A WOMAN in the Markham district of Morobe is one of 12 farmers in the district to operate a solar rice mill machine.
Eileen Daniels, a local rice farmer from Atupan village of Umi Azira in Markham, operates two milling machines, made up of a huller and polisher, powered by four large solar panels.
The machines were part of a K2.5 million pilot project for 30 communities in Morobe, funded by the Papua New Guinea-Australia Partnership through the Incentive Fund programme and delivered in partnership with the National Agriculture Research Institute (Nari).
The project aims to reduce communities’ reliance on imported rice and enable them to mill their own rice, improving food security.
She is the eldest of seven children – three brothers and four sisters – from parents Saya and Ruth Daniels.
A mother of two girls and a boy, Daniels is an independent woman driving agricultural activities in her community and helping them produce their own rice for consumption as well as to sell.
Her father Saya Daniels was a “didiman” (agricultural officer) with a long history working in the sector which gave her the motivation to empower her community to use their land for rice farming and other crops that could generate an income.
Daniels started her elementary to primary school education in Central province between 1991-1998 when her father joined the Education Department through the 1990s; he taught at Iopora Primary School.
It was after grade seven, when the family returned to Morobe in 2000, she transferred to Bumayong Lutheran Secondary School where she completed grades eight to nine; she continued to Salamua High School to do her grade 10.
At that time, two of Daniels’ brothers were also completing their education, which meant she had to leave school and support her parents financially.
In 2002, Daniels was already assisting her parents farming the land to grow watermelons, cucumbers and peanuts, which they sold to support her brothers’ education.
In 2003, she enrolled at the Teacher Directed Training Institute where she became a qualified elementary school teacher for early childhood education.
She graduated and taught at an elementary school in Markham in 2005 and later she moved to Wasu in Tewai-Siassi district where she taught from 2008 to 2009.
In 2015, Daniels was introduced to the Papua New Guinea Women in Agriculture Association where she completed short courses in agricultural activities run by Nari.
Through the mentorship of her uncle Peter Linibi and aunt Maria, she was taught to acquire resources and cultivating the land to produce quality cash crops.
“Uncle Peter started this solar rice mill project with me and after two weeks he passed away,” Daniels said.
“It was a very challenging time for me since he was my mentor; the man I looked up to in carrying out this project had passed.
“I thought to myself that I need to carry on with what we started, what he (uncle Peter) had encourage me to do and see it through.”
Daniels said the launch of the project was a proud moment for her and was the culmination of the work and commitment she and her uncle had put in and she looked forward to developing it and establishing herself in the rice industry.
“Nari and Trukai Industry helped us, the Atupan community, with the training of basic rice planting skills, harvesting processes and milling rice using the two milling machines – the huller and the polisher. The community has been very supportive and corporative in working towards making the project a success,” she said.
“Everyone was eager to grow rice and hopefully we’ll see it become a success.”
Markham MP and Vice Minister for Agriculture and Livestock Koni Iguan acknowledged Daniels’ contribution to the establishment of the local rice industry in the province and called on all farmers in Atupan and surrounding villagers in Markham to make use of their land with agricultural activity.
“I am very happy and pleased to announce that I will make funding available to support the project,” Iguan said.
He gave two market stalls in the newly built Mutzing Anza market to Daniels and her team to sell their locally-produced and packed rice.