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The Garden to Table Dream

“We must have Papua New Guinea indigenous food menus in our hotels, restaurants and homes”

Agri-Tourism is not new to Papua New Guinea (PNG), but this advocate of women in agriculture and a business woman in Morobe province tells her story with a different perspective altogether.

Kwina Ewande Ambang, is the owner of Miles Lodge located 12 miles out of Lae City. This quiet but ambitious woman from Gembogl, Simbu province saw the opportunity 15 years ago to tap into Agri-Tourism and turned her 7-bedroom home into a guest house. With support from her forester husband, the lodge was built using swan timber from their sawmill, and a bank loan which assisted in improving amenities for the lodge.

Kwina Ewande Ambang

With support from the officers of Morobe Provincial Tourism Bureau who provided guidance and training, the guest house came into full operation in 2010. Miles Lodge has conference and training facilities, a bar and grill area, 32 air-conditioned rooms, bungalows and dining facilities.

Miles Lodge

Kwina was one of the founding members of Women in Agriculture (WIA) that supported and worked alongside the Founder and Director of WIA, Mrs. Maria Linibi, promoting agriculture and related activities involving women. She was the first Treasurer of WIA and assisted in advocating about women rights and their opportunity to work and live on their land to women in Morobe province as well as other provinces in PNG.

She believes that a lot of positive changes can be achieved for PNG women if they set aside their differences and work together. Kwina has travelled to many business conferences hosted by PNG Tourism Promotion Authority (PNGTPA) and attended many trainings by both PNGTPA and WIA.

Kwina’s Garden to Table Dream pushes her to promote sustainable agriculture activities and she walks her dream to sustain women farmers by purchasing vegetables and other organic garden produce to prepare food for her guests at the lodge. Kwina buys from local farmers along the roadside markets from Markham all the way to Lae main market. Her greatest ambition is to have a PNG Indigenous Food Menu on the dinner table in hotels and restaurants around PNG. In addition to the PNG menu, she wants to see each traditional food from the country being valued by having a seed-bank for all the indigenous food available to women for planting in their gardens. She would like to see less processed food served in households, but more local fresh organic food eaten by PNGeans.

Miles Lodge

When WIA introduced Floriculture to women, many thought that idea was impossible. "I had to get out in public, talk to women and educate them that, income diversification should be seen as an opportunity to sustain themselves, and floriculture was one way to do so," says Kwina. Her influence and determination for women to tap into floriculture was quiet challenging at first. She had to break a lot of their mindsets that flowers were meant for decoration in churches and funeral, and should be planted for beautification purposes only. Today, many women are earning income from potting flowers, cutting and decorations at special events within the country.

Kwina’s message to women is “Believe in yourself. You own your land, touch the soil and God will do the miracle for you.”

Kwina recalls the culture of her homeland. “In Simbu, traditionally when women are chosen to be married into another clan or village, we prepare them well before sending them off to their groom. Before she leaves, she is given small bags of seeds and a live pig to take with her. We prepare her to sustain herself on the land, should anything happen to her. We know that we won’t be around to watch what she is doing, or what has been done to her, so we prepare her mentally, socially and economically before she leaves. Plant the seeds so you and your children won’t go hungry and take care of the pig, so you won’t look for pigs for your sons or when you want to attend to a customary obligation.” These days, we have lost our good traditions and we should try to bring back some of our best traditional approaches in agriculture.

Kwina believes in family stability and would like the PNG government to review the laws on Family Protection. The Adultery Enticement Act is very shallow and supports many marriages to break up. It should be reviewed to maintain stability in homes and tougher penalties imposed as in agriculture, you need the husband, wife, children and families to work in unison achieve their business goals. On the same note, she is now training her daughters to take on the management role of the business, passing her legacy onto the younger generations.

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