The official unemployment rate in PNG is around 2.5% when measured on the same basis as industrialised countries i.e. the percentage of the population who are actively seeking paid work.
The problem of course is that the bulk of the population would like a job but they know that they do not have the skills and that the jobs are simply not to be found. The bulk of the population live in the rural areas much of which do not even have roads let alone locally based industries. So while 26% of the population are engaged in the Industrial and Service sectors, officially almost everyone else is dumped under “Agriculture” which of course includes subsistence farming.
Niugini Organics is not a large company but we do exist in a rural area and we do employ over 40 people from surrounding villages. Their formal education ranges from grade two to bachelors degrees. All of our maintenance, equipment fabrication and construction is done in house. Many of our maintenance team who have trained with Niugini Organics have gone on to work at some of the world class companies in PNG, such as Lihir Gold.
Many of our semi-skilled staff (as well as coconut suppliers) are single mums and the regular income enables them to provide for and educate their children. PNG as an emerging nation is very much in a state of flux. Traditional roles have diminished in cultural value and often a vacuum is created leaving many especially young men without a guaranteed sense of purpose and identity. Formal employment gives people a sense of self worth, which otherwise sees young men getting involved in undesirable sitautions, all of which usually end in violence.
Issues and Loans
Over the years we have seen at Niugini Organics, young men involved in petty crimes, drugs and home brewed alcohol who, given an income and responsibility, develop into reliable production supervisors, get married, look after their families and become respected leaders within their own communities. The company makes no-interest loans available to employees for home improvement and building purposes.
Likewise the ability of local village farmers to earn a reliable, regular and viable cash income is vital, if village life is to be attractive enough to hold young people at home and stop the urban drift that often ends in idleness and destruction. Over 200 families have long term Wild Harvest contracts with Niugini Organics, as well as about 20 owners of small vehicles which supplement their income transporting the nuts of the village farmers to the factory.
Niugini Organics has provided new opportunities for the local population to utilise the coconuts surrounding them, giving village life a bright new future for their families.
We are proud that our Smallholder Coordinator Lavinia Tovue has been selected under the prestigious Australian Awards to study towards her Masters in Agricultural Science at the University of Queensland.
We see staff development as vital towards the long term future of Niugini Organics.