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How onions are helping families to smile in Papua New Guinea

Children hold onions outside their school building

The onions from Steven Bare’s garden in the remote highlands of Papua New Guinea bring more smiles than tears nowadays. He’s thrilled to harvest another bumper crop this year.

Steven and his wife Maria have turned their family’s fortunes around since taking part in an Oxfam project that helps rural farmers to improve the quality and quantity of their bulb onions.

A family sit on building supplies holding onions
Stephen Bare, with wife Maria Steven, and children *Wendy, *Magen (far right) and *Esther, sit on building materials they will construct their new house from, bought with onion profits. Photo: Tom Greenwood/OxfamNZ

The father of four daughters (pictured centre) says, “In the past, we never thought we could live this type of life, living well … simply because we had no money.

“We did not have good things that make up a house, like nice plates, cups, mattresses, and pillows and blankets… But when Oxfam came in, we were introduced to bulb onions and this product brought money, just enough for us to buy what we always wished for.”

Oxfam supported Steven and other local families to establish a profitable cash crop of onions, by providing fertillizer, seeds and a clean water supply. Now, the families are able to put their profits back into the business, keeping the business of growing onions sustainable.

Woman sows seeds in a recently dug garden
Maria Stevens plants onion seeds in a nursery. Photo:Tom Greenwood/NZ

Steven says “in the past, we spent time in the gardens but not as seriously as we do today… Oxfam introduced the bulb onions, that helped us move forward. Oxfam funded the project, and with this came a lot of good things and change.

“We became more engaged with this work and it has affected our way of thinking and working. We now have set aims and goals. Oxfam gave us bulb onion seeds. With this, our lives have changed a lot.”

“This will be the third harvest. We distribute the income equally amongst the four families. With the second harvest’s sales, we put the money into school fees and invested more in bulb onions.”

Stephen Bare, with wife Maria Steven and daughter *Ruth with bags of onions ready to sell. Photo: Tom Greenwood/OxfamNZ

Thanks to you, business is booming for Steven and the other families in his farming co-op.

With a proud smile, he says, “This is life-changing.”

To read more about the life-changing work Oxfam does for PNG families like Steven’s, take a look at our country profile.

Thanks to the generous support of donors like you, Oxfam is able to work alongside local partners to help rural communities earn a decent income. We provide seeds, training and knowledge to improve the quality of their produce, and connect families with lucrative markets so they can earn more income to lead happy and sustainable lives.

Donate now to help more families like Steven’s to secure a better future.