INNOVATIVE Agro Industry (IAI) PNG has announced an increase in the number of women working at its Sirunki Farm in Enga.
To accomplish both national and provincial objectives in the agriculture sector, Enga provincial government (EPG) and IAI entered into an agreement in Feb 2016 for the establishment of the Agro Industrial Centre (AIC) in Sirunki.
The project is operated under the registered company Enga AIC Ltd and operates under the name Sirunki Farm.
The project comprises two major components:
- Agro industrial services and training centre: Provides services and inputs to local farmers, procures fresh vegetables from local outgrowers and processes and markets the produce;
- A 15ha Commercial Agro Industrial Centre which grows, processes and markets its own produce.
The project has been buying produce from local smallholder farmers to market together with the AIC produce farmed onsite.
Encouraging rural women’s participation in commercial agriculture teaches them new skills.
“Female participation in farming cooperatives can help to achieve economies of scale to access markets and reduce isolation, while building confidence, leadership and security,” the company said in a statement.
“Women are an integral part of community building and involving them in projects that teach them new skills are essential to empowering women.
“Finding a way to do this without battling cultural norms was the challenge faced by Enga AIC in creating employment opportunities for female farmers when the project first got underway.
T”he model currently used by the local community to ensure female participation as employees of the farm is a first for any agribusiness operation in the province.”
Households support each other to ensure that a different mother works a different day at the farm while others from the community step in to assist with managing household duties.
This is a solution developed by the communities themselves.
Chairman of IAI PNG, Ilan Weiss said: “Female farmers in Enga face a perpetual struggle to participate in commercial farming operations such as Enga AIC due to the constraints of clearly defined gender roles in rural Engan culture.
“We seldom hear about their successes and triumphs. By working hand-in-hand with our partners at the Enga provincial administration and local councilors, we have managed to create opportunities for employment at Sirunki Farm for women from local households.
The women are being supported by their family unit and local community to work a few days a week, earning cash income to supplement largely subsistence household incomes.