Meri farmers program continues to grow
Lihir’s arrangement with women farmers from the Namatanai district of PNG to supply fresh produce to the Lihir mine camp kitchens has grown over FY20, with the ‘meri gardeners’ now including more than 5,000 women, men, children and youth.
The scheme was launched in 2019 by local MP Walter Schnaubelt and a former Newcrest Executive General Manager who recognised that having locally grown produce shipped from Namatanai to Lihir on the daily ferry that transports employees would help solve the difficulties local women farmers faced when trying to sell their produce. At the same time, it was an efficient way to provide the mine with a continuous supply of fresh food.
The farmers no longer travel up to a day to sell their produce with no guarantee of a good price or even sales. Instead, they now sell through a central buying point at Namatanai on New Ireland and are paid on the spot.
The meri gardeners now have a regular income, with money going back into their communities, building financial sustainability.
Profits are currently around K2.4 million (around $700,000) a year. Promoting women’s economic empowerment also helps them develop new skills.
Now local institutions in Namatanai such as the hospital, high school and jailhouse also benefit as they are given surplus fresh produce twice a month. The service also has a lot of walk-in customers.
We spend about K800 million ($234 million) annually on PNG goods and services. The meri gardeners supply arrangement meets our aim of seeing as much of that money as possible spent in New Ireland.
As well as providing cost savings for Lihir, the arrangement also benefits our employees, many of whom are locals. They now enjoy fresh produce on their plates within three days of it being picked by their community, instead of after weeks in a container at sea.
Our camp kitchens serve around 7,000 meals a day to more than 5,000 personnel.