The National,Tuesday March 8th, 2016
By Barbara Tomi
Kathleen Sar is a mother of young children who has recently resettled back in her village of Megiar, on the north coast of Madang province to care for her elderly parents. She does not have a garden or the finances to start up a small business to support herself and her children. Her only support is what her husband can provide from work in the oil palm fields in West New Britain or her siblings.
While living in West New Britain, she had opportunities to involve with women’s groups to learn various life skills, but caring for young children and fees to attend trainings have generally prevented her from pursuing what might have been income earning opportunities for self sustenance.
Since coming back to the village, Sar noticed a flourishing business opportunity in floriculture especially in the Madang town area and along with her relatives; they have formed a group to tap into floriculture. Most of the members are from the Megiar village but is lead by women who have worked and lived in town and has seen the potential flowers can have on the income of families who rely on single workers pay.
The group name is Nudsan Balai, ‘gutpela bilas blong bus o ples’ as translated in Tok Pisin or beautiful village or bush decoration. The members are mainly hobbyists who grow their flowers near their homes as a decoration while a few who have additional land grow various flowers on their blocks.
The village women recently heard of flowers as a revenue earner and they expressed had approached NARI for training on products that can be derived from floriculture, skills in the growing and caring for plants, and using flowers for decorative arrangements.
During a ‘show and tell’ session organised by the PNG Floriculture Project last year in Megiar, each participant was asked to produce a floral arrangement from the flowers they brought and share their method or ideas behind the arrangements. Many expressed delight of having to put together a decoration for the first time. The activity gave them a sense of achievement which previously, has only been a wish.
Sar said when she was in Kimbe, her friends told her about a flower arrangement training which was going for K100 per person. She was really interested but couldn’t afford the fee. She later saw her friends, who attended the training, do their arrangements and display it around town and she was full of regrets.
“Nau mi gat bikpela amamas long save long yusim flawa o sapos nogat flawa ok mi ken putim tanget ol wanem kain lip i stap mi ken yusim long mekim bilas blong mi (I am happy now that I have learnt a few tips on the use of flowers or if there are no flowers, I can use Tanget or any other leaves to do an arrangement).”
Her niece, Esther Yawenuli, said she saw an arrangement during a festival in Madang which was so intriguing she took photos of it and she had been trying to figure out how they did it. After this show and tell session, a light has shone through the cloud of her imagination. What she learnt and practiced then was the art that was applied to the decoration she had captured and stored in her mobile phone.
“I’ve learnt a new skill that has opened my mind to use what we have (leaves, trees, flowers) to decorate or make an arrangement. Flowers can relieve one from problems and stress, working and playing around with flowers too will release you from stress,” Yawenuli said.
Many others expressed similar sentiments. Hearing what most of the women were saying showed that they want to diversity their activities and farming skills to generate additional income for their families. Flower cultivation and decoration is only natural for women as they love to plant flowers to beautify their homes. Teaching them to create products from the flowers and plants is taking that hobby or passion further to an enterprise stage.
Seeing people’s face light up as realisation seeps in is one of those moments one can treasure most about their work. For women like Kathleen Sar, learning such a skill is only a dream and a small gesture as such can be a trigger that can inspire a whole village’s inner creative skills to shine out and if and when possible bring in monetary or other rewards.
As Jean Kong, another participant commented; “Madang is known for its purpur (grass skirts) layered in bright colours. Learning by experience is the key”.