Jiwaka Province spreads across the fertile Wahgi Valley, the birth place of modern agriculture, 10,000 years ago with the Wahgi River running through the Valley. The province is bordered by the Bismarck Range to the north, which forms part of the highest mountain peak in Papua New Guinea, Mt William (4960m) in Simbu Province. The Bismarck Range acts as the natural boundary for Jimi district, with Simbu to the east of Jiwaka and Madang Province further north of Jiwaka. This part of the province is relatively mountainous and very sparsely populated and has the least infrastructure development. The southern part of Jiwaka, Kambia, is naturally bordered by the Kubor Range, which is part of the central backbone mountain range of Papua New Guinea. The mountain range divides Jiwaka from the Bomai, South Simbu people, and further southwest to the South Wiru people of Pangia district, Southern Highlands Province. These areas are also very mountainous and are the least developed in terms of infrastructure and economic development.
The province covers an area of 4,798 km² and there are 343,987 inhabitants (National Statistical Office, 2011). The South Wahgi-Anglimb electorate has a population of 93,107 inhabitants, Jimi has 33,998 inhabitants, and the North Wahgi electorate has a population of 38,464 inhabitants (National Statistical Office, 2011). The Kambia and Jimi areas are very sparsely populated because of their mountainous nature. The land in the Wahgi valley is very fertile and therefore is very densely populated.
In July 2009, the National Parliament of PNG passed legislation to create two new provinces by 2012. Parliament amended the organic law on National and Local Level Government Councils Elections and preparations have been underway since 2009. One of these new provinces is Jiwaka Province, and it was created by removing a number of electorates from the Western Highlands Province (WHP). These electorates include the Jimi electorate, North Waghi electorate, and the South Waghi-Anglimb electorate. In other words, the Jiwaka Province covers areas of the middle Wahgi, Jimi and East Kambia. The name “Jiwaka” is a portmanteau word combining the first two letters each of Jimi, Waghi and Kambia, which are three areas that make up this province. The location of the provincial capital is yet to be decided. In the meantime, all provincial matters are handled in Banz, because no provincial headquarters have been established as yet. Each electorate is called a district and they have their own district capitals. The South Wahgi-Anglimb district capital is in Minj. Jimi District has its district capital in Tabibuga, and North Wahgi District has its district capital in Banz (National Research Institute, 2010).
Each district has one or more local level government (LLG) areas. South Whagi–Anglimb has two local level government districts. These are Anglimb Rural and South Wahgi. The South Wahgi LLG starts from Konfarm Balge, the border of Western Highlands Province, to Kupgamar, sharing boundaries with Simbu Province and Kambia. Jimi District has two local level government districts and they are Jimi Rural and Kol Rural Local Level Governments. The North Whagi electorate also has two LLG and they are North Wahgi Rural and Nondugl Rural Local Level Governments. North Wahgi spreads from Kerowahgi, Simbu Province, to Kimil Kondapina, Dei District of the Western Highlands Province. The LLG areas are further subdivided into a total of 184 Council Wards (National Research Institute, 2010). Each ward is represented by an elected councillor, who represents his/her people and who are further separated into tribal/clan groups. The clan and tribal groups are structured into villages. Natural geographical boundaries, such as rivers and mountains, mark these ethno-political groups with their unique customs and traditions. There are two main languages spoken in Jiwaka Province, with various dialects in each area. The people in the Western part of South Wahgi district speak the native Melpa Language. The rest of the people speak the local Jiwaka language. The differences in the dialects clearly define different tribal groups within
Currently, the Jiwaka provincial government has an elected governor facilitating the administrative affairs of the province. There are departments in the province, with caretakers on the ground, whilst positions are being advertised and the human resource (HR) processes are underway to appoint public servants to manage and run the affairs of the new province. Jiwaka Province has minimal political and administrative development, as they are still at an embryonic stage.
Jiwaka Province has a colourful traditional dance associated with different ceremonies and rituals, which could potentially attract tourists. The people take pride in their many unique customs and traditions and are very much attached to their environment and the traditional ways of life. The unexploited cultural rituals and practices, sacred grounds, ceremonial grounds, and customs are unique to Jiwaka. The people have been exposed to Western civilization but are still very attached to their indigenous practices. Tourism assets, such as the Wahgi River, the Wahgi Valley with tea and coffee plantations, rich native fruits and vegetables, the towering misty covered tropical mountain ranges with large caving systems and scenic views, the crystal clear waterfalls, beautiful natural scenery, and the unique Jiwaka way of life, have the potential to attract tourists.
The Jiwaka people live in tribal/clan and family groups on customarily owned land. They rely on their land within their own tribal boundaries for their livelihood. Distinct geographical boundaries, such as cliffs, hills, trees, native plants, creeks and rivers, distinguish the boundaries between tribal groups, clans and family groups. Therefore, land is an important cultural asset of the tribal/clan and family groups, as this provides a sense of belonging, cultural identity, status and security. Significantly, all the resources on the land are customarily owned by traditional landowners, and indigenous knowledge of land boundaries is common knowledge for customary landowners. Given this scenario, current or potential tourism products in PNG are often dependent on the environment and the land. The development of these products, such as kayaking down rivers, trekking, caving, and a road through a village to name a few examples, is usually on tribal and customary land. That is why community consultation, involvement and participation are necessary for tourism development.
The highlands highway runs through Wahgi Valley in Jiwaka Province. This is the major road that links the coastal parts of PNG to the rest of the seven highland provinces. The national highway connects Lae, Morobe Province and Madang Province on the coast of PNG to the ends of the Hela and Enga provinces in the highlands of PNG. There are smaller road networks branching off from the main highway to different areas in the highlands and Jiwaka Province. The conditions of the smaller roads range significantly and generally require upgrading and maintenance. The road network within Jiwaka connects most parts of the district, except for the Jimi and Kambia areas that are very difficult to access by road. The road network to Jimi from Banz has reached the district station of Tabibuga, but its condition is always poor. The rest of Jimi can be reached by traditional footpaths and long hours of walking. Kambia is another large area in the South Wahgi District that has limited infrastructure and other basic amenities and government services. There is no road network connecting the rest of Jiwaka to Kambia, except through traditional bush tracks over the Kubor Range that would take days and weeks of walking to reach Minj, the nearest town.
There is one airstrip in Kambia, where small third level airline aircrafts, such as Missionary Aviation Fellowship (MAF) aircraft operated by missionaries, can access. The remoteness of the place hinders development of all forms. There are three airstrips in Jimi accessed by MAF. The nearest airport is Kagamuga Airport in the Western Highlands Province, which can easily be reached within an hour from the furthest end of Jiwaka Province by road. Other nearby airports are Kundiawa in Simbu Province, which is three hours away, and Goroka Airport, four hours away from Jiwaka Province. People can reach Jiwaka by sea at Lae or Madang Ports, by road through the highlands highway in nine hours, and by air using any of these airports within 25 to 30 minutes.
Communication infrastructure is relatively good in the Jiwaka Province. Digicel Pacific is a telecommunication company that provides mobile reception to the remotest part of PNG. People out in the remotest areas can still call, Skype, message and access the Internet as long as their SIM cards have credit. PNG Power Company supplies electricity to all the provinces. Solar appliances and generators are also used. Fortunately, Jiwaka Province has a hydro plant that is currently under construction at Kudjip to supply power to the whole of Jiwaka Province, and that should be an added advantage to the province. More so, banking facilities can be accessed at Mt Hagen, WHP and the other major centres in Jiwaka Province. Finally and fortunately, Jiwaka has one of the best hospitals in the highlands region, Kudjip Nazarene Hospital, to care for health related issues.
Having covered these facilities and amenities, it is important to note that currently, Jiwaka provincial government has yet to put in place public service mechanisms with government departments, where tourism development could be administered. The site for the provincial headquarters has been chosen, but the provincial headquarters is in its very early stages of construction. Tourism development is most likely to progress with the growth of the province.
FYI: PNG’s 4 Regions & 22 Provinces