From the Ground Up: Realised Projects on the Ground

Beginning in 2013, small groups of Kukukuku members presented potential projects they could start with the seed funds. These are grouped as follows:

  • Food & Agriculture
  • Health and Wholeness
  • Eco-enterprise business
  • Renewable Energy
  • Water Waste and Soil


Women’s Coffee Enterprise, Yakepa Village
A nascent coffee venture was started by Yakepa village women in 2014. Photo by Yasothara (Yaso) Nadarajah

Initial successes have given the Kukukuku people confidence and enthusiasm to identify training and processing technologies that can leverage their tribal knowledge, transfer capability to other villages, and to expand their market reach beyond their own communities.

The project gains its essence from collaborative, innovative, trans-disciplinary thinking and practice which challenges conventional narrow disciplinary boundaries.

It offers a space for working meaningfully with the community; while creating a platform for cross-sector connections with the community, education and a new global partnership.


Eco-Collective Farm, Akwanje Village – Production Increases

This farm was the first collective effort supported by seed funding. It comprises 33 families on five acres of customary land allocated for the production of peanuts as a cash crop. The early funding enabled the collective to buy farming tools such as spades.

The collective increased yearly production to 250 kilos, a substantial increase from their subsistence yields of one-half to one kilo.


Pig Collective Farm, Oiwa Village

In this remote village, collective members have paired livestock resource and waste management to transform a kin-ordered subsistence mode of production into one where 30 member families are now responsible for more than 17 pigs. These pigs are sold in batches. Recently, good boars are also rented out in exchange for a couple of piglets when they are born, which has reintroduced a form of barter that enables other community groups to set up their own farms. In addition to reducing food scarcity and building income, these animal husbandry practices are respectful to and sustainable within their environment.


Pig Collective members with their pigs
Pig Collective members with their pigs. Photo by Yasothara (Yaso) Nadarajah


RMIT Engineering Support

Following the step change in peanut production, Yaso Nadarajah worked with a group of final-year RMIT engineering students in 2016 to design portable, non-electric peanut processing and turmeric-grinding machines that would enable the Akwanje-based farm collective to experiment and learn about processing and packaging first hand and to incorporate their traditional skills and capabilities.

Seed support from RMIT Engineering enabled Yaso and three students to take these conceptual machines to the remote in early 2017 and begin the next phase of farm collective efforts.

This cooperation provided a valuable opportunity for the engineering students to focus on and respond to a real world need, under the guidance of their lecturers, design technicians, and dean.


4Mile Women’s Retail Store

Following a seed-funding round in 2013, women from 4Mile established the first locally-owned retail store, made from local materials and community labour, and initially selling local provisions and household needs. The venture has strengthened local women’s participation, skills, and confidence in running and growing businesses.

For instance, proceeds from the store have been reinvested, including the acquisition of a sewing machine, which has enabled the women to develop a line of clothing. The women retailers have also granted or loaned funds to women in other villages. This has enhanced intra-tribal relationships and allowed for franchised ventures that provide local access and in this remote region.

With additional funds, they plan to set up an extension where they can sell the food they grow.

The recent training session at Akwanje in 2016 enabled women representatives from the four villages to share their notes and experiences.

Four Mile Women's Retail Store
Women Entrepreneurs outside their new retail store in 4Mile Village. Photo by Yasothara (Yaso) Nadarajah


Fish Pond Collective, Yakepa Village – Breed Identification

The Fish Pond Collective in the Yakepa area is experimenting with a variety of fish stock in in their new collective. As this is a completely new livelihood, the group are looking to breed fish that are available in their local waters. This would introduce fish as a new food item for the villages and mean a more robust and healthful diet, especially for the women and children.


Women’s Coffee Enterprise, Yakepa Village

The first Women’s Coffee Enterprise in remote Yakepa Village received seed funding for shade-grown coffee products in 2014.

The local women gather coffee seeds from local growers and transport them directly to sellers in larger villages, without middle men and with improved margins. While current yields are still small at less than five kilos per year, future output is targeted at 250 kilos by end 2018.


Chicken Cooperative

The 2013 seed funding round enabled the start of the Chicken Cooperative by 23 families. Incrementally the Cooperative has tackled feed and transport issues for the chicken. It now plans to scale operations for larger yields. Construction of a larger coop was underway in 2014 and completed in 2015. An initial tray of 17 chicks led to the need for a larger coop of 200 chicks and the availability of organic chicken at local markets.

The cooperative is keen to share its experiences with other interested groups and is ready for training and the sharing of enterprise development ideas to expand the chicken cooperative under the Local/Global Eco-Enterprise Project.


Hausmeri and Women’s Cultural Centre, Oiwa & Akwanje Villages

Two cultural houses have now reopened in Oiwa and Akwanje Villages where women have rebuilt their Hausmeri. They will also use this house as a place to make and sell cultural artefacts and to teach young women traditional knowledge and skills.

The women have also started to use their cultural house as a place to rethink traditional foods and cooking.

Workshops for Kukukuku projects have occurred in the Akwanje village Local Global house, which was purpose built for community activities and to minimize the need for tribal members to travel to urban areas for training.


Getting Up to Speed

Systemic Livelihood and Income-Generating Activities (SLIGA) is a new approach to training in PNG conceived by Yaso Nadarajah and based on post-development theories for a ground-up approach. The model enables the Kukukuku to construct their own humane and culturally and ecologically respectful alternatives to traditional development by incorporating local tribal knowledge, cultural protocols, and evaluation processes that map and assess economic growth and community wellbeing.

At the inaugural pilot of SLIGA, held in January, 2016, in Akwanje Village, elders from across the project villages selected 20 male and female community leaders with varying levels of formal education to attend the five-day course. Training occurred in the Local-Global House, which was constructed by the community and at their own expense.

New funding will extend the reach and capacity building skills of this first cohort, who will in train 200 new community members by end 2018

Throughout the workshop, participants and RMIT researchers spent time with the community and elders reviewing key learning and talking through new questions that arose from them. These discussions enabled a thorough and meaningful link of cognitive skills to land, place and kin and to the relationship of such learning to their day-to-day lived realities and new possibilities.