Women work together for safer farming

In December 2023, Live & Learn Papua New Guinea visited Katangan village. The community lives below a steep and rocky mountain range facing the coast. Due to the availability of land and soil quality people have been forced to grow their crops high up in the mountain ranges.

During consultation the team learned that the community has a robust knowledge of their culture and relationship with nature. The most significant challenge that they have is in accessing their food gardens which are located high up in the mountain ranges.

buildings and greenery

The routine of climbing up and down the mountains to access community gardens is done by women, who traditionally manage growing crops, caring for gardens and harvesting produce. For women in Katangan climbing the steep and rugged slopes to get to the garden is a constant challenge, causing numerous accidents and sometimes even death.

It’s not just getting up the slopes which is the hard part, sometimes only achieved by crawling on all fours, but getting the produce down the mountain is another struggle. Large baskets of food need to be balanced on women’s heads in large quantities to feed the village. This is a crucial role, only held by women, to support the livelihood of the community, but many now refrain from going up the mountain to the gardens. Nearly all women suffer from knee injuries sustained climbing up and down the slopes, which has caused mobility issues in their daily lives.

Most women in Katangan have their own stories to tell about their experience sustaining injuries from climbing or falling from these rugged tracks. However, these issues have been largely ignored because the food collected from this garden is not only a key food source for the community but also a source of income that sustains their livelihoods.

women listening intently

During their visit Live & Learn Papua New Guinea collected these testimonies from residents as part of the Climate Resilient Islands programme. After hearing about the challenges of community gardening for Katangan women they are now introducing new solutions for more accessible crop production in the project to address this issue.

The purpose of the team’s visit to Katangan village was to work in consultation with the community to create a Climate Resilience Profile for the community. The profile consists of information on the people’s indigenous knowledge about how they conduct their daily lives and how their ancestors lived in the past. The information will help in understanding the community in terms of their ways of life in relation to nature, and how they are resilient in times of distress, caused by climatic events.

women working on a resilience activity

The community resilience vision and plan is trying to address the challenge of accessing these gardens and identifying alternative ways to address the issue, including climate smart gardening technologies which can be introduced to support women with their customary roles and responsibilities. A better access to their garden area is a way forward for the women and the community as a whole.

Climate Resilient Islands is a New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade initiative, implemented by Live & Learn Environmental Education, with funding provided by the New Zealand Government.