Highlands News News Bulletin

Women Farmers Hard Hit by Closure of Porgera Mine

Local women farmers in Porgera have lost more than 300 thousand kina in earnings since the closure of Porgera Mine.

More than 1700 women farmers who sub-contract through the Porgera Women in Business (WiB) as the main contractor supplying vegetables to mine catering company, Ipili Porgera Investment (iPi), now have their vegetable plots rotting away with nowhere to sell their produce and earn an income.

Porgera WiB President, Elizabeth Iarume said the women farmers have not been able to sell their full production of produce for the last ten weeks to iPi Catering amounting to a loss of over K330, 000 in earnings since.

She said the women farmers have a schedule of vegetable deliveries to the iPi kitchen twice a week of up to a 150 bags per load with per delivery earning K16,500. On average, each women farmer earns roughly between K800 – K1500 monthly to sustain them for a month or so until their next scheduled delivery.

Since the suspension of mine operations in April, iPi has reduced its overall vegetable order intake to meet the reduced requirements in catering services by the mine.

Affected farmer Ruth Kutato from Mungulep shed tears contemplating the uncertainties of the future and the impacts of not being able to sell her full vegetable production.

“My home is a disaster. When I look down towards the lower valley, I see houses being burnt, children suffering, villages and gardens being destroyed by tribal fighting. When I look up towards the mine site, I see the ‘smoke’ no longer rising. I realised then that I was only able to sustain my livelihood when the mine was operating,” Ms Kutato expressed.

The harsh realities brought on by the mine situation are just as challenging for Laswan Kulaya, a widow and mother of four from Porgera Station.

She said her lettuce, cabbage, broccoli and a few other crops are now left to rot in the vegetable plots as she is unable to sell them all.

“I am a widow. The little that I earn from my farm earnings has helped me with school fees and lunch for my children, and assisted in medical fees. But I am now struggling with my family because the mine has stopped operations,” she said.

Mrs Iarume said the government must intervene and support the women at this time as the people are struggling and suffering.

iPi and WiB officially entered into contract as business partners in 2016, for WiB to supply locally grown vegetables to iPi Catering. iPi Catering is proud to support the WiB.

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Natasha Ovoi
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