March 28, 2019

Rainforest Mothers: Making a sustainable income with the K20 challenge

When it comes to balancing business skills with raising a healthy family, rainforest mothers often find themselves up against it.

With limited infrastructure, education opportunities and market access, it takes a helping hand and sheer determination to overcome any obstacles.

Papua New Guinea is a traditionally male-dominated society. Particularly in rural areas, it is rare for women to have adequate postnatal care or education opportunities. It makes it difficult to speak up for yourself and leaves many women caring not only for their children, but their grandchildren and extended family too.

Wabumari house by water with palm trees in background

We’re celebrating one such mother’s achievement.

Meet Nino: Grandmother, mother and rainforest entrepreneur. Having raised her four children alone, she has used the money to buy a small number of sweets to be sold from her home. When she turned a profit, she set her sights higher and invested in more products to sell. From February to June, she had saved a total of K510.00. She gave most of it to her daughter who had just given birth to her first child.

Nino made sure to keep K100 to buy a range of dyes for weaving pandanus mats and baskets to sell to continue the challenge. She’ll take these traditional mats to Alotau to sell to tourists. Nino told Cool Earth that her dream is to buy a new sewing machine and is committed to continuing with the K20 challenge until she has achieved this.

Nino holding a board with her name on it

The best thing about schemes like this is the resilience it gives women so they can manage their finances long-term and plan their, their children’s, and as in Nino’s case, grandchildren’s, futures. But there’s also the benefits it brings to the rainforest and local environment.

Papua New Guinea is already facing the impacts of sea level rise. Islands in the tropics will only increasingly be disproportionately impacted by climate change and related extreme weather events1. Empowering women to be equal economic agents increase the resilience of vulnerable communities as a whole. In Papua New Guinea in particular, it helps give all people in a community a voice that helps challenge extractive industries and skills to ensure the interests of all residents heard. There’s also a more reliable source of money for emergencies and better financial planning skills – vital parts of any climate resilience strategy.  


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  1. Yale Environment, (2017), “As Seas Rise, Tropical Pacific Islands Face a Perfect Storm.”


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