Improving women's business acumen in Papua New Guinea: working with women smallholders in horticulture
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ACIAR Research Program Manager
ACIAR projects to improve the marketing of fresh produce from the Highlands of PNG (ASEM/2001/037) and to improve the marketing efficiency, postharvest management and value addition of sweet potato in PNG (ASEM/2006/035) highlighted some of the constraints to women's participation in both formal and informal markets. The projects also highlighted the women's need to gain business skills such as bookkeeping and acquire knowledge of how to access microfinance and marketing information. This project aims to contribute to improving the livelihoods of PNG women in agriculture by developing their business acumen. Barriers to women's participation in the production and marketing of horticulture and the training needs of women smallholders will be explored and analysed in the Eastern Highlands, Morobe and Central Provinces of PNG. A pilot study on developing a new organisation will aim to improve institutional arrangements for PNG Women in Agriculture (WiA). Lessons learnt from this study will benefit existing and future ACIAR horticulture projects, contribute to the development of other organisations in PNG and have implications for institutional strengthening of organisations for indigenous Australian women in agriculture in the future.
Progress Reports (Year 1, 2, 3 etc)
Objective 1: Researching constraints to women's greater participation in horticulture and facilitate the development of women's business skills.
Objective 2: Improving institutional arrangements for PNG Women in Agriculture to assist in the enhancement of women's livelihoods.
The project commenced in January 2010 by reviewing past and present ACIAR R&D projects that focused on women in horticulture It was apparent that in several projects women had identified cultural, institutional and infrastructure constraints to their full participation in production, post-harvest and marketing of fresh produce from the Highlands of PNG.
From March 29 to 31 this year, the PNG Women in Agriculture (PNG WiA) held its first National Forum of the organisation with the purpose of reviewing and further developing their Strategic Plan. Cathy McGowan played a key advisory role to the executive, assisted in the review of the strategic planning process and planning for the immediate future.
Around 100 participants took part in the workshop, comprising 73 women from various agricultural groups in PNG and about 30 key partner organisations and stakeholders. It was financially and practically supported by AusAID through the Agricultural Research and Development Support Facility (ARDSF), ACIAR and the National Agriculture Research Systems (NARS) organisations, to name but a few. The Forum endorsed the following elements of the new PNG WiA Strategic Plan:
PNG women will be prosperous and have improved well being as equal partners in Agriculture for development.
Our mission is to be the voice of women to be recognized as equal partners and provide a platform that encourages innovation by women in agriculture for development.
To be an effective and efficient voice for women as equal partners and a platform for innovation by women in agriculture for development.
Policy Advocacy; Information and Communications; Partnership and Networking; Organisational Capacity Development and Women in Agriculture Innovations Grant Facility.
The third key area, Organizational Capacity Development is one that this project has as a key objective and Cathy McGowan, a partner member of the project will act as a coach and mentor to PNG WiA and provide Leadership Training to the executive.
An initial workshop of approximately 60 women from Morobe, Highlands and Central Provinces was held in Lae on the afternoon of 30 March 2010 as part of the PNG Women in Agriculture National Forum. It was facilitated by Barbara Chambers. Women were asked to identify what success they have had as a result of training programs in horticulture; what hasn't worked so well when they have tried to implement new knowledge, technologies and skills in horticulture and what lessons had they learned that might help to improve training programs for women smallholders in horticulture.
Factors leading to success were identified as immersion (from nursery to collection in floriculture); farmer to farmer training; support in the field post-training and partnership with government agencies. Constraints were identified as lack of follow-up by trainers; lack of complementary training (e.g. in farm and office management, finance); poor literacy affecting comprehension of training manuals; lack of practical hands-on training; training in the control of the taro beetle and food-flies; and lack of materials or resources to implement training outcomes (e.g. coconut oil for soap in the Momase region). An emergent cultural constraint is the belief that groups are too competitive and are reluctant to share information and engage in knowledge networking.
Priority training needs identified, apart from strategies identified in factors leading to success, were capacity building in planning, monitoring and evaluation of training programs; leadership (and gender) training for those leading women's groups; business management training, including office skills such as computing; submission writing for funding of women's agricultural groups (especially from women in the Southern Region); marketing skills; food and nutrition training; financial management and accessing micro-finance; in Momase, especially, nursery establishment was identified as a desirable training need.
Norah Omot and Barbara Tomi from NARI are in the process of surveying rural women in selected Morobe villages who had previously participated in NARI training courses in horticulture and marketing. Cathy Wali (Highlands FPDA), Debrah Bubun (Morobe FPDA) and Poela Utama (Central FPDA) are currently reviewing FPDA training programs in horticulture as they impact on women and identifying models of best practice in women smallholder's horticultural businesses with a view to their possible replication. Once these results are known, Norah Omot and Barbara Tomi from NARI will act as knowledge brokers to disseminate research findings to other key R&D organisations working in horticulture in PNG.