De'arne with local artisan Christine Passingan from Kaplaman Village at the handicraft market stall, Kavieng.
Opportunities for Papua New Guinean (PNG) artisans to engage in the pearl culture industry are being explored with the help of two Australian volunteers.
Sue McCuaig and De’arne Kershler are in PNG on separate volunteer assignments with the Australian Volunteers for International Development program. Both volunteers recently united to organise and deliver a handicraft and business development workshop for artisans on Nusalik Island, in New Ireland Province.
The artisan workshop was funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), as part of its wider research program, ‘Pearl industry development in western Pacific’.
Sue worked closely with 35 artisans to develop suitable marketing strategies to promote the long-term sustainability of handicraft production for Nusalik artisans, which complements De’arne’s research into how community groups can engage with the pearl culture industry.
Local artisan William Kepas said the training helped immensely, and he has been challenged to produce different designs and products.
“We used to rely on fishing for an income but today it is this handicraft business that pays our children’s schools fees and other basic needs,” William said.
ACIAR’s pearl industry research program acknowledges that while cultured pearls are the Pacific region’s most valuable aquaculture commodity, the potential economic opportunities are underdeveloped.
ACIAR is the Australian Government’s specialist international agricultural research agency and is part of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade portfolio.