Photo credit: EU-STREIT PNG
In its ongoing mission to mainstream gender concerns and youth inclusion into the agri-food value chain, the EU Funded UN Joint STREIT PNG Programme in Papua New Guinea, in partnership with stakeholders, has conducted 12 sensitisation sessions and training workshops covering 5000 plus farmers, villagers, officials, extension service workers and students in East Sepik and Sandaun provinces during the first four months of this year.
These awareness and capacity building sessions, between January and April 2022, were conducted in 50 locations involving participants from 34 Wards in 22 Local Level Governments (LLGs). The sensitisation also covered three secondary schools, a primary school and a technical and vocational training centre.
Along with Gender and Youth sensitisation and capacity building activities, under the Cocoa, Vanilla and Fisheries value chain development initiatives led by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), over 3000 girls of 16 years and above have been trained as lead farmers. These girls and women attended capacity-building trainings conducted in rural LLGs and Districts of East Sepik and Sandaun provinces. They have been enabled and mastered to pass on the acquired skills such as in Cocoa Propagation and Block Management and Vanilla Cultivation, Husbandry and Processing techniques to other fellows in their households or clusters. These trainees (ToT) would in turn maximising their reach to a larger number of beneficiaries in hard-to-reach rural communities, enabling more farmers to contribute towards increasing quantity/quality production for an increased income and cash flow among farming households and communities.
All capacity development trainings are facilitated in collaboration with extension service officers from the Cocoa Board, the Fisheries Authority, Divisions of Agriculture and Livestock and local NGO workers and it is envisaged to translate knowledge materials such as manuals in the local Tok Pisin language for better dissemination.
In terms of providing quality agriculture inputs, 2500 youths and women in 16 villages have received Cocoa Pod Borer (CPB) tolerant seedlings to replace old sterile trees.
To strengthen local capacity on quality transport infrastructure works in the Sepik Region, the International Labour Organization (ILO) under EU-STREIT PNG, and in partnership with TVET Centre in Wewak, organised a skills training and capacity development course for 30 youths and women, pulled from different parts of East Sepik Province. This ongoing collaboration will develop the capacities of 150 more youths by the end of the year, thereby creating and promoting decent employment opportunities for rural youth and women who lack qualifications on in-demand practical skills.
Furthermore, to improve access to financial services to rural areas, the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), under EU-STREIT PNG Programme and in partnership with three local financial institutions, has rolled out an “access to finance” and financial literacy initiative. Through this initiative, more than 13,000 women in the Greater Sepik region have been connected to the formal financial system in the first four months of 2022.
Commenting on this multi-UN agency efforts, the Programme’s International Gender and Youth Inclusion Specialist, Patu Shang, said: “Gender is cross-cutting, and when people are gender sensitised and aware, families and communities stay intact, and sustainable development becomes a norm.”
She added: “We can’t change the mindsets in one session, but under the EU-STREIT PNG Programme, continuous sensitisation awareness for youth and gender inclusion as well as technical support to train, enable and provide the requisite accesses for women and youth, is critical and this is where we know that change is possible, and change is what we must promote.”
The EU-STREIT PNG Programme, being implemented as a UN Joint Programme (FAO as the leading agency, and ILO, ITU, UNCDF and UNDP as partners), is the largest grant-funded Programme of the European Union in the country and the Pacific region. The Programme aims to help improve the lives of the people from East Sepik and Sandaun provinces, by focusing on increasing sustainable and inclusive economic development of rural areas through improved economic returns and opportunities from cocoa, vanilla and fishery value chains while strengthening and improving the efficiency of value chain enablers, including the business environment, and supporting sustainable, climate-proof transport and energy infrastructure development.