CARE project helps turn business dream into reality

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Samantha Prima and a generation of Bougainvillean women are breaking down gender barriers and getting hands on with cocoa farming and business.

For many years Samantha Prima held her vision for her family close and never shared it with anyone, not even her husband.

The 42-year-old mother of four dreamt of owning a trade store, but despite the family’s hard work the money coming in was inconsistent and they had trouble saving.

“I used to farm cabbage and take it to Buka or other markets,” Samantha said. “I worked very hard. I planted bananas, sweet potatoes, taro, vegetables and sold them. The people at the village bought them and I also used them to feed my pigs.”

While Samantha tended gardens and looked after the children, her husband would work alone on their cocoa plantation, but it wasn’t fulfilling its potential.

“We didn’t often buy goods from the stores – we made our own. When we wanted to eat rice or drink coffee, that was the only time that we used money. When I had money, it would all be spent quickly because I hadn’t budgeted it properly.”

In 2019 Samantha’s husband attended a session run by CARE International at a nearby school as part of the Bougainville Cocoa Families Support Project (BECOMES) supported by the governments of Australia and New Zealand through the Bougainville Partnership.

BECOMES provides cocoa farmers training on farming techniques, business skills and financial literacy, and improves gender equality to give women an equal share in making decisions, household work and income.

“[My husband] was convinced the session was worthwhile and we should all go and attend to help us take care of ourselves and our family,” Samantha continued. “We agreed and were happy to join programs organised by CARE.”

Healthy cocoa pods are the fruit of Samantha’s labour

Cocoa farming had typically been considered a man’s job, but the training empowered women and men to work side-by-side to produce more, better quality cocoa.

“I had only seen men doing all the [cocoa] farm work and my job was to look after the children and do housework,” Samantha said. “The CARE program teaches us women how to look after the cocoa and our family.

“They made me realise that not only men can do the work. It’s me – the woman – who can do the work too, and this has strengthened me.”

Working together, Samantha and her husband began to turn their cocoa farm into a more reliable income stream and had conversations about their spending and family plans.

“CARE’s training has helped us and has taught us that we must have a vision – things we must aim for,” Samantha continued. “I told my husband my vision – that we must build a trade store for us. This has now become a reality.”

With savings from cocoa farming, the family acquired materials for the trade store, which only took three days to build, and there is more to come.

Samantha and her family in front of the trade store built with savings from selling cocoa.

“I sell clothes and food, and now all the people in the community are coming to the store,” Samantha said. “The store earns enough money, but I want to do more to it like buy cement to build the bottom part.”

“We have a plan to work on the house. We are building a kitchen. I told my husband that when it’s completed, we will build our toilet and then we’ll save for the children’s tuitions.”

With support from CARE BECOMES, cocoa farming families are increasing their savings, setting goals and their futures are looking brighter than ever.

Men’s attitudes and behaviour towards women are already changing for the better and farming practices are improving.

“CARE has made me and my husband do well – we are settled well in our area where we’ll stay,” Samantha said. “It opened our minds, so I can see where some people in the community need help.

“Our marriage is strong and we live well together. I’m looking forward to some good things we can do.”

Feature Pic: Samantha fulfilled her vision of running a trade store and believes there is still more to come.

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