Eitan Ribak, the Fly Vanilla Project Manager (IAI) demonstrates to Mougulu vanilla farmers proper method of planting vanilla.

Agriculture development partner representatives from WestAgro Holdings (WAH), Innovative Agro Industries (IAI) and the Western Provincial Administration (WPA) visited vanilla farmers across the North Fly district to discuss the opportunity to transform vanilla beans into a lucrative, cash-earning commodity. Representatives included the Deputy Provincial Administrator for Resource Development, Rupert Tabua (WPA), Eitan Ribak, the Fly Vanilla Project Manager (IAI), and Ian Middleton the WAH Chairman (WAH).

Central to the community awareness was a vanilla planting demonstration, farmer block inspections, and informing farmers that Fly Vanilla Agro-Industrial Centre (AIC) in Samagoes, Kiunga will begin buying vanilla beans from May 2022, a major milestone for the AIC. Further advising them that the AIC is being developed by Innovative Agro Industry (IAI) as part of the provincial agribusiness vision of WestAgro Holdings, and includes world class curing and drying technology.

Helena Ogat of Gesuke village, shares a light moment showing the vanilla beans harvested from the family vanilla blocks.

A 26-year-old vanilla farmer from Gesuke village, Mrs. Helena Ogat was overjoyed with the visit and the information that was disseminated. “I am originally from Smipen in the mountains of Nomad LLG, with limited knowledge in vanilla farming, I am very happy for the visit as it gives me more knowledge in vanilla farming.” For her and her husband’s family, vanilla has been their source of survival since planting their first 100 vines in 2015, it has had an impact by providing money for food, clothing, and school fee support, but not earning on a commercial scale. She said limitations are usually knowledge in producing high-quality yield and the inconsistency of middlemen buyers and their required fees when selling. Today she said the family has over 500 vanilla plants in their 3 family blocks.

The field visit enabled the agro development partners to better understand the current status of out-grower vanilla cultivation and the challenges farmers are facing. This will allow for future extension services, including an estimate of potential production volumes, improved cultivation techniques, and block & farmer registration.

Ian Middleton explained to the farmers and interested community members that the intention of WAH is to develop sustainable agribusiness practices to ensure there is a socio-economic future for Western Province beyond mine closure. This starts with Fly Vanilla and the opportunity to improve production, bean quality, and the current, low-quality reputation of the PNG vanilla industry.

The WestAgro Master Plan has been approved by the OTDF Board and complements the Western Province Provincial Government’s 5-year (2018-2022) provincial development pillar to support agribusiness and enabling infrastructure, through which Fly Vanilla is being developed.

 

This work contributes to sustainable development goals number;
 

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