EU-STREIT PNG Programme continues to provide technical assistance to vanilla farmers in the Sepik Region despite facing geographical challenges

The EU-STREIT Papua New Guinea (PNG) continues to provide technical support to vanilla farmers, even in hard-to-reach areas, assisting them to return and maintain high-quality vanilla production as a lucrative and cash-earning commodity for rural families in the Sepik Region.

Despite facing geographical challenges like lack of road access, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), under the EU Funded UN Joint STREIT PNG Programme, and in collaboration with local partners, is steadfast in its mission to provide technical assistance to rural farmers in remote areas of the Sepik Region.

This month the Vanilla Value Chain Team of the EU-STREIT PNG Programme with officers from Maprik District Division of Agriculture and Livestock walked three hours by foot through mountain tracks to provide technical support to 314 farmers, including 87 women and youths, in a rural community bordering East Sepik and Sandaun provinces.

‘Wamsok 3′ was the site of one of the two-day capacity building training courses conducted by FAO in the Albiges Mamblep LLG. The trainees, being members of BTK Farmers’ Cooperative and representing nine villages, namely Wamsok 1, 2, 3 and 4, Hambini, Nilu 1 and 2, Supari and Womsis, trained and capacitated to act as Trainer-of-Trainers during this FAO-organised course.

The EU-STREIT Team, in a similar attempt to provide support to the rural population, also ascended bush tracks for close to two hours to reach Mandigen Village located in the Nienguanje and Suambakau areas of the Wewak Rural LLG, and provided intensive training to 60 lead farmers on Vanilla Cultivation, Husbandry, and Processing. The participants who also attended as Trainer-of-Trainers (TOTs) represented almost 200 households. They are expected to share this newly acquired knowledge and skills in vanilla farming with ten others in their respective clusters or households, and the total beneficiaries are expected to be 600.

In both target communities, the attendees have been growing and processing vanilla for over ten years, but this was their first formal training to learn proper and efficient techniques in Vanilla Cultivation, Husbandry and Processing.

“It was very tiring, but to serve them better, we must see and feel their struggles, especially mothers and girls who carry heavy loads to walk these terrains to the nearest road,” said Mission Team Leader and National Vanilla Production Officer Nanda Siri.

Local Ward Member Gilbert Freedom, while welcoming the Programme officers, said: “This is the first time since 1975 when the country gained independence, for a training like this [to take place here]. This is why many of us are here, including some who walked long distances across from Aitape side of neighbouring Sandaun Province.” 

The training, led by FAO, aimed to brief and master the trainees on the proper practices to bring back the quality and price of this lucrative crop (green gold) on which thousands of rural families in the region live.

These trainings are meant to fill in the gaps of what the farmers have already adopted through self-taught practices.

The mission also conducted block inspections and GPS mapping of existing vanilla blocks for rehabilitation with treated vanilla cuttings, which will be the next line of assistance, before supplying equipment to farmer groups for proper processing of beans.

A gender sensitisation activity on the critical roles women play in the community, including the vanilla value chain, was also conducted during the mission. The session was very interactive with both women and men expressing their thoughts on some cultural constraints women face in the community and how they can support each other, starting with household chores to vanilla farming as a family business.

The MiBank, under an LoA with EU-STREIT PNG, also joined the vanilla value chain on the mission and explained to the rural communities why it is important to open a bank account to save their monies in a safe place which can also grow, enabling them to apply for small loans to start small businesses. 

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. It 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.

This story was written by Amir Khaleghiyan, originally published at FAO PNG on 23 March 2022, reposted via PACNEWS.

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