Papua New Guinean women in agri-business

Women are central to family livelihoods and wellbeing in rural PNG. They produce the bulk of subsistence food crops, provide a large proportion of the labour for production of export cash crops, and they fill valued social and community roles. Women tend to spend more of their income than men on meeting the needs of their families, so income gains for women lead to direct improvements in the quality of life of their families.


Throughout rural PNG women are keen to increase their cash incomes. However, women face significant socio-cultural and economic barriers to increasing their engagement in entrepreneurial activities. These include poor literacy, limited education, inaccessible agricultural extension, low financial literacy, poor access to credit and a cultural structure that is discriminatory against women.

Nevertheless, some pioneering women are beginning to engage more strongly in domestic and international markets as large-scale producers and retailers. Many of these women are engaging in large-scale production of crops, a scale of production that was largely the domain of men, as well as new livelihood activities like transport, money lending and the marketing of phone credits. These entrepreneurial women are forging new pathways that are increasing women’s income and status.

Although they are few in number, their successful transition to large-scale producers and successful business operators offer model pathways for facilitating women’s stronger engagement in agricultural enterprises.

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Sallyn Lomutopa (above) is the owner of Ginipa Ground Coffee in the Eastern Highlands.

She was displaying her coffee at the Goroka National Sports Institute  mini market when the above photo was taken. The market was a new community initiative that aimed to promote Small and Medium Entrepreneurs (SMEs), as well as to create networking and selling opportunities for SMEs with other service oriented organisations and financial institutions. The market has not continued, despite intentions for the market to be held monthly, since organisers have been unsuccessful in finding further sponsors.

The Coffee Industry Corporation (CIC) sponsored Sallyn to have a stall at the market to advertise and sell her coffee. CIC in partnership with CARE also provided training to Sallyn and members of her group – the Lower Unggai Community Development Foundation (LUCDF).


There is very little known about entrepreneurship amongst rural women in PNG, the pathways of successful entrepreneurs, or the barriers and constraints that limit other women moving into managing their own small-scale agricultural enterprises. This four year project, funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) aims to develop a detailed understanding of the factors that explain women’s low level of engagement in small-scale agricultural enterprises and to identify and map the processes and pathways that facilitate their move into managing their own small-scale enterprises.

This project has three key objectives. These are to:

  1. Identify the enabling factors and personal characteristics associated with successful entrepreneurial rural women
  2. Identify the key pathways and processes to facilitate the transition of smallholder women into successful entrepreneurs in agribusiness
  3. Improve the capacity of women to engage in successful enterprises in agribusiness through better access to business development services (e.g. training and information) and a more conducive policy environment

As part of objective 3, the project will pilot, through CARE International in Papua New Guinea, village savings and loan schemes with two women’s farmer groups. This will include training on financial literacy, banking, and business organisational skills to the end goal of  women establishing their own group savings and loans scheme which can be accessed by group members for ‘seed’ funding to establish small enterprises.



To identify and assess the opportunities and constraints on women’s engagement with small-scale agricultural enterprise, interviews are being conducted among rural women/households and private and public sector organisations across the four main commodity crops in PNG where women’s participation rate is high: namely cocoa, coffee, oil palm and fresh produce. A team of Australian researchers from Curtin University, together with PNG researchers from PNG University of Technology, the Oil Palm Research Association, the PNG Cocoa and Coconut Institute, and the Coffee Industry Corporation are collecting the data. Fieldwork is being carried out across six provinces, including West New Britain (WNB), East New Britain (ENB), the Autonomous Region of Bougainville (ARoB), Eastern Highlands Province (EHP), and Morobe Province.

A combination of qualitative and quantitative methods and secondary data will be used including:

  • A review of the research, practice and policy literature relating to gender, agricultural development and agribusiness in PNG
  • Structured and semi-structured interviews with women entrepreneurs
  • Semi-structured interviews with relevant private and public sector organisations and NGOs
  • Focus group discussions with village women’s groups/farmer groups and co-operatives

Data analysis will be at several levels, namely at the individual, household, local/provincial and institutional levels.

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AgBus Fieldwork panel 2


The information and data gathered will form a synthesis of the pathways, enablers and barriers to involving smallholder women in successful agribusinesses activities. This information will provide the basis of policy briefs, working papers and reports.

The project will also contribute to the growing body of research on indigenous entrepreneurship in PNG which is highlighting how the indigenous economy interacts with the market economy to influence the supply of labour and incentives for market production). This knowledge is critical for understanding the development of markets in PNG and for designing strategies to raise smallholder productivity and incomes.

Project Leader:

Dr Gina Koczberski  (Curtin University); and co-investigators, Prof George Curry (Curtin University) and Dr Timothy Sharp (Curtin University)

PNG Research Partners:

PNG Oil Palm Research Association (PNGOPRA):  Steven Nake (Project leader for oil palm)
Cocoa and Coconut Institution (CCI): Robert Nailina (Project leader for cocoa)
Coffee Industry Corporation (CIC):  Dr Rueben Sengere (Project leader for coffee)
PNG University of Technology:  Dr Veronica Bue (Project leader)

PHOTO CREDITS: Matilda Hamago, Jarad Wennal, Timothy Sharp and Stephanie Harris

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