Female Extension Officers in Papua New Guinea

By Matilda Hamago

There is a long tradition of providing agricultural extension and training in PNG, and several reviews and reports have assessed the effectiveness of extension in the country. Few studies however, have considered female agricultural extension officers or ways to improve the participation of female farmers in extension. Very little is known about the participation and involvement of female extension officers who often drive change and impart agricultural knowledge and skills to both female and male (smallholder) farmers. The challenges they face in an industry dominated by men are examined in a recent report by Matilda Hamago, “Experiences of Female Agricultural Officers in Papua New Guinea. A study of the coffee, cocoa and oil palm sectors”. The report outlines the experiences of female extension officers working in the major export cash crop sectors of coffee, oil palm and cocoa.

The report helps fill the gap in our knowledge regarding the gender bias in the extension system in PNG and the role and impact of female extension officers in the main commodity export crop sectors in PNG. There has been some work in oil palm which revealed very large gains for female smallholders in income and status when women’s needs are addressed in commodity production and when female extension officers are employed to work directly with women.

The experiences of female extension officers outlined in the report highlight the different struggles they encounter in the male-dominated culture instilled in many extension organisations in PNG. The stories told by the participants in the report are based on their own life experiences and reflections on their interactions and performance at work. By exploring female extension officers’ stories, this report provides insights into the range of circumstances they have faced in their professional career development and the barriers they confronted in their daily work.

This study was funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research.

Further reading:

Hamago, M. (2021). Experiences of Female Agricultural Officers in Papua New Guinea. A study of Coffee, Cocoa and Oil Palm Sectors. Pacific Livelihoods Research Group, Curtin University, Perth.

Hamago, M. (2019). The role and impact of female extension officers on the participation of women in export crop production in Papua New Guinea [Unpublished MPhil thesis]. Curtin University.