Degree or not, land is Life!
“Women should not limit themselves because of their educational background when it comes to agriculture. Whether it be degree or no degree, we have land to create many opportunities.”
This is a bold statement by Malinda Marvin, a rural water and sanitation engineer in Papua New Guinea. Malinda has been involved in the sale and aggregation of fresh produce for over a decade now. From Anumba village in Okapa District of Eastern Highlands, this soft-spoken lady spent her childhood watching her grandmother tend to their land.
Her grandmother taught her extensively about land, empowering her with skills such as seeds and soil identification, weather prediction, alongside planting and weeding skills. She is married to Andy Papaso of Korofeigu village who is blessed with 12 hectares of fertile land synchronized and merged.
Malinda graduated from Divine Word University in 2006 and joined the Salvation Army Social Services thereafter as a community development trainer. She later joined Barrick Gold as an Environment Officer. Between 2009 and 2014 she was contracted to Live and Learn Environment Education (LLEE), an international NGO, as their Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Engineer. She left and moved to Oxfam for a year, In between she provided consultancy services where fitting.
Amidst her fulltime employment, she worked on the sidelines – freighting fresh vegetables and fruits to K-Mart (a local supermarket in Kimbe), Super Value Stores (SVS) in Lae, Vanimo and Port Moresby between 2010 and 2012. Malinda is very much involved in vegetable farming and logistics and continue to thrive knowing all calculated risk in dealing with perishable goods.
This comes from personal experience as she had previously registered a business called Mountain Streams. However due to work commitments, she dissolved the business and decided to get into full time and private consultancy work.
Returning home to Goroka in 2018, she took a leap of faith and started her own company, Foya Fresh Produce, and started farming and planting crops like zucchini, french beans, capsicum and tomatoes. Excitingly, Malinda had the opportunity to begin supplying crops to two tertiary institutions. She also saw the opportunity to assist other subsistence farmers, so she worked as a middle man – this time purchasing cauliflower, broccoli and capsicum from farmers in Mul-Baiyer in the Western Highlands and other vegetables like tomatoes, cabbages, carrot in Goroka to meet her buyers’ demands.
As a farmer, Malinda wants the government to address the limitations many smallholder farmers and aggregators like herself face, especially in the rural PNG. She also advocates for the government to secure international markets, subsidized freight cost and convert the 97% of customary land in the country to semi-commercial and commercial farming land where farmers scaled up to specialized farming skills.
A few months ago, Malinda enquired at Juncao Mushroom centre, a mushroom tuber producing centre managed by the EASTERN Highlands Provincial Natural Resources Division in partnership with the Chinese Government in Goroka. The on-site training received was on planting, nurturing, handling and storage. Following which, she went on to plant her first 600 tubers of mushrooms, developing this into a mushroom business in Goroka, selling mainly to locals and restaurants around town.
With Malinda’s real time challenge and experience as a farmer and a fresh produce supplier, her dream is to set up a storage and supply hub that receives produce from farmers and delivers to bigger market.
“My other ambition is in specialized organic farming, working with farmers to grow and supply specific organic produce to the markets within PNG and export around the world. Providing consistent market opportunity for specialized farmed crops will keep every villager busy on their land. They will happily toil the land knowing the produce have a market that is readily available. With the level of qualification and experience, I am adamant to make this work so we don’t lose the value of our land in front of our children. As our land is our life and this principle must be alive in our lives and passed on.”