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Sustaining Soil Fertility in Support of Intensification of Sweet Potato Cropping Systems, Papua New Guinea

Team Members

Prof Neal Menzies (UQ)
Prof Barbara Pamphilon (UC)
Assoc Prof Katharine McKinnon (UC)
Dr Gunnar Krichoff (UQ)

Lilly Be’Soer, Voice for Change


Voice for Change

Food and nutritional security are crucial issues in Papua New Guinea (PNG) today. There is a general consensus that the typical diet of sweet potato currently consumed by PNG villagers contains too high a proportion of carbohydrate and too little protein. This is compounded by the cultural gender bias which sees the high-protein foods which are available directed toward the men.

In this project, led by the University of Queensland, smallholder farmers are being introduced to soil fertility management practices that will help them to achieve sustainable soil management and, in turn, enable food and nutritional security for individual households. The CSC team brings a gender lens to this work, to ensure that new soil management practices are not going add to the burden of women. Our team is examining and addressing potential gender issues in the introduction of soil management techniques for smallholder farming families.

This research strategy builds on the successful approach of ASEM/2014/095 which provides an important foundation of data, knowledge and insights into the effective mobilisation of women and men as family farm teams.

For the purposes of research, agricultural extension, monitoring and evaluation, this project is utilising the participatory and low literacy training strategies that have been developed for subsistence families as part of the Family Farm Teams (FFT) program.

Project Strategy

The project strategy has two components:

  • Family based action learning (FBAL program)This part of the strategy will be undertaken primarily in the Waghi Valley in partnership with Voice for Change.

This approach supports families to move towards more business-focussed agriculture whilst simultaneously providing an opportunity to research gender dynamics, particularly in relation to gendered roles and division of labour. The FBAL program will engage one female and one male family head from a household and provides them with a series of workshops and family activities that will enable them to work as a family team to plan the further development of their agricultural activities together. The engagement of men as well as women is essential in PNG where violence against women has been documented as a response to women’s changing roles.

Agricultural extension capacity-building of PNG agenciesthe approach to capacity-building includes bringing key PNG soil scientists and agricultural extension officers to the Wahgi Valley (Jiwaka) to be trained in the FFT workshops and the soil management activities for smallholder families. They will then work as a team to deliver this training to selected families in the Asaro Valley (Eastern Highlands), which will enable both capacity-building and sharing knowledge in order for this soil management program to be employed across other areas of PNG.

The CSC contribution to this project will achieve:

  • Improved understanding of soil management techniques acceptable and suitable for smallholder farmers in PNG
  • Identification of gender equitable ways for farming families to sustain effective soil management

For further information on this project, please contact Assoc Prof Katharine McKinnon.