Print this page

Examining women’s business acumen in Papua New Guinea: working with women smallholders in horticulture

Team Members

Prof Barbara Pamphilon (Project Leader)
Assoc Prof Katja Mikhailovich (UC)
Adj Prof Barbara Chambers (UC)

Fredah Wantum—Baptist Union of PNG

Dr Norah Omot – NARI
Kiteni Kurika—NARI


  • Baptist Union (PNG)
  • National Agricultural Research Institute
  • Pacific Adventist University

Funding Organisation

Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR)

This project aimed to research and develop the business and food crop growing skills of women smallholders and their families in three diverse areas of PNG: the highlands (Baiyer Valley, Western Highlands) the islands (Baining and Central Gazelle districts, East New Britain) and lowlands (Bautama and Bereina, Central Province).

It focussed on the question: ‘In the light of the cultural and contextual issues of each region, what are better ways to improve the business knowledge and practices of women vegetable producer smallholders?’

View the final report here.

The comparative study identified the impact of gender and cultural dynamics through:

  • collaborative ethnographies of each village
  • trialling and evaluating a range of ways to improve women's vegetable business knowledge and skills
  • identifying and developing agricultural and financial skills needs and opportunities

The project was conducted in three locations, selected to reflect PNG’s cultural, geographic and agricultural diversity: the highlands (Western Highlands province), the islands (East New Britain province) and the lowlands (Central Province).

Through participatory action research, appreciative inquiry (AI) and asset-based community development (ABCD), the project developed a series of experiential learning activities for farmers with low literacy. The resultant Family Teams program is a gender-inclusive approach that encourages male and female family heads to work together as a family team and to collaboratively plan the further development of their agricultural and family activities.

The three modules developed as part of the program are:

  1. Working as a family team for family goals
  2. Planning your family farm as a family team
  3. Communicating and decision-making as a family team

A fourth module called ‘Feeding your Family Team’, was developed in the next FFT project. For more detail about the FFT training modules, please see our information about FFT accreditation and training.

The Family Teams program was complemented by brokered training in the areas of sustainable livelihoods, business and financial literacy, and agricultural production development relevant to each area.

A number of farmers were trained as village community educators (VCEs). The VCEs were encouraged to use the Family Teams learning in their own family and then further disseminate the training to other families through farmer-to-farmer peer education and/or with groups through their affiliations, such as churches. These VCEs have become important role models in their own communities.

The first Maria’s family books were developed and evaluated as part of this project.

The processes developed in this project resulted in strong community engagement and uptake of training by women and their families. The Family Teams approach proved to be a culturally appropriate way to support the empowerment of women and begin the development of more gender-equitable family practices. Participant families now see their farms as small family businesses, and most have changed to a more planned approach to farming. Incomes are increasing and families are now able to plan and save for further farm development and for their future.

For further information , see the Project Final Report here.

Pamphilon, B., Mikhailovich, K & Chambers, B (2014) Training by Papua New Guinea women, for Papua New Guinea women: lessons from the development of a co-constructed course for women smallholder farmers. International Journal of Lifelong Education; on-line September 4th DOI: 10.1080/02601370.2014.952358

Pamphilon, B., Mikhailovich, K., Simeon.L. & Chambers, B. (2013) Two-way learning: key gender lessons from participatory community workshops with smallholders in the Baiyer Valley and Kerevat areas of Papua New Guinea. Socio-economic Agricultural Research in Papua New Guinea Comparative Workshop Proceedings. K. Menz and B. Chambers (Eds). Lae, Papua New Guinea. Australian Centre for Agricultural Research: Canberra.

Chambers, B., Omot, N., Pamphilon, B.,Tomi, B., Linibi, M. & McGowan, C. (2012) Improving women's business acumen in PNG: working with women smallholders in horticulture. Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, Canberra, ISBN: 978 1 922137 00 5

For further information on this project, please contact Prof Barbara Pamphilon.