are grouped into three classes according to their relative importance in any given location – ‘most important food’, ‘an important food’, and ‘grown for food’ (see note, Table 3.1.1). The main vegetables, fruits, nuts and stimulants grown in PNG are described in Sections 3.2 to 3.5. Production per person of the main staple food crops is discussed in Section 2.2.

    Sweet potato is grown by almost all rural villagers in PNG (99%),...

  7. Andrew McGregor and R. Michael Bourke

    PNG has a dual economy. Most people work in the large subsistence sector, producing food for consumption, raising animals and building their own shelter, as well as producing agricultural commodities for sale in domestic and international markets (see Sections 5.2 and 5.3). A smaller number of people work solely in the monetary sector, which is concentrated in urban areas and mining enclaves. The level of national income generated from these activities was, until recently, sufficient to place PNG in the World Bank category of ‘Lower Middle Income Countries’. This category includes Thailand, Fiji and Sri Lanka. However, social indicators (for...

  8. Matthew Allen, R. Michael Bourke and Andrew McGregor

    Most rural Papua New Guineans earn cash from agriculture and closely associated activities such as selling firewood, fish or animals. This section presents estimates of the amounts of cash earned, how it is earned and the numbers of people who earn it. Rural villagers derive cash income from a number of sources, with sale of agricultural produce the most significant in both total income and the number of people who receive it. The amounts of cash earned are generally low, but there are exceptions. For example, some oil palm producers, people growing betel nut west of Port Moresby, and people...

  9. Bryant Allen

    Around 97% of land in PNG is occupied and used under customary tenure. This section attempts to provide a basic understanding of customary land tenures. Custom is here defined as the long-established practices of the people of PNG. The principles of land tenure that arise from custom are not written down, but are maintained through time by human memory and everyday practice. Although custom is recognised legally in the laws and constitution of PNG, land used and occupied under customary tenure remains outside any formal state system of land administration. Until recently, this land could only be brought within a...