Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Julie Bishop and Honorable Vice Minister Senator Concetta Ferrivantti–Wells, Minister for Development for the Pacific officially launched the Solar Rice Mill Project on 9 March 2017 in Lae, PNG in partnership with PIFON’s member–PNG Women in Agriculture (PNG WiA).
The “Solar Rice Mill Project” is a (DFAT) PNG Incentive fund co-funded by PNG National Agriculture Research Institute (NARI) and TRUKAI Rice Industries who is not only a major rice distributor in PNG but also a major private sector funder & sponsor of PNG WIA. The project is in support of women in solar rice milling in PNG with PNG WiA being the recipient of 80 solar rice mills with a value of K2.5 million (AU$2 million).
The equipment is built to specifications to support rural women in PNG who grow rice but cannot mill given there is no electricity, and solar power is the only alternative. Cassava, taro, banana, corn and sweet potato flour is also produced via the use of these solar mills.
The solar power energy produced now enables rural women in PNG to charge their mobile phones, have light at night, and even enjoy the luxury of using a fan and watching movies.
PIFON member, Papua New Guinea Women in Agriculture Development Foundation (PNG WiA) has also begun a program to promote the use of solar powered agro processing machines by its rural members. The machines being promoted serve a number of functions including rice polisher, corn huller, coconut scraper, hammer mill and cassava grater.
An initial training was conducted with funding from PIFONs MTCP II project for 34 participants on 19 April 2017 in Mutzing in the Markham valley of the Morobe Province in PNG. The farmers involved in the training have gained a greater understanding on the technology and how it can be utilised to reduce labour hours and increase food preservation options for rural families.