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Australia helps farmers from Papua New Guinea to build business nous

Papuan agriculturalists pose for group photo with goats
A group of agriculturalists from Papua New Guinea visited Sunnhill Dairy Goats in Uralla, New South Wales.

Supplied: University of New England

Papua New Guinea is renowned for its fertile soil, tropical climate and bountiful crops, but many local farmers report struggling to build profitable businesses.

The challenges faced by Papuan farmers were identified by the Australian Government's Australia Awards for PNG program, which has funded a six-week agribusiness course developed by the University of New England and RuralBiz Training, for 25 agriculturalists from Papua New Guinea.

Participant Natasha Mandanny said she applied for the program after starting a coconut oil-processing plant in Bougainville to support communities struggling after the region's civil war.

"When I set it up I didn't have a plan at all," she said.

"Then, all of a sudden, more and more people want my product and I have to grow it, but I had no idea how to do that or how to manage it."

Ms Mandanny said being exposed to Australian rural industries had been inspirational so far.

"Back in PNG we look at Australia and think it's just one big city," she said.

"When you come here, you realise there are people here who are just like us at home, who have farms, who want to develop products, so that they can sustain their livelihoods and their families."

Natasha Mandanny portrait
Natasha Mandanny started a coconut oil processing business in Bougainville to support families rebuilding their lives after the civil war.

ABC North Coast: Samantha Turnbull

Tulai Waryke is an extension officer with the Papua New Guinea Department of Agriculture and Livestock, tasked with supporting the nation's farmers to build their businesses.

She said Papuan farmers faced several challenges not experienced by Australians, such as a lack of transport, safe roads and educational opportunities.

"Our biggest constraint is roads and infrastructure," she said.

"Our colleges and universities focus mainly on general agriculture, but what we are here for is agribusiness, which is turning agricultural crops into businesses.

"Currently in Papua New Guinea we are not looking into commercialised ways of working."

Tulai Waryke portrait
Tulai Waryke says PNG farmers face many challenges.

ABC North Coast: Samantha Turnbull

Daniel Nanape works as a farm manager for Trukai Industries, a subsidiary of SunRice, and said despite his high profile role, he had left school after Year 11 and was seeking to further his education in Australia.

"I've learnt everything through experiences, but this course has helped me learn a lot to increase my professionalism," he said.

"Where we come from is a developing nation and our background is more practice, but converting into commercialising is something we don't have much knowledge into.

"This is opening doors into such knowledge."

Daniel Nanape portrait
Daniel Nanape says educational opportunities are lacking for people in his industry in Papua New Guinea.

ABC North Coast: Samantha Turnbull

The Papuans are visiting several farms throughout northern New South Wales and south-east Queensland as part of the course, helping them to establish a network of new business contacts.

Those who successfully complete the training will be given the opportunity to gain a formal award of Certificate IV in Agribusiness.