Harvest not yet optimal in PNG
A weaker than expected harvest has come through for the drought plagued Highlands in PNG.
Crops of sweet potato have started coming through in Papua New Guinea but the harvest is not as good as it could be according to CARE International.
Much of the Highlands, along with other parts of PNG, suffered badly from eight months of severe drought brought by EL Nino from the second half of last year.
CARE International is one of the organisations that has been distributing emergency food supplies to supplement people's diets until the harvest of kaukau or sweet potato, comes through.
Its emergency response co-ordinator in PNG, Blossom Gilmour, told Daniela Maoate-Cox about 50,000 people are still waiting.
BLOSSOM GILMOUR: We are still doing that distribution, It is taking us a little bit longer than we originally thought. We are now distributing further down in Enga but we're also about to start the distribution in Hela province as well. The communities we distributed to earlier in June, those are at the slightly lower elevations and those communities are starting to see some harvest of kaukau now, which is their sweet potato crop, and so we're hoping that with the rice supply, it's now getting them into their harvest period and the people who are located in the higher elevations who are getting the food a bit later, so starting around now, this food should last them until their able to harvest some staples as well.
DANIELA MAOATE-COX: Well that sounds like good news, there were some concerns about the level of nitrogen in the soil that it might affect the crops and how well the crops would go and how well the harvest would be.
BG: Yes, the harvest is not as good as it could be. The kaukau are quite small and there has been some crop failure but a majority of people a number of different gardens and some of them are into the second round of planting at this point so they are harvesting the smaller and less optimal staple crops but there are some. They do still have quite a lot of other vegetables available, pumpkin, cabbage and corn have been available for several months now. So they have that to keep them going with some small amount of sweet potato and the rice all together it's making for a much better diet.
DM-C: Is the harvest enough to sustain people?
BG: It is starting to reach that level, so it's not there yet but it is improving so people did see early on that their crop was not coming through so they've planted in more than one location. So they're starting to harvest now but that harvest will start to peak in another month or two depending on their elevation levels. It's not optimal yet, it's not quite back to normal yet, but it is improving.
DM-C: How many people are affected by this?
BG: we have already distributed to almost half the population that we had intended so that means there are probably 50-thousand people that are still yet to receive the first distribution.
DM-C: How much longer do you think that will take?
BG: We're estimating another two to three weeks at a minimum, it could take up to another month, There're a lot of logistical challenges in getting the food out to people, things like roads getting washed away and intermittent fighting that we have to try and avoid.
DM-C: Looking at the whole situation generally what do you think of it? Are you optimistic?
BG: It does seem as though people are getting back towards normal and so we're optimistic that, barring another disaster, people should be back to normal in kind of in August, September so they're starting to head in that direction which gives us a lot of hope that they'll be back on their feet and using their normal coping mechanisms in the near future.
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