Story and pictures by PISAI GUMAR
“SOW your dreams upon the land for farming and nurture aptly whatever that sprouts from what you sow will direct your path to success,” says a grade 10 school leaver, Emilia Kamun.
Kamun completed grade 10 at Markham Valley Secondary School last year. The sense of being a school leaver encouraged her to step up and take daily challenges.
Whatever skills and knowledge she acquired in her high school agricultural lessons inspired her.
Kamun concentrated on it which gave a new lease of life to her and her Mangian community.
Her inspiration to “sow her dreams upon the land” not only surprised her community but saw her grow round cabbages and pak choi in Markham Valley.
Kamun’s dream turned a new leaf in the lives of local women to create self-employment opportunities for 32, bringing money to their doorsteps, learning how to manage what they earned (financial literacy) and promoted food security through backyard farming.
Kamun realised her passion in farming vegetables become reality when Fresh Produce Development Authority (FPDA) senior extension adviser in Morobe Conrad Anthon conducted awareness in Markham Valley.
Anthon with support of FPDA Momase regional programmes manager Barnabas Wahawe conducted awareness, encouraging village extension worker (VEW) concept.
The VEW idea captures the government’s aspirations to promote small to medium entrepreneurs (SME) through agricultural extension activities and encourages school leavers to see value in their land and invest energy and time to get to make ends meet and create self-employment.
Anthon and Wahawe initiated 14 VEWs in Morobe comprising six females and eight males located in Wantoat, Boana, Buang, Kumalu, Gurako, Nadzab, Mare, Bumayong, Buhalu and Busu.
The 14 VEWs in Morobe contributes to 88 VEWs in country and Kamun is one of those young and energetic, proud women who has invested in the agriculture business.
Kamun initiated Arimp women’s group in Mangian village in collaboration with FPDA on a five-year contract that will enhance local women’s farming skills and knowledge.
“Growing lowland round cabbage variety scientifically known as ‘KK Cross’ in Markham is an eye opener because Markham people think round cabbages and pak choi vegetables cannot grow in our valley,” Kamun said.
The two lowland round cabbage varieties are KK Cross and KY Cross currently creating ripples in generating income for rural women in Morobe.
The word arimp in Atzera dialect means embrace or hug so Kamun embraced 32 women as members of the group to support the VEW concept. Kamun shoulders the additional leadership role and responsibility to lead and manage the group.
She is assisted by Rose Isia and Dorothy Frank as treasurer and secretary respectively with advice from Antipas Arimpiam.
The first harvest was worth K5,000, generated from 35 plots containing 36 cabbages per plot and 16 plots of pak choi.
“This Mangian round cabbage project is an outstanding result for local women that grow for the first time round cabbages in Markham. We will introduce bulb onions and Highlands sweet potato to be grown in the Markham Plains as well,” Anthon said.
The VEW programme provides opportunities to school leavers in grade 10, 11 and 12 by training them to utilise land to create self-employment to make a living.
The series of VEW activities involve seed and planting materials, bulb onion, and value chain and market information since FPDA was established in 1998.
FPDA as a government agency in agricultural extension activities reaches out into rural areas purposely to ensure people realise the value of their land and make meaningful use of it.
FPDA looks to mentor school leavers to become job creators themselves rather than job seekers in urban areas.
Agmark assistant project manager of a cocoa project in Markham Absolom Kumed and local women micro-finance coordinator Josephine Landime witnessed the first harvest on Thursday.
The common staple diet in Markham Valley is banana (marafri) and yam with aibika and pumpkin tips creamed in coconut milk complemented by pork and occasionally beef using Atzera clay pots.
With the inception of round cabbages and pak choi into the Markham Valley, Kamun said it brought variety to their menu, especially in cooking Atzera dishes.