Skilling Our Farmers

Last month I talked about the importance of agriculture in these challenging times. We will always need to eat, and farmers remain the most vital component of a global food supply chain. Our farmers in PNG have the opportunity to grow more of the food we eat and supply our quality products throughout a fast-growing world.

As a young woman, small business owner, and resident in rural PNG, I am very eager to see our Governments approach to recovering from the economic fallout of the current C19 virus. They have stated many times that agriculture should be the foundation of our wealth and they will support the sectors development. I urge the Government to stay firm on their commitment to investment to the agriculture sector.

But let’s approach agriculture differently. Our farmers want to move beyond subsistence gardening. They are frustrated at being at the bottom end of the economic pyramid. Wealthier farming communities will be able to afford better services – health care, education, insurance, to name a few. Increased local revenues will provide more investment to roads and other vital infrastructure. Communities will be better equipped to deal with a future crisis.

Our farmers know how to grow crops, they have been doing it all their lives. What they don’t know is how to be in the business of growing crops. How do they convert their sweat from earning a few toea per kilogram to a growing bank of Kina? I believe it starts with their mindsets. Farmers only know what they know. We need to introduce new ideas, new concepts, and new ways of doing business.

AgBook is very proud to be playing our part in developing farmers mindsets. Our learning development framework aims to inspire farmers to consider new knowledge and introduces new concepts through a series of workshops and programs that challenges their thinking. We aim to transform new knowledge to ongoing behaviour through activities that enable farmers to take purposeful action.

To inspire minds, AgBook are currently offering two free workshops:

  1. The Farmers Market – Introduction to marketing and farming as a business
  2. Talking About Money – Introduction to the role of money in our daily lives

Our workshops and programs provide farmers with new knowledge and cover a variety of topics centred around farm business management. As an example, our introductory farming as a business program is delivered over 3 days. Day 1 focuses on teaching financial concepts, assisting participants to learn about money, the importance of saving, budgeting and the role finance can play in a person’s life. Days 2 and 3 are about developing a farm business plan, including increasing participants understanding of the commercial environment, the business cycle, how their farm can be a series of enterprises, understanding costs, profit and cash flow. There are 15 sessions which are facilitated with many practical exercises and case studies. The participants learn by doing and through sharing their knowledge and experiences. The process involves the participation of people with a common interest and purpose. The participants complete the program with their own customised farm business plan and receive a Certificate of Attendance.

The Farmer Events are an evolving workshop series that cover a broad variety of topics that are of interest to our farming community. They include programs covering various supply chains, downstream processing, marketing techniques, to name a few.

Taking purposeful action is critical to success. We have all seen examples of training that doesn’t result in the desired outcome, where nothing has changed in the lives of those who receive the training. AgBook is taking a practical approach through the establishment of a market garden investment program. This program assists participants to implement what they have learned, whilst also considering the important issue of land use.

It is common throughout PNG for land disputes to prevent development of agricultural projects. Our programs assist clan groups to consider alternate strategies for benefit sharing that incentivise production, encourages participation by rewarding effort and take a longer-term view to access higher profits from value adding and downstream processing. We will have a future AgBook Articles specifically on land disputes and benefit sharing. Stay tuned for this!

AgBook believe the future success of the agriculture sector lies with our farming families. Our Government needs to support agriculture by supporting local investment in local businesses, and critically, developing the skills of our farmers to successfully farm as a business.

Warm regards
Nicole Isifu
April 2020