Women’s agro role under study


The Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) research in Papua New Guinea has focused on the roles of women in agriculture, including women’s access to markets and their uptake of new technologies.
Research contributes to improving the livelihoods of PNG women in agriculture by developing their business expertise.
One project aims to understand the constraints and opportunities faced by these communities and to design interventions to help them adapt.
Vegetables and starchy staples The production and sale of vegetables and starchy staples provide opportunities to increase and diversify household income.
The ACIAR programme in PNG aims to capitalise on these opportunities, with a particular emphasis on engaging women, families and community groups in markets.
Root crops are traditional staple foods in PNG and their vital contribution to food security is recognised.
However, the productivity of root crops is declining as a consequence of shortening fallow periods, soil degradation and the build-up of pests and diseases.
Building on the results of previous research, a closely integrated cluster of new and proposed projects will further refine soil-management practices and develop new options for managing weevils.
Both projects will provide technical support for a larger project, under the TADEP programme, seeking to strengthen the entire value chain for sustainable and market-oriented sweet potato-based production systems in the highlands.
The proposed work on weevils will be closely linked with a region-wide project that is developing options for the management of the same two weevil species in the Pacific islands.
Sustainable sweet potato and vegetable management for a nutritious diet in PNG will also be studied.
Sweet potato is critical to support and improve smallholder livelihoods.
As part of the larger sweet potato programme, an additional project that aims to improve the productivity and sustainability of sweet potato farming for food security in the highlands will develop strategies to maximise nutritional value and tuber yields, and enhance research and extension capacity in PNG.
Cocoa, coffee, coconut and oil palm production and marketing Cocoa, coffee, coconut and oil palm provide major opportunities for PNG producers to increase export earnings and diversify farm incomes.
Although large-scale plantations have accounted for much of the production in the past (and continue to do so for oil palm), expanding production in these crops will increasingly be in the domain of smallholders.
The ACIAR programme is focused on understanding and resolving the social, economic and biophysical constraints to smallholder production of these crops, including the adoption of sustainable integrated crop management (ICM) practices.
Building on previous work, one project recognises that coffee in the PNG highlands is increasingly competing with sweet potato and other cash crops for land, labour and other scarce resources; this scoping study looks at options for strengthening coffee value chains and integrating the production of cash- and foodcrops to ensure enhanced sustainability and better livelihood outcomes.
Previous work in cocoa production in East New Britain has shown that smallholders can achieve good yields, even in the presence of cocoa pod borer, if they adopt a package of more-intensive management practices.
A project now working countrywide seeks to understand and overcome the constraints that prevent some farmers from adopting these practices, and to supplement the existing package through the deployment of newly available pest-resistant varieties.
This work in turn feeds into two new projects under TADEP, in Bougainville and other major producing areas, that will strengthen the value chain for cocoa and support related enterprise development, from the provision of better planting material, through intensified production techniques, to improved links to higher value markets.
New oil palm research also builds on previous work and focuses on the medium-term effort to better understand host-plant resistance to basal stem rot, a highly destructive fungal disease that threatens the sustainability of the crop.
The project is using molecular markers to identify and exclude the most susceptible clones from future oil palm plantings.
Another new project aims to strengthen cocoa and oil palm farming systems and rural communities through the promotion of strategies to increase food and income security.
A proposed project aimed at aligning genetic resources, production and post-harvest systems to market opportunities for Pacific island cocoa will operate across PNG, Fiji, Samoa, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. – aciar.org.

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