The initiative provides cashless payment systems to remote communities in Papua New Guinea.
EU STREIT PNG entered into a collaboration with MiBank to open saving accounts for engaged cocoa farmers in three remote villages in East Sepik Province.
It was a happy moment for the 40 women, 15 male youths, and 10 men. All were issued with MiCard cards instantly after opening their accounts.
Kathlyn Amos, 58, a mother of four children, was the first to open her account.
“It was very easy, and I was not asked many questions,” said Kathlyn.
The farmers are from Sikan, Sir and Dandan villages in Ward 19 of Turubu LLG, Wewak District, who are members of Sisida Cooperative Society. They were presented with this opportunity during two cocoa bud grafting (propagation) trainings conducted by the FAO-led EU-STREIT PNG Programme on 20-23 December 2021.
MiBank, under a Letter of Agreement (LoA) with the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) which is implementing activities relating to access to finance, rural banking and cashless payment in the scheme of EU-STREIT PNG Programme, is wasting no time to set up the farmer group as an agent to be based in Dandan Village.
“We will launch the agent on January 4 2021, meaning that our cocoa farmers will not have to go to town. There is a risk of travelling long distances to make a normal deposit of K100 or K200 only,” said Steven Ereman of MiBank.
“Sisida Cooperative Society will be the agent where all deposits and withdrawals with airtime top-ups for mobile phones will be made in the village. We are looking forward to this partnership with the EU-STREIT PNG to bring these banking services right to the doorsteps of our rural people,” he added.
The National Cocoa Production Officer for EU-STREIT PNG, Michael Lames, who facilitated this opportunity, said, “We are fortunate to have MiBank with us to compliment the rollout of this Programme. We will have MiBank officers on our missions to give awareness to other farmer groups as well to follow.”
The community in Ward 19 of Turubu LLG, which has a population of about 1500 people, has no road access, so they travel by boat only to Wewak Town to sell their produce and access banking services. They will now use their mobile phones to do all transactions from their homes.
Meanwhile, 118 farmers with high representation from females (47%) and youths (57%) for the first time were upskilled on cocoa budding techniques to revive old cocoa trees which have also been infested with cocoa pod borer (CPB) pest resulting in low production and income.
Amongst the participants was Loridda Patrickson, 21, and her mum Mary, who also learned and applied bud grafting for the first time.
“We learned so much here today. We have a rundown cocoa block infested with CPB pest, and we will practice the skill on our block,” said Loridda.
The EU-STREIT PNG, being implemented as a UN Joint Programme (FAO as leading agency/administrative agent, and ILO, ITU, UNCDF and UNDP as implementing partners).
It is the largest grant-funded Programme of the European Union in the country and the Pacific region, which focuses on increasing sustainable and inclusive economic development of rural areas through increasing the economic returns and opportunities from cocoa, vanilla and fishery value chains and strengthening and improving the efficiency of value chain enablers including the business environment and supporting sustainable, climate-resilient transport and energy infrastructure development.