Banking on their future
For most people, opening a bank account is no great event but for remote communities in Rigo district, Papua New Guinea it is a momentous occasion which means a huge step forward for financial inclusion, security and stability in their lives.
Almost 85% of Papua New Guineans are subsistence farmers or fishermen in rural areas, where access to basic and government services is almost non-existent. Poor roads make access to the majority of communities difficult, infrastructure is limited and there are ever-present law and order problems.
With this in mind, ChildFund is working with children and their communities in Rigo district to improve their income and food security. Our backyard farming project is helping to train farmers in better agricultural methods and provide necessary equipment to grow their crops. This is a wonderful initiative which is allowing farmers to increase their crop production so they can expand their income earning capacity by selling their surplus crops.
However as the potential for the farmers to grow cash crops on a larger scale increases, access to financial services becomes essential to manage their income. For these communities opening a bank account would usually require a long and rough trek down often inaccessible roads into Port Moresby (the capital of Papua New Guinea) from the mountains. This is followed by hours in bank queues and then weeks until bank cards are ready.
This is why ChildFund is working with Bank South Pacific (BSP) and the Fresh Produce Development Agency to bring better access to income security for communities. BSP is now conducting community visits to establish bank accounts for farmers. Christine Lauve and her husband are vegetable farmers from Magautou village in Rigo who have benefitted from the mobile banking initiative.
Christine and her husband grow peanuts, zucchini, capsicum and corn to sell to hotels and shops in Port Moresby. Until now, Christine has kept her hard-earned money in a ‘safe’ corner of their village. Now that Christine and her husband have opened a bank account they are able to securely save their money for their family`s future. Through saving from the sale of their backyard produce, Christine is very excited to be much closer to her dream of owning and operating a public motor vehicle (PMV) truck on the Magi Highway, the main access route to Port Moresby, to transport her produce.
Access to mobile banking, EFTPOS and electronic payments is reducing the amount of cash-handling and enables rural farmers to access new markets in Port Moresby as buyers are now able to make payments directly into farmers` accounts. As in anyone`s case, direct account payments mean farmers are no longer spending all their cash immediately €“ instead they are able to budget, save and spend wisely.
ChildFund PNG`s two-fold project in rural Papua New Guinea is contributing to sustainable grass-roots development which is helping communities to invest in a better future for their children.