Fifty people (including 15 females and three PLWD) in Mt. Ogga a rural remote community in Western Highlands province attended five days training on fish farming facilitated by Australia Awards alumnus local resident Brian Yak. Participants acquired new skills and knowledge on fish farming.
Brian completed a Short Course in Agribusiness from the University of New England, graduating with a Certificate IV in 2018. He used the knowledge and skills gained from his study in Australia to facilitate the training and encourages fish farmers to open businesses. “Since the project ended last year, there has been continued interest from youths in the community to join the Mt. Ogga Cooperative Society and raise fish to improve their livelihoods.”
With the aim of improving the livelihood and food security of his local community, Brian successfully applied for K30,000 Australia Awards grant from the alumni grants scheme to enhance fish production and food security of the Mt. Ogga people.
The fifty participants have not only learnt new skills and knowledge but transformed their way of living. A participant, Joseph Abel said “before this fish farming project, I was involved in petty crimes. But when Brian approached the community about this project, I saw this as an opportunity to change. This project was a blessing to me. I’ve grown spiritually and went to church for the first time in August 2021.”
Participant Sabina Poles added: “Before the fish farming project, women were involved in gambling, but this has changed since the inception of the project. Women are now actively supporting their husbands who are members of the Cooperative Society. This has become a shared family responsibility.”
The fish farming project has built capacity of the Mt. Ogga Cooperative Society members and enabled them to understand the dynamics of fish farming.
With their newly acquired skills and knowledge, community members were able to increase production, improve marketing and manage fish production better. Fish farmed include Carp and Tilapia species. Production exists from fingerling or offspring raised within the ponds.
“This project has the potential to transform to a commercial level and I see this happening in the near future,” declared Brian.
The project is consistent with the development priorities of the agriculture and economic sector of the Papua New Guinea Development Strategic Plan 2010-2030 and Vision 2050, on the key pillars of human development, institutional development, and wealth creation. With the pressure of a fast-growing population, this project helps provide food security particularly to vulnerable groups such as children, people with disability and those living with HIV/AIDS.
Two successful outcomes of the training included fingerlings distributed to each family member of the training attendees which resulted in the creation of family fishponds. Brian has agreed that aquaculture is key to development. Potential challenges include lack of access to affordable fish feed and quality fish seed among small-scale farmers.
Ensuring health messaging reaches beyond urban areas to rural and remote PNG is crucial to an inclusive COVID-19 response, as Emma Minimbi knows well.
The Australia Awards alumna is going above and beyond her legal aid work in Jiwaka province to make sure rural communities are well informed about COVID-19 and the benefits of vaccination.
“The first thing I did when I returned to my village in Jiwaka province was tell community people at the local market that I had just received my first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine,” Emma explains.
“I further told them that it’s free and I feel no different than I did before getting vaccinated.”
Having completed a Master’s in law at The University of Melbourne, Emma says she is more aware than ever of the need to share experiences across PNG in the shared fight against COVID-19.
“Papua New Guineans who are educated and know the importance of being vaccinated should lead by example and educate their rural communities,” she says.
“If we want to encourage mass vaccinations, we need to take the first step in getting vaccinated ourselves.”
Emma has also distributed face masks to villagers in Jiwaka and is actively encouraging good hand hygiene.
“I’ve also advised people with flu like symptoms to isolate themselves in their homes and refrain from coming into contact with other people until the symptoms subside,” she says.
Emma acknowledges there is some way to go as the vaccination rollout continues but says the early results of her advocacy are encouraging.
“Ten people in my community have decided to go get vaccinated so I will be taking them to Western Highlands Provincial Health Authority’s office in Mt Hagen to get vaccinated,” she says.
“I’m excited that rural people are now responding to the global pandemic that COVID is and making the conscious decision to get vaccinated.”
The partnership between Papua New Guinea and Australia was in focus during the launch of the Papua New Guinea Australia Alumni Association’s new Western Highlands Chapter over the weekend.
Provincial Administrator for Western Highlands, Mr Joseph Neng and Papua New Guinea Australia Alumni Association (PNGAAA) President Dr Janet Rangou joined Australian High Commissioner to Papua New Guinea, His Excellency Mr Bruce Davis, at the launch in Mt. Hagen on 15 February.
The Western Highlands Chapter is the 11th PNGAAA chapter to be established and includes members from the province as well as Jiwaka and Southern Highlands. The new Chapter joins existing provincial chapters in Manus, Madang, Eastern Highlands, East New Britain, Enga, Autonomous Region of Bougainville, Morobe, Milne Bay, National Capital District and East Sepik.
Attendees commended PNGAAA members’ achievements and their contribution to the bilateral relationship.
‘The establishment of the Western Highlands chapter is a great example of alumni’s diverse contributions and a celebration of the partnership between Papua New Guinea and Australia,’ Dr Rangou said.
High Commissioner Mr Davis encouraged alumni to maintain links in Western Highlands, Jiwaka and Southern Highlands and beyond.
‘The Australian Government has been providing scholarships to PNG for over 50 years and it is great to see that it continues to provide professional support to Papua New Guineans who have studied in Australia and in PNG, ensuring the sense of belonging continues beyond graduation, wherever alumni are located,’ High Commissioner Davis said.
PNGAAA was established in 2006 to provide ongoing support to Papua New Guineans who have studied in Australia, and as a mechanism for alumni to connect with each other and consolidate efforts to address economic and social development issues in PNG.
Over 11,000 Papua New Guineans have studied in Australia and PNGAAA recently opened their associate membership to also include graduates of Australian government scholarships in PNG, in areas including nursing and midwifery.
‘The growing Association includes talented professionals from all walks of life,’ Dr Rangou explained.
‘The new Western Highlands provincial chapter provides members with the same benefits as the others including access to professional development opportunities, networking events, and grants earmarked to support alumni share their talent and skills with their professional and wider community.’
As part of the launch, Interim President for Western Highlands Chapter, Nida Itaki, presented the new Chapter’s inaugural annual plan to the Australian High Commission, highlighting various community and professional activities.
Graduated from Griffith university in 2011 with a Masters in Public Health. Coming from the recently established Province of the Western Highlands, Jiwaka, Rose Wali is a mother of six who‘s ultimate dream was always deeply rooted in the Health Industry. For almost a decade, she served as a Nursing Health Officer at the Nazarene Health Ministry as a Health Educator and Coordinator of the Western Highlands Community Program. (more…)
“Leadership is about getting clear on what you value and acting according to those values that shape your life, the organization you work for and how people see you” says Dr James Kintwa, CEO for Mt. Hagen General Hospital. (more…)