A successful training model developed in Papua New Guinea (PNG) has been adapted and piloted in Solomon Islands to help farming families better share their workloads and resources.
The ACIAR-supported Family Farm Teams (FFT) project in PNG proved transformational, helping women and their families improve their lives.
The 5-year PNG project ended in 2018, and the new Solomon Islands project started in 2020. Early reports suggest the new program is equally transformational.
Professor Barbara Pamphilon from the University of Canberra led the development of FFT, which aims to encourage more effective, sustainable and gender-equitable farming and business practices.
In PNG, women and girls provide 85% of the food production labour, but their contribution is often not acknowledged.
Although women farmers are key to the livelihoods of PNG families, most face limited access to productive resources, restricted mobility, unequal divisions of labour and low levels of schooling.
FFT provides training via 4 modules:
1. working as a family farm team for family goals
2. planning your family farm as a family team
3. feeding your family farm team
4. decision-making and communicating as a family farm team.
Trainers use experiential learning activities such as drawing and role-plays to facilitate understanding, reflection, planning and change.
They teach family pairs (often couples) to be Village Community Educators (VCEs) to equip others in their community. This way, women and men work together to support and guide changes in their family and community.
Additional PNG project outcomes
After the PNG project ended, Professor Pamphilon noted that as women applied skills and knowledge that helped their own families, they also helped others. This raised the women’s self-esteem and community standing.
‘Others saw the skills and the family progress, which elevated that woman and her family in the community,’ said Professor Pamphilon.
‘FFT’s activities made visible the workloads of women and children and the need for effective, non-violent communication. This creates a family environment where women and girls can grow and develop. It enables gender cooperation and teamwork.’
Associate Professor Deborah Hill, also from the University of Canberra, said the success of FFT in PNG prompted the trial and adaptation of the program in the remote north-eastern Solomon Islands district of Longgu.
The work is part of the ACIAR-supported project ‘Improving agricultural development opportunities for female smallholders in rural Solomon Islands’, which Associate Professor Hill leads.
While in some parts of the Solomon Islands, including Guadalcanal, land passes from women to their children, men are often the primary decision-makers.
Associate Professor Hill said that women from the Longgu district Mothers’ Union were invited to participate in workshops, along with a male family member. While most women brought husbands, others invited fathers or nephews.
All participants were encouraged to commit to teaching 10 other people so the wider community would benefit. The modules aim to be inclusive by encouraging participants, especially women, to use their own language.
After the training, facilitators offer support as families implement their goals and pass on what they have learned.
Associate Professor Hill said focus groups on FFT in the Longgu district reported that more families are growing their own food and eating what they grow rather than spending money on store-bought food.
‘Children are no longer hungry, and there’s more food to share and sell,’ said one community member.
Solomon Islander farmer Mrs Florence Veloa participated in the program and said she had not realised she could call on her family to help her complete her daily work.
‘After … [the] training, our daily chores and activities became so much easier because we work together as a family,’ said Mrs Veloa.
Live & Learn Environmental Education country manager Ms Elmah Panisi said when families work together, all members feel they have a right to the money. This leads to joint planning for the use of the shared resources.
Mrs Veloa said her family wanted to earn enough money to finish building their house, pay for their daughter’s education and earn a living from other small businesses.
‘I am very thankful for this project. All my life we have lived on a hand-to-mouth basis, with no concrete plans for our future, and today I am proud to be a farmer with my husband, and I can manage and save money. Our lives have greatly improved.’
Associate Professor Hill said 52 people had completed FFT in Longgu, and over 600 had learned about its messages through the VCEs.
‘FFT will be delivered in another community this year,’ said Associate Professor Hill.
Dr Todd Sanderson, ACIAR Research Program Manager, Social Systems, said the agency was a long-term supporter of FFT, first through Professor Pamphilon and her team and now through Associate Professor Hill and her collaborators.
‘The work is an excellent example of how quality social science research is foundational to robust program design and delivery, which ultimately seeks to enhance human wellbeing,’ said Dr Sanderson.
ACIAR PROJECT: ‘Improving agricultural development opportunities for female smallholders in rural Solomon Islands’ (SSS/2018/136)