The Fruit of Community Labour

Author: Noel Kuman

With COVID-19 hitting the shores of Papua New Guinea, an added level of complexity has been added to the Community Enterprise Program, where we are looking to develop a community owned piggery enterprise. Protecting the Hela community is at the heart of our program, so it was imperative that we proceeded with the next phase of the program – growing and harvesting – with caution.

We had to delay re-entering the sites for the whole of June and part of July. In the last year and nine months we trained and worked with thirteen model farm leaders to develop Model Farms, a common means in agricultural extension systems to train strong farmers in new cultivation techniques and technologies to pass this knowledge on to local communities. This meant the program could continue in our absence.

Progress was maintained thanks to the community leaders providing strong leadership, model farm leaders parting their knowledge, and the support of their community members. There is a sense of pride amongst the community on the progress in growing sweet potato and cassava (which will go into local stockfeed production). A day in a week they turned up to work to maintain the model farms and increasingly they could see the fruits of the community’s labour.

When I returned to Hela in July, I was greeted by fields of green. Pushing the dirt slightly away I could see healthy tubers of both crops growing. These plants will be used in three ways:

  1. Model farm leaders will cut the vines and distribute them so that other farmers can start growing them on their farms.
  2. The tubers harvested in first model farms are used to mass propagate vines quickly for distribution to meet high demand. The current vines grown at the model farms are not enough to meet the demand of large numbers of farmers, however, over time the program will meet this demand.
  3. Tubers were purchased by Wonderland Agristock Limited (WAL) will continue to be processed into feedstock and stored in a newly built bunker for the arrival of pigs.

Alongside this, we are growing legumes, peas (mug, pigeon & chickpeas) to improve the fertility of the soil, plus a new crop to sell to the market. The long-term vision is for every farmer to grow sweet potato together with legumes which they can sell back to Wonderland Agristock Limited for feed production while maintaining soil fertility.

There is a hive of activity at the moment. You can feel the energy in the community who see the potential of what can be achieved and how they can take ownership in their destiny. Through investing time at the start of the program in changing mindsets, working on opening people’s eyes to opportunities, using model farms (and the leaders of the farms), engaging community leaders… the drive to see this program succeed is very apparent. There is excitement, joy, and a real sense of community spirit to the program.

And it is just the beginning. In the next few weeks:

  • WAL is at the final stage of leasing land to establish its commercial piggery and grow more crops for the piggery;
  • We are beginning to engage piggery outgrowers to rear pigs that will be sold back to WAL to buy;
  • Introduce a digital system to improve the efficiency and to digitally track, monitor, and report the program implementation; and,
  • Now with a chipper recently purchased, we have processed sweet potato into feedstock that can be stored in the new bunker.

It’s an exciting journey, and it is thanks to the fruit of this community’s labour.

Design by HEARD Agency