The Kokoda Track Foundation’s Marketing & Fundraising Manager Vera Huntink, shares with you her experiences working in Papua New Guinea and implementing sustainable community development programs.
“Having worked in the travel industry for the majority of my career, I had wonderful experiences in many exciting and remote places. It wasn’t until July last year, when I travelled to PNG to cross the Kokoda Track as part of my role with the Kokoda Track Foundation, that I really started to understand the positive impact tourism can actually have on small communities in a developing nation.
Each year approximately 3,500 Australians attempt the Kokoda Track. This 96-km track runs through the rugged terrain of the Owen Stanley Ranges and takes trekkers through thick jungle, over the mountains with steep climbs and descents, through rivers and swamps. It must be one of the toughest and most gruelling treks in the world and at the same time filled with stunning scenery and beautiful villages and people.
In the past, communities along the Track were in a small way benefitting from the trekking industry but it was only men who were earning an income through portering and guesthouse services. This changed three years ago when the Kokoda Track Foundation took the initiative to empower women by assisting them to develop and manage small catering business, cooking and selling snacks to the trekkers passing through their village.
Working with Women’s Groups in 11 different communities along the Track, I experienced first hand how a relatively simple concept can change lives. The women participated in literacy classes, small business management and accounting, as well as learning to cook recipes suitable for the Western taste palate. Provided with a recipe book and basic ingredients such as oil, flour, sugar, salt and pepper, the women quickly learned how to make snacks such as banana bread, PNG pizza, corn fritters, and pumpkin soup.
Some of the Women’s Groups decided to create shop fronts from where they sold their snacks. The snacks proved to be very popular with the trekkers, and in no time the little businesses flourished and are now providing a regular steam of income. The women are using their income to pay for their children’s school fees, community activities, and to purchase staple items such as soap, oil, and other cooking materials.
It is so wonderful to see how successful these small businesses have become and the positive impact it has had on their communities. This concept is really making a difference, all because of the trekking industry and the Australians who keep crossing the Track.
For more information about the Kokoda Track Foundation and our Pawa Givin Meri Program visitThe Kokoda Track Foundation website.
Want to trek along the legendary Kokoda Track? Check out World Expeditions’ Kokoda Track Adventure