This project aims to train women smallholder vegetable producers in Central Province, East New Britain and the Western Highlands of Papua New Guinea and help them to develop businesses.
It has been assumed in Papua New Guinea that improving women’s business acumen will improve economic circumstances for the women and their families. This project tests that assumption and aims to find better ways to improve women vegetable producer smallholders’ business knowledge and practices, taking account of each region’s cultural and contextual issues. Researchers will trial and evaluate strategies to improve women’s vegetable business knowledge and skills, develop their financial skills and create opportunities, tailoring local schemes to enhance the women’s success and security.
Women smallholders are key to Papua New Guinean family livelihoods; they produce essential subsistence crops while caring for their families. When they market their produce, it is for family benefit, such as school fees. This project builds on the ACIAR project, ‘ASEM/2009/042’ which indicated that many women smallholders may be losing money through a lack of business acumen. That project found that low levels of business skills were exacerbated by low literacy and lack of learning opportunities. A range of women will be involved in this project, including those who sell in central markets, per-urban markets and on roadside stalls.
Although the project was funded from April 2012, due to the PNG elections it was not possible to visit partners until August 2012. In that first period, the major activity was a literature review conducted by Barbara Pamphilon (BP) and Katja Mikhailovich (KM), whilst at the same time Barbara Chambers (BC) began the planning to create links between this project and the related ACIAR project SMCN/2008/008. The first draft of the baseline survey was also developed.
In August 2012, BP and KM visited the Baptist Union in the Western Highlands and with the local team led by Fredah Wantum agreed on the selection of Kwinkya and Kumbareta in the Baiyer Valley as the focus communities. In the second part of the trip, BP and KM visited NARI Kerevat and with that team led by Kiteni Kurika made a preliminary area selection of Central Gazelle and Inland Baining. The actual communities of Tinganagalip and Vunapalading were confirmed later after discussion with the local community leaders. A visit was also made to NARI Lae to consider ways that their expertise could be utilised across the life of the project. The baseline survey was piloted with NARI staff and with community women via the Baptist Union.
The second trip was made in September 2012, by BC and BP to enable an Inception Meeting to be held at NARI Laloki, attended by local women farmers, NARI and FPDA staff and opened by the Australian High Commissioner, Ian Kemish. Initial Central Province communities were discussed but the actual choice was not made until local consultation could be finalised. It was important that the selected villages complemented the work of SMCN/2008/008 but did not overlap. The baseline survey was piloted with Pacific Adventist University (PAU). Initial interviews were conducted with micro-finance institutions in Port Moresby.
The team presented a paper focusing on the project methodology at the Australian Council for International Development Conference in November 2012.
The baseline study (community leaders workshop, community members workshop, 1:1 surveys) was designed in October, 2012 and Human Research Ethics Committee permission was granted by UC and PAU in early December. Due to this timing and the unavailability of communities in December and January, the baseline study was postponed until early February, 2013.
In February 2013, BP, KM, Lalen Simeon (LS) and Deborah Kakis (DK) of PAU conducted the baseline study in two of the three regions (Western Highlands and East New Britain). The training of local researchers was effective and all leaders of the selected communities were highly supportive of the project. The baseline data is currently being analysed, and a paper for the ACIAR socio-economic conference in Lae in early June has been prepared drawing on the some of the early findings on gender and agriculture.
Following local discussions, the communities selected, as focus communities in Central Province were determined as Hisiu and Tubuseria/ Kerekadi, The baseline study in Central Province was conducted in April and May 2013 by LS and DK.
The analysis of business skill development in this first year has concentrated on financial literacy. A number of potential training partners from micro-finance institutions have been identified including the Micro-Finance Expansion Project, Nationwide Microbank, PNG Microfinance Limited and the National Development Bank. Negotiations for shared training are currently under negotiation. Links have been made with the Microfinance Pasifika network and the Commonwealth of Learning ‘Lifelong learning for Farmers’ program.
In this second year of the project, the major focus has been on designing and trialling training activities. The training needs and issues for women smallholders in each of the 6 communities were identified through community workshops and the baseline study data. This was followed by a community learning needs and assets activity which when combined with the baseline study data has enabled a community learning plan to be developed for each of the 6 sites.
The first training focus has been the mobilisation and capacity building of local community educators who will deliver training activities at a village level: the Western Highlands 22 educators (8 M, 16 F); East New Britain 28 educators (5 M, 23 F) and Central Province 12 educators (4 M, 12 F). These community educators are from the local communities with some from local community agencies. The community educators undertook a 2-day training course that integrated adult learning principles, experiential learning, session design, leading training activities and the evaluation and reporting of training.
Following a literature review and key informant interviews about approaches and issues in training women in developing countries, it was decided to focus on a ‘family teams’ approach, as it is crucial to ensure that training does not just add to women’s existing burdens. Our family teams approach has a gender inclusive, family strengthening philosophy that highlights the importance of men and women working together to ensure that all members in the family are enabled to contribute to family livelihoods in a sustainable way. The Family Teams modules have been designed to integrate key financial literacy messages (family financial goals, family financial plans and farm plans).
The first Family Teams module, ‘Working as a family team for family goals’, has been delivered in each region. These workshops were open to family household heads (one male and one female per family) and used experiential learning activities including a family teams pie chart, family roles analysis, role-plays and a family goals worksheet. In each area, the regional community education teams worked with the UC team to modify the half-day workshop to best suit their local communities. Small teams of community educators delivered the workshop in their own community over the next three months. To date approximately 440 family heads have undertaken the training. Post workshop evaluation with the community educators indicates that this approach is highly valued by smallholder families and who report observable changes in attitudes and behaviours.
The second Family Teams module, ‘Planning your family farm as a family team’, uses farm mapping techniques to enable family teams to document their current agricultural activities and then map how they would like to see their gardens/block in 5 years and to determine what steps can be taken towards this. This module is currently being delivered by the community educators and will be evaluated later in 2014.
The project has also used a brokerage approach to partner with local training providers who were identified in the community learning plans. The first of these, Basic Crop Production Techniques, has been conducted by NARI in the Western Highlands where smallholders, especially women, have received very little agricultural training. Further training in banking, saving, budgeting, container gardens and value adding to food crops is under negotiation.
The other major focus has been on the development of participatory research activities that are suitable for women and youth, especially those with low literacy. Visual activities include trials of photovoice, drawing and farm mapping, primarily with youth. A story telling process has been used with small groups of women to generate data about typical challenges women experience and the strategies they use in saving, spending and managing wantok obligations. This data will be fictionalised into stories for use in training.
The project website can be found at http://pngwomen.estem-uc.edu.au/
The third year of the project focused on trialling ways to support the learning and development of women smallholders and their families. Following workshops in which the UC team and the village community educators adapted the Family Teams modules to suit local needs, the three modules have been successfully delivered by teams of village community educators to just under 300 farmers in their own communities. The family team approach works with both women and men to raise awareness of the gendered division of labour and enables families to explore the benefit of working as a team.
Module 1: Working as a family team for family goals (one day workshop)
This workshop introduces the concept of a family team as an effective and inclusive way to work as a smallholder family. Family heads engage in a range of activities that map their current division of labour and then together consider better ways to work as a family. The family heads also look at possible family goals and determine together farming goals, financial goals and general family goals.
Module 2: Planning your family farm as a family team (half-day workshop or individual activity with each family team)
In this activity, family heads/teams work together to map their gardens/blocks in order to identify their agricultural activities and space allocation, water sources, housing, animal shelters and other assets as well as noting terrain and travel time. They then draw how they would like to see their farm in 5 years. The final step is to identify the assets, constraints and challenges and possible solutions in order to design a 1-year, and 3-year plan of development.
Module 3: Communicating and decision-making as a family team (one day workshop)
This workshop enables family heads to explore communication issues within the family and to consider the importance of shared decision-making, especially in the areas of family farm activities and financial decision-making. The activities cover skills and attitudes as well as exploring the cultural and gender dimensions of communication.
A number of other community learning needs identified in Year 1 have been addressed by continuing the brokered training model that began in 2013. Training has been specific to each region: Central Province -Fresh Produce Development Agency ‘Container Gardening’, ‘Budgeting’; East New Britain- Integrated Agriculture Training Program, University of Natural Resources and Environment ‘Sustainable Family Livelihoods’, ‘Record and Book-keeping’; Western Highlands-Nationwide Microbank ‘Banking and Savings’. Given that the basic skills have now been developed for many participant women, East New Britain and Western Highlands leaders have selected a small number of families to trial mini-loans or a family record keeping pilot.
The project has also focused on the development of research and learning approaches that engage women with low literacy. Our early data showed that many women smallholders were making simple mistakes in marketing their produce and almost all were not budgeting for their agricultural and families’ futures. We also found that many of the women were not comfortable attending traditional agricultural training due to their illiteracy. However the women’s life goals were to become literate and help their children complete their education. These findings were the drivers for the creation of the Maria books: two illustrated dual language children’s books (Tok Pisin and English) ‘Maria’s family goes to market’ and Maria’s family saves their kina’. Pilot versions of the books were trialled in workshops with women, men and children who provided feedback on text and illustrations to improve local relevance of the books. ACIAR provided funding for all families at the local primary schools to receive a copy of the books as well as a number Big Book size for use in primary schools, church and community groups. Local teachers and the village community educators have been trained in how to use the books with local families. The immediate impact of the books will be evaluated at the end of 2015.
Consistent with the projects aim to trail a range of participatory visual approaches we utilised a picture-elicitation process using an illustrated set of flash cards developed by Carnegie et al. (2012) that were developed to help understand and measure change in economic activities and relations between men and women in Melanesian communities. We used these flash cards within the communication module of the Family Teams training to explore decision making processes and the management of finances within the family. We found that workshop participants engaged deeply with the images and were able to talk openly about the scenarios on the cards as reflective of community practices, rather than their own individual experiences.
The project website can be found at http://pngwomen.estem-uc.edu.au/