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Improving opportunities for economic development for women smallholders in rural Papua New Guinea

Team Members

Prof Barbara Pamphilon (Project Leader)
Assoc Prof Katja Mikhailovich
Assoc Prof Kym Simoncini
Dr Pauline Gwatarisa
Assoc Prof Jo Caffrey
Assoc Prof Deborah Hill
Sanna Harri
Kila Raka

Anna Bryan - CARE
Gloria Nema – CARE
Doreen Tunama - Integrated Agriculture Program, University of Natural Resources and Environment
Dr Norah Omot - National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI)
Dr Sim Sar - National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI)
Jeromy Kavi - National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI)
Dr Lalen Simeon —Pacific Adventist University
Dr Josie Saul —Consultant


Funding organisations

This project investigated the relevance of the Family Farm Teams (FFT) program in wider areas of Papua New Guinea (PNG).

The research question was: Are the approaches developed in the first FFT program effective across a broader range of commodities, geographies and cultures? If so, how might these approaches be improved, adapted and scaled out?

This project was out-scaled into five provinces of PNG, each with different partners and focussing on new commodity crops:

  • Highlands Hub. Focus —sweet potato, coffee and vegetables
  • Islands Hub. Focus—canarium, cocoa and traditional vegetables

The research explored the family, cultural and gender factors that impact the economic development of women semi-subsistence farmers.

The project also focussed on capacity building in three areas:

  • the development of women village leaders
  • the training of PNG agency staff in FFT to enable the development of FFT in the future
  • the training of school teachers in order to support the integration of PNG agricultural content in the curriculum and to develop teachers’ skills in place-based learning

View the final report here.

The project used participatory action research (PAR). PAR enabled the lessons learnt to be applied to subsequent activities and locations—where relevant—and deepened the research findings in an iterative way. This involved:

  • active participation of researchers and participants in the co-construction of knowledge
  • promotion of critical and self-awareness that contributes to individual and community change and development
  • building of alliances between researchers, participants and other key stakeholders, leading to locally relevant, validated findings

The project was further informed by participatory appreciative action and reflection which used a model of cyclic action learning, similar to action research cycles but used by an individual. Participants were taught the learning cycle to use in their work and then, when they met with other participants, they could engage in a shared analysis of their learning and challenges. This reflection indicated to the project team where further learning opportunities could be focussed to address the key issues that participants faced.

In partnership with CARE, the project trialled the use of ripple effect mapping as a long-term impact evaluation process which proved to be a highly successful process for both the farmer participants and the research team. For more information on ripple effect mapping, please read the Ripple Effect Monograph.

A total of 266 farmers were trained as village community educators (VCEs). These VCEs trained 2,491 other farmers. A further 98 people—from FPDA, Oxfam and other agencies funded by Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development and Pacific Governance Facility—were trained as FFT trainers. By the end of the project, they had trained a further 1,271 farmers (592 female, 679 male).

The project identified that, for maximum impact and the modelling of gender equity:

  1. VCE teams should have a gender balance, and;
  2. FFT training is the most effective when attended by both women and men from a family

These factors were recommended as key components of future delivery.

The project further demonstrated that the FFT model is made up of two complementary components:

  1. FFT development training workshops, which focus on reorienting women and men towards a gender equitable and more effective planned approach to farming as a small family business. This training helps families look at the work done by women, men and youth and to work towards a more equitable and effective distribution of agricultural and household work. It assists farming families to plan and make decisions together. It encourages opportunities for women to have access to their own income and promotes the wider benefits of women having a voice within the family and community.
  2. Business of Farming training, which introduces farming families to a livelihoods approach, better practice agriculture, foundational business practices and financial literacy. Ideally, this training is delivered by PNG agencies.

Future program delivery will depend on the area and agricultural opportunities. However, it was recommended that all delivery models begin with the FFT training so that women and men can begin to adjust their roles, workloads and family decision-making; they are then ready to engage in a more equitable approach as new farming activities generate greater income.

For further information on this project, see the Project Final Report here.

Caffery, J., & Hill, D. (2019). Expensive English words: An accessible language approach for PNG agricultural development. Development in Practice, 29(2), 147–158.

Gwatirisa, P., Pamphilon, B., & Mikhailovich, K. (2017). Coping with drought in rural Papua New Guinea: A Western Highlands case study. Ecology of Food and Nutrition, 56(5), 393–410.

Mikhailovich, K., Pamphilon, B., & Chambers, B. (2015). Participatory visual research with subsistence farmers in Papua New Guinea, Development in Practice, 25(7), 997–1010.

Mikhailovich, K., Pamphilon, B., Chambers, B., Simeon, L., & Zapata, J. (2016). Exploring the lives of women smallholder farmers in Papua New Guinea through a collaborative mixed methods approach. Cogent Social Sciences, 2, 1143328.

Pamphilon, B. (2017). The farmer-to-farmer adult learning manual: A process and resources for the development of farmers as peer educators. ACIAR Monograph No. 198. Canberra: Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research.

Pamphilon, B. (2015). Weaving knowledges: The development of empowering intercultural learning spaces for smallholder farmers in Papua New Guinea, Multicultural Education Review, 7(1–2), 108–121.

Pamphilon, B., Bue, V., & Wantum, F. (2019). Research and learning from the ‘inside out’: Processes, practices and pedagogy of a women’s agricultural economic empowerment project in Papua New Guinea in L. Singh-Petersen & M. Carnegie (eds), Integrating Gender in Agricultural Development: Learnings from South Pacific Contexts, 135—147, Emerald.

Pamphilon, B., & Mikhailovich, K. (2017). Bringing together learning from two worlds: Lessons from a gender-inclusive community education approach with smallholder farmers in Papua New Guinea, Australian Journal of Adult Learning, 57(2), 7–32.

Pamphilon, B., & Mikhailovich, K. (2016). Building gender equity through a family teams approach: A program to support the economic development of women smallholder farmers and their families in Papua New Guinea. ACIAR Monograph No. 194. Canberra: Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research.

Pamphilon, B., Mikhailovich, K., & Gwatirisa, P. (2017). The PNG Family Farm Teams manual. ACIAR Monograph No. 199. Canberra: Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research.

Pamphilon, B & Nema, G. (2021). Ripple Effect Mapping: an empowering participatory learning and evaluation process, CSC Monograph Number 5

Pamphilon, B., Simoncini, K., & Veal, D. (2020). Maria’s family team. Canberra: Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research.

Seta-Waken, P., Malie, R., Utama, P., & Palaniappan, G. (2020). Tok klia bilong kamapim gaden kaikai, rot bilong kamautim na bungim kaikai bilong salim na pasin bilong lukautim moni taim yu salim kaikai Buk bilong ol liklik fama kamapim gaden kaikai long ol Westen Pasifik Ailan Nesen [Tok Pisin translation of Introduction to basic crop production, post-harvest and financial management practices: A training manual for smallholder vegetable farmers in western Pacific island nations]. Canberra: Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research.

Simoncini, K., Pamphilon, B., & Mikhailovich, K. (2017). Place-based picture books as an adult learning tool: Supporting agricultural learning in Papua New Guinea. Adult Learning, 28(2), 61–68.

Simoncini, K., Pamphilon, B., & Simeon, L. (2018). The ‘Maria’ books: The achievements and challenges of introducing dual language, culturally relevant picture books to PNG schools. Language, Culture and Curriculum, 32(1), 78–93.

Vanua, H., Simeon, L., Kakap, R., Vai, C., Flowers, E., & Pamphilon, B. (2019). Business training for family teams: A facilitator’s manual – First steps to starting a small business. Port Moresby: Pacific Adventist University.

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