Horizon Scholar Renae Bice has recently returned from a two-week study tour in Papua New Guinea (PNG) where she and fellow Charles Sturt University students visited agricultural projects in Lae, the second largest city in PNG, and the province of Jiwaka.
The study tour formed part of Renae’s annual industry work placement, an important component of the AgriFutures™ Horizon Scholarship program. Scholars are encouraged to take on placements outside their skills-sets and interests to expose them to new career paths and opportunities.
The study tour was an initiative under the New Colombo Mobility Program, provides funding to Australian universities and consortia to support Australian undergraduate students to participate in semester-based or short-term study, internships, mentorships, practicums and research in 40 host locations across the Indo-Pacific region.
Three days of the tour was spent exploring New Britain Palm Oil Limited (NBPOL), the world’s leading producer of sustainable palm oil as well as a sugar cane plantation.
“On the news, you often hear how unsustainable palm oil production is but when we visited NBPOL we saw that it is very sustainable, especially because the plantations are planted on rangelands not in rainforests.
“It was amazing to see three different types of agricultural industries being integrated across the whole supply chain. Oil palm kernels and molasses (by-products) are fed to cattle. Also, the by-product from the sugar and oil is used to power the whole village of Ramu. It was impressive to witness how sustainable a small region could be,” said Renae.
Time in Lae proved extremely valuable, visiting local villages, UniTech, the National Agriculture Research Institute, along with Mainland Holdings crocodile farm and chicken hatchery.
“Visiting UniTech and meeting students at the university studying agriculture was an eye opening experience. We could listen to their stories and see first-hand how connected with their family and culture they are. In Australia, most of us leave home and begin our independence but in PNG, a lot of people leave their village for half the year, work in the city or in a different region, then retreat back in the off season supporting their whole extended family with the money they made.”
The students on the tour spent eight days venturing further into the Papua New Guinea highlands where they visited coffee and tea plantations, beef farms and then toured local infrastructure, such as recently built schools, hospitals and urban developments all with a local guide, the Governor of Jawarki.
“Visiting the Jawarki province and listening to the Governor’s stories about the country and development that has occurred in his province, compared to others we have travelled through, was a highlight.”
“The study tour made it clear that Papua New Guinea agricultural production is largely produced on a subsistence level. The main challenge for the country will be breaking the traditional barriers and using the land to instead produce food to sell at local markets and provide just for family but integrate production with companies and produce crops on a commercial scale in order to sell produce on a larger scale,” said Renae.
AgriFutures Australia is committed is committed to supporting the next generation of future leaders, and the AgriFutures™ Horizon Scholarship Program does just that. Giving students in their last two years of tertiary studies the chance to participate in skill building and networking events, along with subsidising the costs of industry placements, sees Horizon Scholars entering the agricultural sector with a professional advantage.
Applications for the 2019 Horizon Scholarship Program open Monday, 7 January 2019.