The New England region is contributing to rural development in Papua New Guinea by being a showcase for innovative approaches to agribusiness.

Over the next six weeks, the University of New England (UNE) in partnership with RuralBiz Training is hosting a group of PNG agriculturalists as they undertake an agribusiness short course for the Australia Awards program.

As well as classwork, the participants will visit farms across the region to learn first-hand from New England agribusinesses about their strategies for developing supply chains, diversification, risk management and leadership.

Visits include The Cherrydale Orchard, Tenterfield; Summerland House Farm (House with No Steps), Alstonville; Deano’s Springwater Smoked Trout, Guyra and berry cooperative The OzGroup in Coffs Harbour.

This is the fourth such program to be run at UNE together with RuralBiz Training, taking the total number of awardees to pass through Armidale to 100.

Awardee Gertrude Andrias is herself an agribusiness trainer at Kingku High Tech Training Institute, Jiwaka, and she runs her own potato farm. Asked what the Australia Awards had meant for her, she answered “I am excited by everything I am learning because it is equipping me to go back and develop new markets for my business. Through this new network I have identified a factory that has an unmet demand for potatoes that I can now fill – I have just sold my second potato harvest this week.”

Grace Dou manages Tara Delta Fish Farm in the Southern Highlands. She credits the Australia Awards program with providing her the leadership and conflict resolution skills to manage her growing staff. Her experience here in Australia has helped Grace to develop business goals, and she is planning to expand her supply chain from local schools and produce markets to larger supermarkets within the next six months.

Successful completion of the program, including project work back in PNG, gains participants a Certificate IV in Agribusiness. Through a combination of study, research and practical training the awardees develop the knowledge and skills to make positive contributions to social and economic development in Papua New Guinea.

The Australia Awards Scholarships aim to develop capacity and leadership skills so that individuals can contribute to development in PNG while building networks at individual, institutional and country levels, strengthening the partnership between the Australian Government and the Government of Papua New Guinea.