Scoop has an Ethical Paywall
Work smarter with a Pro licence Learn More

World Video | Defence | Foreign Affairs | Natural Events | Trade | NZ in World News | NZ National News Video | NZ Regional News | Search


Transforming Lives And Livelihoods: The Pioneering Impact Of The EU-STREIT PNG Programme In Sepik, Papua New Guinea

As we mark another EU Day in 2024, it is a moment of profound reflection and celebration of the impactful developments made under the EU-funded UN-joint STREIT PNG Programme. This initiative stands as the largest grant-funded project by the European Union in Papua New Guinea and the Pacific, a beacon of developmental change and empowerment in the Sepik region.

Wewak, Papua New Guinea – The EU-STREIT PNG Programme was designed with a multifaceted approach, aiming to revitalize, uplift and ensure sustainable development across the cocoa, vanilla, and fisheries value chains in the Sepik region of Papua New Guinea. It also includes components like agribusiness development and significant workstreams in financial inclusion, ICT, renewable energy, transport infrastructural development, and gender and youth inclusion, all tailored to enrich the lives of the local communities.

Outreach and Support

To date, the Programme has reached an impressive milestone, benefitting over 82,000 households (nearly half a million individuals), and supporting more than 750 agribusiness groups. A significant emphasis has been on capacity building, where approximately 30,500 lead farmers have been trained and upskilled across the various sectors. This training spans from Climate-Smart Agricultural practices to agribusiness development skills, ensuring that the seeds of knowledge grow into the fruits of tomorrow.

Advertisement - scroll to continue reading

Are you getting our free newsletter?

Subscribe to Scoop’s 'The Catch Up' our free weekly newsletter sent to your inbox every Monday with stories from across our network.

Cocoa: From Seedlings to Increased Income

The EU-STREIT PNG Programme has significantly advanced the cocoa value chain by addressing the gaps in the value chain. It includes distributing 2 million cocoa seedlings and establishing 538 cocoa nurseries and budwood gardens, boosting sustainable cocoa production capacity. The Programme also introduced the Cocoa Combination Type Solar Dryer to ensure cocoa beans quality while reducing environmental impact. This initiative has already increased farmers' incremental incomes by PGK 5.4 million, with projections set to reach to at least PGK 88 million by 2026.

Vanilla: Promising Success and Higher Profits

Vanilla production has also flourished under the Programme’s umbrella. Over 111,000 treated vanilla vines have been planted, ensuring a healthy and productive future for this valuable crop. EU-STREIT PNG has prioritized processing technology as well, distributing 538 vanilla husbandry and processing kits alongside 199 innovative solar vanilla dryers to 3,000 farmers. This not only empowers farmers to process their vanilla efficiently but also ensures a consistent, uniform quality production that meets international standards. The Programme's impact on income is emerging, with supported vanilla farmers experiencing a surge of PGK 13.7 million. By 2025, this figure is projected to climb to over PGK 28 million.

Fisheries for Better Nutrition

The fish protein can play a crucial role in ensuring food and nutrition security for the people of the Sepik. Aquaculture fish farmers received 31,400 tilapia fingerlings and training to ensure successful fish farming. Riverine communities have been equipped with canoes, while coastal groups have received engine-mounted crafts and Fish Aggregator Devices, significantly improving their fishing capabilities to increase fish catch and production. These groups are also receiving cold-chain equipment to increase fish shelf-life. Innovation has also played a role, with the introduction of FAO-FTT Fish Smoking and Processing Technology, creating new avenues for fishers to preserve and add value to their produce.

Financial Inclusion: Empowering Through Access

Financial inclusion is another crucial pillar of EU-STREIT PNG. A remarkable 259 new banking access points have been established across 10 districts, providing cashless, and seamless banking transactions and services. Over 103,000 farmers and villagers have been supported to open new bank accounts, with a significant portion (58%) belonging to women. This financial empowerment has significantly increased bank account savings, credit disbursement, and mobile bank transactions by farmers, leading to wealth creation, improved livelihood, more secure business.

Going Digital: Connecting Farmers and Markets

Recognizing the importance of technology in today's world, the Programme developed an e-agriculture strategy. Based on the strategy, it established six resource centres, providing farmers with access to ICT equipment with internet connectivity that offer a wealth of training opportunities. This empowers the farmers to cope with poor infrastructure and limited markets, being enabled to navigate e-market places, connect with foreign and domestic buyers, and promote their products more effectively. The Programme has also developed an E-Learning Management Platform, further equipping farmers with opportunities they need to thrive in the digital age.

Lighting Up the Future: Sustainable Energy for All

Six public facilities, including 4 schools and 2 health centres, have been equipped by the Programme with solar power solutions, improving the quality of social services and well-being of 50,000 rural population. It also includes 3,200 students, particularly girls in boarding schools, benefits from a safer and improved quality education. The Programme equipped 9 women-oriented financial institutions with portable solar system, improving their quality of operation in underserved communities. The Programme has trained 130 technicians in renewable energy, ensuring a skilled workforce can maintain and expand these initiatives. The solar power has generated financial savings for supported institutions that usually struggles to meet fuel and energy costs.

Infrastructure Development: Roads to Prosperity

To enhance farm-to-market accessibility in the region, the Programme has embarked on transport development projects. The rehabilitation of 13 rural roads (totalling 207 km) is currently underway, significantly improving connectivity and access of 112,000 users to markets and towns. Furthermore, maintenance of another 312 km of access roads through employment-intensive initiatives is ongoing and creating decent workdays for youth in the region. This not only provides much-needed income but also fosters a sense of ownership. Besides, it launched 5 airstrip rehabilitation projects to further enhance accessibility to remote hinterlands of the Sepik.

Improved transportation reduces travel times. This translates into more time spent on farms, accessing essential services, and connecting with buyers. The improved connectivity not only facilitates agribusiness opportunities but also access to better social services.

Gender and Youth, Cross-Cutting

The EU-STREIT PNG Programme prioritizes gender equality and youth engagement within the cocoa, vanilla, and fish value chains in the Sepik region, fostering inclusive sustainable agribusiness development. Central to this initiative are Training-of-Trainers to reduce Gender-Based Violence and promote gender and youth inclusion, led to a significant increase in women's leadership roles within MSMEs. To ensure transformative change in this domain, the Programme supports policy development, including the Gender in Agriculture policy, and aids in establishing Provincial Youth Councils, enhancing decision-making inclusivity.

A Future Built on Sustainable Success

The EU-STREIT PNG is more than just a development Programme; it is a testament to the power of international cooperation, extended partnership, and strategic planning in fostering sustainable development. As we continue to build on these successes, the focus remains firm on empowering the people, ensuring that the seeds sown by this Programme will blossom into enduring prosperity and thriving economy of Papua New Guinea.

As we celebrate this EU Day 2024, let us acknowledge and commend the profound and positive changes that the EU-funded Programme has brought to the vibrant communities of the Sepik region. The journey is far from over, but the path we are on is sustainable, promising, and full of potential.

This article is originally placed on the special 'EU Day Supplements' published by the Post-Courier newspaper and the National newspaper of Papua New Guinea.

© Scoop Media

Advertisement - scroll to continue reading
World Headlines


Join Our Free Newsletter

Subscribe to Scoop’s 'The Catch Up' our free weekly newsletter sent to your inbox every Monday with stories from across our network.