In mid-August, Fairtrade ANZ hosted the annual Fairtrade Pacific Stakeholders Workshop in Papua New Guinea (PNG), a two-event workshop bringing together stakeholders from the region to acquire new skills and exchange market and organisational experiences.
This year’s workshop included a focus on communication challenges faced by isolated Fairtrade farmers in Papua New Guinea. The session was the first step for implementation of the project “Linking farmers in Papua New Guinea to Fairtrade Markets”, an initiative by Fairtrade ANZ and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) to support access to market information for Fairtrade farmers.
Fairtrade is a product certification scheme that offers an alternative approach to conventional trade, based on a partnership between producers and consumers. Fairtrade offers producers improved terms of trade, training opportunities to develop their organisations and businesses, and facilitates producers’ understanding of market conditions and trends. Fairtrade ANZ works with small farmers based in Papua New Guinea, East Timor and the Pacific Islands to improve their organisations and businesses through a variety of services, including regular tailored training and the annual Pacific Stakeholders Workshop.
During the session, producers concluded that while mobile phones are increasingly popular in rural areas and are rapidly becoming basic tools for agricultural trade, this trend is not sufficiently supported by the country’s infrastructure. Farmers also reported challenges with mobile phones made to endure foreign climates, and struggles with signal coverage and charging options for phones and computers in rural areas without electricity. In the most extreme cases, farmers walk for two days to find service for their devices, widening the communication gap between them and the rest of the supply chain.
Key conclusions from the session acknowledged the importance of word-of-mouth communication for producer communities, as PNG producers have predominantly oral cultures where communication channels like radio and voice messages are more effective than written messages. Further, implementation of the IFAD-funded project will serve as an important opportunity to improve the usability of producer organisations’ existing communication devices, to upgrade devices when appropriate, and to capitalize on “hot-spot coverage” throughout villages.