The work of women in the agricultural sector has always been a pillar of strength in our society. AARON INAMARA from Nari explains more on this issue
THE work of women in the agricultural sector has always been a pillar of strength in our society.
It is, however, a sad reality that their place at discussions and decision making process has always been subjected to unjust socio-cultural norms and values.
In aligning its projects to our country’s principal development policy framework such as the PNG Vision 2050; the National Agriculture Institute (NARI) has been able to embrace and champion the concept of gender equity.
Many of its projects promote equal participation of the genders.
The recently concluded phase two of the European Union funded Rural Economic Development (RED 2) project was instrumental in driving this agenda further through the engagement of women in the farmer resource centres (FRCs).
This is especially apparent in the number of women farmer associations and cooperatives that have been involved in the management and running of the FRCs across the highlands region.
One of the FRCs that is featuring the role of women quite prominently is the Minj FRC at Gusamp in Anglimp-South Waghi, Jiwaka.
In fact, the existence and work of the women led South Waghi Organic Food Farmers Association (SWOFFA) was crucial in establishment of the FRC.
SWOFFA was formed and registered in 2001.
It is now a major and successful cooperative society in South Waghi.
The society’s vision is to secure nutritional and financial prosperity for communities who depend on the smallholder horticulture industry for their livelihoods.
Since its establishment, ten sub-associations have been formed as its registered members.
The sub-associations represent community-based organisations and family groups from the local council ward areas.
Each one of them caters for more than 5,000 smallholder farmer households.
Each of the sub-associations oversee10 outreach programmes.
The outreach programmes are coordinated by women directors and they capture a wide range of cross-cutting issues.
These programmes include:
- Jiwaka friends – to support HIV/AIDS victims;
- Jiwaka bridging gap – rehabilitates victims of drug and substance abuse;
- Livestock and clean sweet potato – promotes multiplication and distribution of pathogen tested (PT) sweet potato seeds and piggery initiatives;
- Jiwaka Council of Women – works with all council ward under community development programmes;
- business and household – encourages women to undertake small-to-medium-enterprise initiatives and buy processed timber to build permanent houses;
- guest house and coffee – promotes these as viable SME projects and exploration of markets for PT potato planting materials;
- honey production – trains farmers in honey production ;
- fishery – trains farmers in-land fish farming;
- rice and taro – trains farmers in producing improved varieties of these crops as well as PT potato; and,
- Floriculture – trains farmers in flower planting and marketing.
The directors have worked very well together with the Minj FRC president Agnes Merep Gal.
The success of their efforts has seen five farmer trainings being conducted at the centre since its launching last year.
Participants comprised of officials from rural development and local level government as well as the directors themselves.
Those trainings were staged under the overarching theme of “Working together to build a productive community – Taking agriculture to the next level”.
After the training, the women directors extend the training to their own ward areas.
The 10 women directors have been excelling in their own programmes.
During the Minj FRC launch, they took the opportunity to showcase their work.
One of these was Frieda Kaman, who is supported by her husband Peter in running the Jiwaka bridging gap – drug rehabilitation project.
The couple said it has been a real challenge but we have been encouraged to carry on from seeing young people’s potentials and futures being rejuvenated, through our programmes.
Over the last five years, they have facilitated rehab training for 150 clients.
Ten of them have been completely rehabilitated to now lead productive lives.
Of these, five are undergoing training to take up pastoral and teaching ministries, at their local churches.
Others have also pursued formal and informal educational pathways.
Another success story is that of Mathilda Gwan who pursued her interest in floriculture since 2016.
Gwan was part of the AIS (Agriculture Innovation Show) last week exhibiting a range of her exotic flower products.
She was compelled to take up floriculture after realising its social and economic benefits through the work of other women.
“I became interested from seeing other women beautifying their homes and having fun travelling to exhibitions and making good money”.
She is keen to develop a training programme for women and is seeking support needed to do that.
Her encouragement to other women: “We need to look beyond the normal farming practices and try tapping into floriculture.
“Besides financial and health benefits; – flowers have an added edge when it comes to climate change as they can be easily sustained through provision of protective shelter and nurturing during droughts, for example”.
Gwan further pointed out that there are also “desert” flowers which are naturally tolerant to extreme environmental conditions.
These attributes make floriculture particularly viable for sustaining income and food security for families, when other crops fail.
The leadership potential of women in agriculture has blossomed with the support of SWOFFA and the Minj FRC with rewarding benefits for the women directors, their families and communities.
It is vital that more support is given to all the launched FRCs to promote the role women play in building resilient agricultural families and communities, in PNG.
- Aaron Inamara is Nari’s information and communication officer