Agricultural extension services need effective partnerships between relevant stakeholders to build climate change resilience among rural farming communities. This is vital to address food and economic security challenges in Papua New Guinea. The National Agriculture Research Institute supported smallholder farmer learning and adaptation of appropriate agricultural technologies under phase two of the European Union funded Rural Economic Development project. This was done in partnership with stakeholders that include the Provincial Divisions of Primary Industry (DPI), community development agencies, women farmers groups and faith-based organizations in the seven highlands provinces. The rollout of farmer resource centers and training of trainers (ToT) interventions were tailored inclusively, to address training needs identified through a baseline survey that was conducted in 2016.
Participants for the ToT training were taken through both indoor and outdoor training sessions that covered a wide range of modules which featured high value crops of sweet potato, Irish potato and bulb onion. Training was facilitated to capture aspects such as:
- How to conduct and replicate farmers training;
- Agricultural production and best practices in post harvest management;
- Awareness and management of economic pests and diseases using integrated strategies
- Agri-business start-up and financial literacy;
- Understanding market economy and value chain systems;
- Introduction and field demonstrations of improved varieties like late blight tolerant potato, pathogen tested sweetpotato and bulb onion.
The work of training participants at their respective resource centres has been quite outstanding, over the past year. The Laiagam and Ifiufa farmer resource centres have shown outstanding successes. Both have seen much greater involvement of women trainers through the involvement of women farmer groups.
For the former, women trainers from the West Enga Women in Agriculture (WEWiA) have been showcasing their ability to develop tailored training programmes shortly after receiving training in June of 2018. Three trainers who have led this effort are Joanna Pamore (the leader), Leah Zamin and Emly Tapus. They have now conducted this training with ten farmer groups, with the support from Enga Provincial DPI.
The total number of members registered with WEWiA now stands at 470 farmers. “More training requests are coming in from different parts of the province as far as Lakopend in the boarder of Wabag and Wapanamanda districts; as well as Surinki and Maip Mulitaka in the Laiagap-Porgera district”, said, Ms. Pambore.
An outstanding observation seen was the ability of the local trainers to use their own Engan dialects to aide farmers’ understanding of new concepts. Due to increasing interested and request for clean sweetpotato seed materials; the group has decided to facilitate training needs for farming groups rather than few individuals. This decision has led to farmers mobilizing to form new groups or join existing groups that are affiliated with the Enga women’s farmer group.
Examples of groups that have recently joined the group include Laiagham District Council of Women; Wabag District Council of Women; Porgera Resident Women Association; Christian Apostolic Church; and Immanuel Covenant Group. These groups are now multiplying their sweetpotato and Irish potato seeds for planting and demonstration purposes in their own demonstration fields. They have also teamed up with Porgera Women in Business and IPI Group of Companies under the Porgera Chamber of Commerce. These partnerships have resulted in an arrangement to supply fresh produce to the Israel Agro Innovative Industry set-up in Taluma.
Another remarkable story comes from Eastern Highlands through the work of Yuhu Yuho Nasahiri Womens Association from Ifiyufa in the Asaro valley. The group’s objective is to help women farmers take-up income generating activities in the fields of agriculture and floriculture. The group’s advisor, Mr. George Mosinokave spoke highly of the farmer resource centres and training of trainers interventions last year during the closing conference for the EU project. He is one of three trainers at Ifiyufa that conducts improved sweetpotato, bulb onion and Irish potato training to farmers in the surrounding communities. Asaro valley is an area known for producing and marketing sweetpotato. However, Mr Mosinokave has observed that, “Farmers preferences for pathogen tested clean planting materials is growing because of they produce high yields of desired shapes, colours and tastes.
Active participation of farmers associated with Ifiyufa farmer resource centre has received support from Fresh Produce Development Agency. The organization has engaged them as ware potato producers for its contract markets such as the Israel Agro Innovative Industry company based in Pangia (SHP). The Ifiyufa centre is also used by other agencies such as CARE International and Oxfam. They facilitate trainings on initiatives such as gender inclusivity in coffee farm business management and Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, respectively. The National Development Bank and Mi Bank also use the centre to promote their products and services.
Farmer resource centres and trainer of trainer are equal opportunity interventions which are tailored to address identified training and information needs among rural, smallholder farmers. They are viable platforms for collaborations that link smallholder farmers with professional support to improve levels of productivity and socio-economic security.