THE work of women in the agriculture sector has always been a pillar of strength in our society, writes AARON INAMARA.
THE work of women in the agriculture sector has always been a pillar of strength in our society.
It is however a sad reality that their place in discussions and decision making processes has always been undermined by unjust socio-cultural ideas and practices.
Despite this, the National Agriculture Research Institute (Nari) has been able to embrace and champion the concept of gender equity through many of our projects.
One of these was the second phase of European Union funded Rural Economic Development (RED 2) project.
The project explored how farmer resource centres (FRCs) could be instrumental in driving women participation and leadership.
This was realised in the involvement of women farmer associations and cooperatives in the 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 district, Jiwaka.
In fact, the existence and work of the women led South Waghi Organic Food Farmers association (Swoffa) was crucial in establishment of the resource centre.
Swoffa was formed and registered in 2001.
It is now a major and successful cooperative society in the South Waghi district.
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, 10 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 oversee 10 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 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 resource centre 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 extended the training to their own ward areas.
The 10 women directors have been excelling in their own programmes.
During the Minj FRC resource centre 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 about 100 students.
Many of these persons have been successfully rehabilitated and now lead positive lives.
Of these, some have undergone training for pastoral and teaching ministries, with their local church.
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 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,” Gwan said.
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 promising financial and health benefits; of 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.
“There are also ‘desert’ flowers which are naturally tolerant to extreme environmental conditions.
“These attributes make them particularly resilient to sustain income generation and food security for families when other crops fail”.
The leadership potential of women in agriculture has blossomed with the support of South Waghi organic food farmers and the Minj resource centre with rewarding benefits for the women, their families and communities.
It is vital that more support is given to farmer resource centres to promote the role women play in building resilient agricultural families and communities, in Papua New Guinea.
- Aaron is the Information & Communication Officer with Nari