“We don’t need investors or donors to start a project for us. We just need to stop being lazy, start working and make something for ourselves. Agribusiness is definitely one of the ways we can do that.” Australia Awards alumna Rosemary Imara is passionate about helping fellow Papua New Guineans to build better lives for themselves and their communities, by making use of the huge potential of agriculture in PNG. “There is a huge gap in use of agricultural land here. People in PNG have great potential to change their huge land into farmlands and create their own agribusiness. We Papua New Guineans often sit around waiting for the government to make possibilities of development and services for us, but we could make it on our own by taking responsibility in creating agribusinesses, go into down streaming (using produce to create other, higher value products), create local products to earn money. Then we can make our dream life become a reality and help contribute to our little communities and create a change for betterment,” she says. Rosemary’s commitment to helping build a more resilient PNG and stronger rural communities was instilled in her from a young age. From a small village in Bogia, Madang, and one of 12 children, Rosemary was forced to grow up quickly when she lost her father at a young age.
There was never enough food to eat and Rosemary had to support her young siblings. She worked as a vendor while also studying. “I had to truly struggle with life and school at the same time through my lower secondary to upper secondary. Nothing really bothered me because life’s struggle became normal to me, having dealt with going to school with empty stomach with no lunch money or having one meal a day, walking miles to get to school and even being bullied in school. Did my studies under streetlights and in candles lights. All these struggles paid off when I graduated. I strived with hardship but it made me stronger and gave me passion to go further for my own betterment,” she says, reflecting on her difficult childhood. Rosemary’s determination paid off, and after completing undergraduate studies at the University of Natural Resources and Environment, the University of PNG and PNG University of Technology, Rosemary was successful in applying for an Australia Award. Over 2020 to 2021, she studied a Masters in Agricultural Science at the University of Queensland, majoring in Agronomy and Agribusiness. “I knew Australia Awards is one of the best programs there is to go do studies and learn from the best scientists, experts and world class institutions. I am beyond blessed to get this scholarship and it truly brought out the best of me, and added in-depth valuable knowledge that I can pass on to the future generations of this country,” she says proudly. “I went for studies to further my depth of knowledge so I could come back and try educate people to make business out of land to sustain themselves, earn more money and contribute to their own communities in services and infrastructures”. Since returning to PNG, Rosemary has put her beliefs into action. She works as a Project, Monitoring and Evaluation Manager and Researcher for Foundation of Women in Agriculture Development (FOWIAD) and is a private consultant for Ag Unity Australia. With FOWIAD, Rosemary works with local women and youths on clone cocoa, hybrid coconut farming and down streaming of cash crops in East and West Sepik, adding value by creating higher value products from crops. One of her projects successfully helped communities to meet crop targets for cocoa, which will build PNG cocoa production capacity and improve opportunities for accessing global markets. She also trains people in starting their own business and how they can then contribute to their communities. Completing her studies in Australia has transformed her role with FOWIAD. “Since I came back, my life has truly changed. I am now being valued and have a say, contributing my ideas and advice to donor funded development projects in government and private sector,” she says proudly. “In my future plans, I am hoping to work with farmers to tap into the bio economy agribusiness industry because PNG has a great potential for that for our main cash crops.” Rosemary is also dedicated to empowering and supporting other women, especially those like herself from disadvantaged rural backgrounds. Her experience as an Australia Awards scholar inspires many of those she works with and motivates them to progress towards their own goals. “I help women and youths continue their educations, value themselves and gain respect from the community for the work they do. Young single women see me and are empowered to value themselves and take ownership of their own projects and venture into entrepreneurship,” she says.
She sees education as essential to improving opportunities for Papua New Guineans, especially in agriculture. She encourages people to apply for Australia Awards to expand their skills, and to identify gaps where they can focus their studies and achieve good results. “Our country needs people with agriculture backgrounds to help shift the mind of our landowners to work on their land and make business out of it. If you have worked in the agricultural industry, and you identity a gap, have the courage to address this gap and express that in your study plan,” she said.