Appreciating farming as a sustainable and viable business practice is the message from PNG Agriculture Company’s PNG Agbook who are partners with the UNCDF in the EU Funded Joint STREIT PNG Programme. PNG Agbook working with the PNG Cocoa Board, organized two sets of trainings for rural farmers in the Sepik region of Papua New Guinea.
A total of 23 farmers who represented farmer groups and agribusinesses in the Sandaun and East Sepik provinces were eager participants in the trainings conducted recently over a two-week period at the PNG Cocoa Board nursery site in Hawain, Wewak District, East Sepik Province.
Facilitating the sessions was owner and Managing Director of PNG Agbook Company, Ms Nicole Isifu, a committed young woman inspired to challenge existing farming practices and to drive an increase in more active youth participation in agriculture – as entrepreneurs rather than as part-timers and labourers.
The first module was on ‘financial literacy’ while the second session focused on ‘farming as a business’. Two participants manual booklets with simple instructions on topics covered in the sessions were also given to participants to take home and read at their own time.
Farming as a Business Manual contains topics like Basics of Money, Financial Fitness, Savings, Budgeting and Borrowing. While the Farm Business Plan booklet contains subjects like Farm Production Plan, Market Plan, Farm Business Profitability and Managing Risks.
“While farming provides a means for meeting household subsistence needs, the rationale is to add value out of this practice that must be business like and this is where financial literacy knowledge and farm management skills are crucial and necessary for rural communities in realizing the value of agriculture for an improved income and sustainable participation and living,” explained the EU Funded UN Joint STREIT Programme Coordinator Dr Xuebing Sun.
The participants also benefitted from the presence of three other UNCDF financial institution partners under the EU Funded STREIT Programme. MiBank, WMBL (Mama Bank) and Cellmoni (Digicel) were invited to make special presentations to the farmers on their savings requirements, loan eligibility and the different products and services that are available to the three value chains.
The farmers attended as Trainers-of-Trainers and were expected to return to their clusters/groups to train other members including youths and women so this important knowledge to appreciate and practice farming as a business is passed on to others for a collective change in mindset by all in rural communities.
For the participants, contents of the training were excellent and relevant to their household and farming needs where they can easily implement in their local areas.
“We didn’t know how to save money with the bank so in times of need we can apply for small loans. If this training had come earlier, I think PNG would have change a lot,” said Xavier Kapia, a single male farmer from Mupa Cocoa Farming Group of Angoram District, East Sepik.
“When I have a family, my children should not face the challenges of not completing their education just because of school fee problems. I will start saving now,” added Kapia who is still enjoying a young life.
The training was beneficial to farmer groups as well to operate like a business.
“With this financial literacy skills, we can now prepare proper documentations as one of the requirements of lending agencies to access small loans.
My executives are village boys so I can go back and train them,” said Jimmy Makain, the Executive Officer of Wape Agriculture Marketing Group in the Lumi District of Sandaun Province.
The group has a membership of 56 clusters comprising 1300 plus member farmers which includes youths and women from East and West Wape LLGs.
UNCDF partner under the EU-STREIT PNG Programme, MiBank, opened 22 new accounts from this meeting, not only from the participants, but also from locals living within the vicinity of the training area.
The UNCDF under EU-STREIT PNG and in collaboration with local partners support implementation of activities related to access finance, rural banking and cashless banking systems.
The Programme also support financial literacy of the beneficiaries and an improved business environment.
The EU-STREIT PNG, being implemented as a UN joint Programme (FAO as leading agency, and ILO, ITU, UNCDF and UNDP as implementing partners), is the largest grant-funded Programme of the European Union in the country and the Pacific region, which focuses on increasing sustainable and inclusive economic development of rural areas through Increasing the economic returns and opportunities from cocoa, vanilla and fishery value chains and strengthening and improving the efficiency of value chain enablers including the business environment and supporting sustainable, climate-proof transport and energy infrastructure development.