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Social impacts of drought need to be considered

Tuesday 29 September 2015 | Published in Regional


PORT MORSEBY – Authorities must look at the drought’s additional impacts and concerns in order to mitigate the El Nino phenomenon affecting Papua New Guinea, according to a researcher.

Anthropologist Dr Dan Jorgensen from the University of Western Ontario, Canada, last Friday presented a case scenario of the Min people of Western Province, stating in his report that apart from food security, water supplies and health – certain social and economic concerns have also resulted and must be understood and taken into account when calculating El Nino’s costs.

In his report The Garden and Beyond: the Dry Season, the Ok Tedi Mine Shutdown and the Footprint of the 2015 El Nino Drought, Dr Jorgensen said there is no doubt that the most immediate and obvious effects of the El Nino drought are visible in people’s gardens.

“But I also think that the predicament of the Min people and the drought’s effects go beyond the purely local focus on food production and drinking water.

The combined effects of their loss of wages from the closure of Ok Tedi Mine and their presence in an already drought-stressed village setting set to magnify El Nino’s destruction of rural livelihood,’’ he said.

Two examples of additional impacts of El Nino, Dr Jorgensen pointed out in the case study, were migration of people and their economic viability affected due to relocation, loss of jobs or shortage of food supply for marketing.

He added that with that picture in mind, assessing the El Nino must be beyond the garden when understanding what the drought means.

Dr Jorgensen also said that lack of co-ordination and poor information often hampered attempts to deal with the crisis in a timely fashion, as identified from the previous drought experienced in 1997 and 1998.

“The hope is that the ready availability of pooled information may help co-ordinate efforts by multiple actors and agencies,” he said.