Matt and Mike – Tupla didiman
M.B. Kanua, and R.M. Bourke, - These names can be found together as authors in some of the most consequential research papers and reports on agricultural development in PNG.
As a young graduate, Matt Kanua had already read several of Mike Bourke's papers. Their paths crossed in Tari in October '84 when Mike was doing fieldwork living on the remote Nembi Plateau. Matt was a little apprehensive: "When I saw Mike, he was a wild bushman, and was wearing shorts!"
Mike was based in East New Britain and later in the Eastern Highlands and has conducted fieldwork in all 85 rural districts of PNG. Matt grew up in Simbu and Jiwaka and has also worked in many rural locations. They collaborated intermittently for years until 2010 when Mike called on Matt to be his deputy and later lead a team for the successful Community Livelihood Improvement component of the PNG LNG project. They have been research and intellectual partners ever since.
They have undertaken ground-breaking assessments on villagers' food needs after natural disasters. On another project, they traversed 250 km of remote locations from southeast of Tabubil (Western Province) to southwest of Lake Kutubu (Southern Highlands) surveying villagers' food and income sources. Whether in the field or in their roles as researchers, government advisors or officials, their professional connection and friendship remains key to their success.
"Matt is a lateral thinker" says Mike, "he provides different contextual perspectives to the work, and when he says 'I'll think about it' he actually means it! He will go away and think something through". Matt's approach and deep understanding of culture and practices among rural villagers has been critical to bringing meaningful outcomes for local communities. Matt is also able to translate the tok bokis of stakeholder in the field of agricultural development which helps them reach desired project outcomes.
Matt says he has been 'professionally blessed and enriched by his collaboration with Mike'. His long research and development experience in PNG as well as expertise in agricultural systems, climate and assessment methods is essential to the agricultural development of the country. Matt views collaborative work, such as his work with Mike, as a necessary model for effective development - connecting skills, ideas, perspectives, and a deep knowledge of the country to reach meaningful and substantial outcomes.
The tupla didiman have grown to be close friends, supporting each other in times of personal tragedy, and making sure they always enjoy a good laugh. For instance, Mike enjoys teasing Matt about snakes when Matt comes to stay on Mike’s farm east of Canberra, which Matt calls the snake capital of the world. And Matt likes to remind Mike that he looked like a wild bush man when they met in Hela Province all those years ago.