The contracting out of agricultural support services has had a positive impact in helping women farmers.
This extension approach, now known as the Smallholder Support Services Expansion Project, has supported many women farmers in the provinces.
President of the PNG Women in Agricultural Development Foundation, Maria Linibi, highlighted the success of the project at the International Conference on Innovations in Extension and Advisory Services held in Nairobi, Kenya, last week.
Linibi was one of the keynote speakers and presented her paper 'Innovations in Extension and Advisory Services: Mobilising Women Farmers and Making a Difference to Food and Livelihoods' to over 400 delegates from all over the world.
The SSSEP was first piloted in the Eastern Highlands and Morobe provinces by the Department of Agriculture and Livestock and one of its objectives was to address the constraints faced by the women farmers in accessing and receiving agricultural services and extension support.
Linibi said that the concept had spread to other provinces and the PNGWIADF has taken it on board to assist women in disadvantaged rural areas.
She said donor agencies and non-government organizstions have provided support to PNGWIADF in facilitating support services to women farmers.
PNGWIADF is a voice for the women and advocates for more participation of women in agricultural development.
It encourages women from all fields to share their knowledge and skills to support other women.
The foundation assists the womenin implementing their agricultural activitiesaimed at improving livelihoods, income generation, improving food security, addressing non-employment of youths and women and gender and HIV/AIDS.
“We are helping women or empowering women by building their capacity, training them, linking them to funding sources, developing their business skills, and facilitating knowledge sharing and learning.," Linibi said.
"Capacity building is conducted with the support ofs everal national and international research and development organisations.”
The agricultural extension services are ineffective, considering that about 85% of the population isd ependent on agriculture for their livelihood in the rural areas of the country.
However, the introduction of the pilot project to test a new approach which focused on contracting out of support services has created many new opportunities, and PNGWIAB is one farmer group that is utilising the methodology to help the women.
Linibi said as a result, increasing numbers of women smallholder farmers have received some form of support in a range of activities including food security, livestock, nutrition, food processing, floriculture, animal husbandry, basic bookkeeping, credit and others.
Women farmers have also organised themselves into groups under the PNGWIAF umbrella and can have access to and network with national, regional and international partners.
“Local service providers in the form of expert farmers are readily available and have demonstrated competence in training other local farmers in improved production practices,” Linibi said.
She said a database for women farmers had also been created, linking women to policy, research,donor partners and other stakeholders.
Linibi told the conference that the extension concept had worked well in PNG and suggested that other countries should try this system.