Women, youths vital in farming

Focus
Farming in developing countries depend heavily on women and youths to provide labour. Their services are on occasions exploited in underdeveloped farming systems such as Papua New Guinea’s, writes AARON INAMARA

WOMEN and youths contribute a greater share of labour in most developing countries.
However, they have often been exploited to provide pools of cheap workforces that lack specialised knowledge and skills.
This is a serious challenge in PNG where underdeveloped farming systems make our economy vulnerable to threats of food insecurity caused by extreme climate change stresses.
The National Agricultural Research Institute (Nari) is working to mitigate this risk by creating opportunities for rural farmers to add value to their practice in order to be resilient.
For this reason, we are doing our best to engage both male and female farmers to be trained through trainer of trainers (TOT) programmes that are aligned to our projects.
Under the European Union funded climate change resilience (EUCCR) project, inclusive engagement of women and youth farmers in up-skilling activities is an important area of focus.
A number of TOT workshops have been facilitated at our research centres and selected communities around the country.
Between 2018 and 2019, two regional trainers’ workshops were undertaken at our Mamose research centre in Lae.
The first training catered for participants from Mamose and the Highlands and second for the New Guinea Islands and Southern regions respectively.
These efforts have seen a good number of women and youths trained to facilitate outreach farmer trainings among communities they work with.
These participants hailed from all over the country.

Women from Talasea in West New Britain attending a week-long training with the National Agriculture Research Institute in Kerevat, East New Britain. – Picture courtesy of Australian High Commission

The trainings brought together a few model farmers from targeted communities as well as those who represented leading community development agencies from both the public and private sector such as the Department of Agriculture and Livestock (DAL) and Lutheran development services.
Many of the women participants have made significant contributions to the development of agriculture in their own districts and provinces.
One of them was Mary Lilih, the food crops officer for the DAL branch in Madang.
She has been working to develop the smallholder rice industry in rural districts of the province for over a decade.
Two of her most outstanding achievements have been in pioneering efforts to adopt the Kisar wooden rice milling technology and the commercialisation of locally produced rice.
Last May, she brought a delegation of local rice farmers to showcase their local Madang Magic Marasin brand at Nari’s Agriculture Innovation Show.
Apart from rice, she promotes climate smart farming practices such as seed multiplication methods for common tuber and root crops and sustainable soil management methods using local resources.
Farmer trainings also conducted at selected project sites.
One of these sites is Teptep station in the mountains of Raikos, Madang.
The station is situated along the border of Madang and Morobe.
So far, two farmer trainings were facilitated.
These were week-long sessions covering aspects of soil management, livestock husbandry and food processing.
Both trainings were attended by over 80 participants and observers.
Most of them were from the parishes of Utaguga, Isan, Kewang, Nokopo, Wandabo and Bungawat, within Naiyudo local level government (LLG) in Raikos and Yus LLG in Kabwum, Morobe.
Some civil servants such as teachers and local administration officials also participated.
Yamoi Mussa is a mother who benefitted from EUCCR farmer training programmes.
She said women needed that kind of training to support relevant church programmes as well as to generate income to afford basic goods and services like education and health.
Mussa was pleased with the training in food processing as it would help women make home-made products to improve the diet and nutrition of their families.
However, she acknowledged that the challenge of procuring necessary store materials would affect their efforts to continue implementing the new skills they had learnt.
Young people also participated actively in the trainings.
After the first training, Ano Darkop, a young model farmer and lead trainer of trainers in Teptep, conducted four follow up outreach workshops for seven communities.
There was high representation of women and youths in these programmes.
So far, a total of 27 girls and 17 boys were trained.
Figures for adults showed a relatively higher level of participation by women (89) compared to men (23).
A model youth farmer who emerged from these trainings was Yangen Etara, a young man from Kaweng parish in Kabwum, Morobe.
After attending the initial and follow trainings, he ventured into facilitating his own workshops with the support of his community and the local church.
By the end of 2019, he generated enough interest and confidence for the local high school to engage him to supply freshly baked sweet potato flour buns for student meals this year.
While some progress were made, Nari continues to get feedback from farmers and working with them to see how best to help them access technical support so that the new skills and knowledge could be effectively implemented, beyond the project’s life.

  • Aaron Inamara is information and communication officer with Nari

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