How rural women can become Papua New Guinea’s agribusiness entrepreneurs

Women in rural Papua New Guinea are keen to engage in agribusiness but many have traditionally struggled to take leadership roles. That is beginning to change, Curtin University researcher Dr Gina Koczberski tells Business Advantage PNG.

Win PNGomen are changing rural agri-business

PNG women are changing rural agribusiness. Credit: Susan May Inu

Operating small-scale agribusiness financially empowers women by giving them greater control of household income and expenditure, according to Dr Gina Koczberski, who is researching ways women in rural areas of Papua New Guinea can take up more leadership roles in agribusiness.

It also results in a range of benefits for the wider community. On average, 75 per cent of income generated by women is used to meet family needs, compared with 25 per cent of men’s income.

Koczberski also observes that when women take on entrepreneurial roles, families are more resilient and capable of adapting to external shocks, such as drought, illness or death.

‘Women in rural Papua New Guinea are beginning to engage in agricultural activities at a commercial level.’

‘The economic and social impacts on families, and communities, of more women having control over their own income are likely to be significant,’ she adds.


Women in rural Papua New Guinea are beginning to engage in agricultural activities at a commercial level, says Koczberski.

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However, there is little knowledge of how women can become successful entrepreneurs, or of the barriers that limit their engagement.

‘(The project) will investigate why women in rural areas of Papua New Guinea aren’t transitioning to more empowered, entrepreneurial positions in agri-business.’

Curtin University's Dr Gina Koczberski and Professor George Curry.

Curtin University’s Dr Gina Koczberski and Professor George Curry

Koczberski is leading a research project to address these issues, which she will conduct with Professor George Curry, also from Curtin University’s Department of Planning and Geography.

The project, which was launched in late 2016, will investigate why women in rural areas of Papua New Guinea aren’t transitioning to more empowered, entrepreneurial positions in agri-business, despite already being an integral part of food production.

It is funded by a A$1.2 million (K2.88 million) grant from the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research and will run over four years. The aim is to identify tactics that will support women in leadership roles.


PNG women in agri-business Credit: Susan May Inu

PNG women in agri-business. Credit: Susan May Inu

The project is a collaborative effort between Curtin University, the Coffee Industry Corporation, the PNG Oil Palm Research Association, the PNG Cocoa and Coconut Institute, PNG Unitech and CARE international.

In addition to understanding the barriers many women are facing, the project aims to work alongside government to develop effective policies and programs.

‘The project fits with the Papua New Guinean Government’s launch of its small-medium sized enterprise (SME) policy in March 2016,’ says Koczberski.

‘Despite the government funds dedicated to SME development, there remain large gaps in our knowledge of some of the constraints on SME development in the agricultural sector.’

Koczberski explains that further research is required to understand the sector at both a household and village level, and the actions required to build on opportunities that already exist at the local level.

Gaps, barriers, successes

Data will be collected across five provinces from rural individuals and households, private and public sector organisations from the main commodity crop industries, and the fresh food produce sector, Koczberski says.

‘Three small innovative schemes will be piloted.’

At the institutional level, the researchers will evaluate past and present policies, programs and services.

‘This step will pinpoint the gaps, barriers, successes and failures in institutional programs and interventions for women.’

Three small schemes will be piloted to foster women’s transition into managing their own or family-led agricultural enterprises.

One of these schemes will work with CARE International to evaluate a ‘business development package’ with two farmer cooperatives in the Eastern Highlands Province, Koczberski adds.

Leadership roles

Traditionally women in rural Papua New Guinea haven’t held leadership roles in business, but according to Koczberski this is beginning to change.

‘Successful enterprises offer model pathways for facilitating women’s stronger engagement in small-scale agricultural enterprises.’

‘There are some pioneering women beginning to engage more strongly in domestic and international markets, forging new pathways that are increasing women’s income and status.’

‘Although they are few in number, their successful enterprises offer model pathways,’ Koczberski says.


  1. Richard Kaore says:

    Hi George,
    I am a resident of a village here in West New Britain Province, which oil palm is the main regular source of income for our population while at the same time we have resources which are also can be tapped by women folks in terms of the agri-business. Despite this fact, our women situation has been the same for almost two decades now, our need as per the above article is truely Women taking the ownership and leadership in business, they are entangled in a culture that needs to be changed…which I can assist by way of awareness and training, but it has to be true better partnership so we can improve on that.
    I can be contacted on:

  2. Rita John says:

    I have designed a project prophosal to initiate a small agri business in my community. This will support women and families to generate income to support in my community in Jiwaka Province.
    I need professional support in training this women folks to upgrade their traditional knowledge into commerial agri.
    I need support n advice.
    Contact me


  3. Rovie Pabia says:

    Women in PNG have always been leaders in agriculture so were man, in fact they all are the back bone of PNG Agriculture. The question that needs to be asked here is what agriculture have these women/man been part of that their leadership role is not being recognized . I think its the question of Identifying the different agriculture system in PNG, the total No. of population actively involved in these different system and their Investment Value s before moving on to creating systems that enhance or enable the production chain of these various systems and the standard of people who are living of it will fall in line.

  4. Mr. Yauka A. Liria says:

    Interesting to read about this…. Marketing of rural produce by men or women, I think, face the same obstacles (which could be overcomed with persistent dedicated effort by authorities such as the Business Development Officers in provinces & districts– part of Department of Commerce & Industry– (who must receive real-life business exposure through ‘attachment programmes’ with businesses for at least several months and not just appointment of government bureaucrats or college/uni grads with business/commerce qualifications because they simply do not or will not have the real-life business elements in their thinking & approach) to plan & guide rural enterpreneurs effectively. So thats one area the research team might want to look into. The 2nd area is “knowledge of available markets, supply chains for those markets, minimum standards required to access these markets, and product pricing knowledge & skills pertinent to the targeted markets”. The rural entrepreneurs are simply deficient in these areas — another area where the Provincial & District Business Development Officers could play a pivotal role– but as I have noted above, if you emply bureaucrats into these positions, they simply dont know how to move things because they lack the relevant experience & knowhow themselves; you need to employ experienced business people (even those who have tried & failed!) into these positions, perhaps on outcome-based performance contracts, say, for over three years so they will get motivated to deliver results. The 3rd point I might leave here is this: a Regional-based or Provincial-based “marketing assistance agency” may be required to perform the roles & functions I have noted above and other functions related to supporting rural agricultural entrepreneurs (because the current Business Development Officers concept is not delivering results for reasons I dont have to get into here…). The role played by simillar divisions of cooperative societies in Australia (and other countries) may be looked into to see if those models can be adapted for the PNG context– but I feel the rural aspiring entrepreneurs do need someone, preferable a reliable vibrant agency– to guide them here and there, and shed light to them on many things and many pathways in which they may have heard of them, but are simply too complex for them to attempt them by themselves, in this modern environment. FPDC (Fresh Produce Development Co.) and the national Department of Agriculture & Livestock may have attempted some programmes in line with what I am alluding to here but the fact that there have been no nationally recognised major success stories mean this gap needs some revisiting & relooking into, perhaps through this research…. . I think this is a useful research and hope that your findings will provide a solution or solutions, which relevant national authorities could take up, that will assist rural agri-business people to progress further in their dreams & aspirations.
    I am happy to read your criticisms and comments. Thanks ALL.

    • George Curry says:

      Thanks Yauka, for your reply and very interesting ideas. I like your idea of ‘attachment programmes’. In fact we know someone working in one of the government agricultural research organisations who is currently seconded from their government position to work in the private sector to gain more ‘real-life’ business experience. And yes, there are many aspiring entrepreneurs in the more accessible rural areas of PNG who would really benefit from a vibrant agency that works across all sectors to help them reach their dreams.

  5. Regina Malie says:

    Hi George & Gina,
    A very interesting research project for women agribusiness. There is a need to develop PNG women to be at least taking lead in graduating from just being food providers and doing farming as business. At least this project will share some light on what’s hindering women’s progress and some way forward developed. I’ve seen that FPDA is not listed as a project partner as more women are involved in fresh produce.

  6. Dianne Donigi says:

    Yes, it needs a wider awareness through out the rural areas of PNG. Due to the marketing knowledge, many women are not able to receive the marketing knowledge of how their produce will have any impact on local and international market. As far as I know this it’s still a sleeping giant in PNG.

    • George Curry says:

      Thanks Dianne,
      Yes, you are correct about the ‘sleeping giant’ in women’s marketing of food crops in PNG. There is huge potential and already some women, especially in the highlands, are going into relatively large-scale production of food crops like European vegetables and pineapples. They are pioneers in what looks like to be the start of a trend in engaging more strong in the market economy.

  7. Serah pyawa says:

    We need,research , science , stakeholders, collaboration.

  8. I am in the process of designing a small initiative for my commuity that will support and promote women to actively engage in agribusiness (food-crops & livestock farming). I hope to get this model for my community launched anytime, mid-year and into full swing next year.

    This article therefore interest me and I’d love to controbute some laymens thoughts in this research project of given any opportunity.

    • George Curry says:

      Hi Joshaia,
      Sounds like a very interesting project that you are setting up. It would be good to talk to you about what you are doing. Can you send me your email address?

      • Hi George,

        I can be emailed via or

        I am initiating this project for my home community in Mt. Hagen, few kilometers outside the town. The program is currently at its planning/design stage, and it does look practical. In a nut shell, it is all about assisting the womenfolk with required capital to actively engage in agribusiness (food-crops & livestock), for sustainable economic livelihood of their family/household.

        Success of this project however depends on the level of partnership and involvement of key stakeholders to be linked in the project.

  9. Lesley Bennett says:

    Enough of the highly paid consultants and enough of the research. We need action…not research!

    • George Curry says:

      Thanks for taking an interest in the article, but I must correct your comment about ‘highly paid consultants’ because we have come across this view before in relation to our research with ACIAR. Gina Koczberski and I are NOT consultants and are NOT paid an income or consultancy fee by ACIAR for this research. We are researchers at Curtin University and we do not receive any personal financial gain from this project. Like the PNG researchers involved in this research we all are paid salaries from our own organisations to conduct research. ACIAR funding covers the operational costs of the research. Yes, I agree ‘action’ is needed, but given the persistent difficulties for women in establishing businesses in PNG, uninformed ‘action’ is likely to lead nowhere as has been the case for many years in PNG. It’s time we gather the information that will translate into better informed policies for women.

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