Never too old to learn new things

Seventy-three-year-old farmer, Wama Dama of Kalangnan village in the Nawaeb District of Morobe Province, is one of hundreds of people in his area that has changed from other business activities to farming rice.

Before going into farming, Wama exported scrap metal from 1997 – 2002. From there he ventured into the truck hire business, contracting to the construction industry.

“My perspective changed when I saw a local farmer who planted kaukau and sold her wares at the market receiving a hundred percent profit from her farm,” said Wama.

“That changed my business mindset – 100 percent I put in land, 100 percent it will return – unlike stores and formal employment I would only get 10 or 20 percent return in profit.”

In 2015, Wama participated in an Australian government supported Family Farm Training to learn how to transition from subsistence to income-oriented farming as a family team. Held as two separate week-long sessions, the training program targeted the head of households who rely on farming income to care for their family.

Wama also farms vanilla, banana, kaukau and exports Morobe taro to leading stores in Port Moresby at K1.50 per kilo.

He currently owns nine hectares of land, of which five is dedicated to rice with the remaining for other crops.

“I am always open to partnership and learning new things even in my old age – something I tell my children is to never stop learning new ways to better your life,” said Wama.

Receiving training from various NGOs has also helped Wama’s agricultural ventures.

“Through Family Farms Training, I am now able to better manage my money and have bought a rice mill from my savings. I now mill my own rice, package and sell to people in my community,” said the avid farmer.

Wama packages his rice in plastic bags and sells them at K3 in the local community and has big dreams for his owned branded rice.

Today Wama advocates that men, women and families need to work together to better their lives and cites the rice project as an example.

Rural Development Officer in the Labuta Local Level Government (LLG) of the Nawaeb District, Nelson Darina, said to improve one's standard of living, income from agricultural produce was based on sustainable agricultural practices and empowering farmers at their doorstep.

Over the past 12  months; 420 people – 55 percent women – have been trained in Nawaeb in Morobe and Mul-Baiyer-Lumusa in Western Highlands in better farming techniques to help them progress from subsistence to cash crops.

Wama is also part of the SiGo (Situm-Gobari) Cooperative that is supported by the Australian government to revive agricultural cash crops, especially cocoa, as a source of livelihood and economic growth in the district.

As part of the cooperative, he has also shared rice seedlings and techniques with 20 other farmers in the Nabak LLG ward, saying because of one language they must work together to develop their home.

Positive about the future, Wama said: “It is time to help our families set goals and achieve them as a community.” 

(Wama and Yalam Dama display their home grown produce. He also farms vanilla, kaukau and taro which he supplies to major shopping centres in Port Moresby)

Press release