Women and youths lead farmer learning

A youth leader facilitating farmer training at Teptep in Raikos, Madang

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Women and youths contribute a greater share of labour in most developing countries. However, they have often been exploited to provide pools of cheap workforce that lack specialized knowledge and skills. In PNG, underdeveloped farming systems and capabilities make our economy very vulnerable to threats of food insecurity posed 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 and farming systems in order to be resilient. Therefore we are doing our best to engage both male and female farmers to be trained through trainer of trainers (TOT) programmes aligned to our projects.

Under the European Union funded Climate Change Resilience (EUCCR) project, inclusive engagement of women and youths farmer in up-skilling activities is an important area of focus. A number of TOT workshops have already been facilitated at our research centres and selected communities, around the country.

Between 2018 and 2019, two regional trainers’ workshops were undertaken at our Momase research centre in Lae. The first training catered for participants from Momase 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 being trained to facilitate outreach farmer trainings among communities they work with. These participants hailed from all over the country.

The trainings brought together a few model famers 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 had significant contributions to the development of agriculture in their own districts and provinces. One them was Mary Lilih, the Food Crops Officer for the DAL branch in Madang. She has been working to develop 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 commercialisation of locally produced rice.

Last May, she brought a delegation of local rice farmers to showcase their local Madang Magic Marasin brand of rice at our Agriculture Innovation Show. Apart from rice, she also promotes climate smart farming practices such as seed multiplication methods for common tuber and root crops; and using local resources to make healthy livestock feeds.

Farmer trainings have also been conducted at selected project sites. One of these sites is Teptep station in the mountains of Raikos district, Madang provinces. The station is situated along the border of Madang and Morobe. So far two farmer trainings have been facilitated. These were weeklong sessions conducted 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 Raikos district’s Naiyudo local level government (LLG) and Kabwum district’s Yus LLG areas. Some civil servants such as teachers and local administration officials also participated.

Yamoi Mussa is a mother who has benefitted from EUCCR farmer training programmes. She said women needed the kind of training to support church programmes for women as well as generate income to afford basic goods and services like education and health.

She was very pleased for the training in food process as it would provide them equal opportunities to produce and sell home-made products. However, she also acknowledged that it 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. In fact, after the first training, the lead trainer of trainers in Teptep, Ano Darkop had conducted four follow up outreach workshops for seven communities. There was very high representation of women and youths in these programmes. He has reported a total of 25 youths which comprised of 27 girls and 17 boys.

Figures for adults also showed a relatively higher level of participation by women (89) compared to men (23), respectively. A model youth farmer who emerge was from these trainings is Yangen Etara; a young man from Kaweng parish, in the Kabum district of Morobe.

After attending the initial and follow trainings, he ventured into facilitating his own workshops with the support of his community and local church. By the end of 2019, he had generated enough interest and confidence for the local high school to engage him to supply freshly baked sweetpoato flour buns for student meals, this year.  

While some progress has been made, we continue to get work with farmers to help them to effectively implement the new skills and knowledge they have gained during the project’s life and beyond.