Celebrating Salome Zongesia as a true champion of women in agriculture

For God, for family and for all humble farmers.

Rural mothers, daughters and grandmothers in Papua New Guinea play a huge role in producing food and building agriculture at the village and district level.

But in order to empower these women farmers to become healthy active participants and more efficient, productive and self-reliant in their own environment, you need an agriculture extension officer who is willing to impart knowledge and skills.

Many times agriculture extension officers in rural PNG find themselves in work circumstance where there is limited resources to use, but they are always willing to help farmers improve their livelihoods through the growing of cash and food crops, raising of pigs, poultry, livestock and fishery for food and for income.

Extension training with farmers in Zumim village in Markham.

It gives me the greatest honour to share the story and promote the work of my father’s colleague, Mrs. Salome Zongesia.

She is the only female agriculture extension officer ‘didimeri’ attached with the Department of Agriculture and Livestock (DAL) at Mutzing in Markham in the Morobe province.

Aunty Salome’s maiden name is Salome Nausai Poion.

She comes from Lawes village in Penabu local level government area on the south coast of Manus Island.

Her journey as a ‘didimeri’ started in 1978 after completing grade ten at Manus Provincial High School.

 During her high school days she had an uncle named John Yowat who was an agriculturalist at Lorengau.  He was the one who persuaded her to take up agriculture.

 In 1979, she ended up doing a three months’ work practical at Manus DAL, before going off to Vudal Agricultural College (now called the University of Natural Resources and Environment) for training in Rabaul, East New Britain.

She graduated in 1981 with a certificate in tropical agriculture. It was there that she met and married a Finschaffen man and followed him to Morobe.

Her first job started at 3 Mile in Lae with the Department of Primary Industry (DPI).

In 1984, she was transferred to Situm in Nawaeb then to Lae where she worked for what is now called Fresh Produce Development Agency (FPDA).

She moved to Mumeng in Bulolo for two years, then returned to Lae in 1991.

Work took her and her family to Wau rural local level government for nine years.

After more than ten years of field capacity in general extension work she went to Highlands Agriculture College in Hagen for her Post Diploma in Tropical Agriculture.

 Shortly after this in 2002, she was posted to Mutzing in Markham and that’s where she joined my father, Giame Philip and three other male colleagues including her former boss, Dakia Wokio whom she had met in 1981 in Lae.

Because of her easy going personality and generous approach, it was very easy to know her.

Rice field extension somewhere in Markham.

Over ten years of her life was spent in Markham doing what she love most and that is serving humanity by providing extension services on spice and vegetable farming through farmer trainings and field demonstrations.

Where the department lack in terms of field capacity and expertise, partnership is key to achieve this.

“It’s rewarding at the end of the day when farmers succeed and their families benefit, it’s all about transforming livelihoods,’’ she explained.

It’s a very special feeling when you meet a farmer on the road and that farmer has managed to pay for children’s school fees or has ventured into a small business from the sale of crops or animals.

 And it takes extreme dedication, hard work, commitment and passion from someone like aunty Salome to inspire and empower young women farmers out there.

The challenge now is to see more young people take up that responsibility to come forward and actively participate through learning so they can help their parents.

Also to bring this work to a greater height with existing market opportunities and help change this narrative that farming is only for the poor and elderly.

Currently, aunty Salome is attached as the Rural Development Officer (RDO) with Markham DAL providing extension services on spice  and vegetable farming.

Altogether she’s served DAL for 41 years and she is thinking of retiring at the end of this year and go back to Manus to start her own business.

She has three grown up children. Two of them are now attached with the Division of Community Development and the Division of Commerce & Industry respectively with Morobe Provincial administration.

It’s encouraging to see young men weave bilums in a patrilineal dominated society like Markham

I was really proud when I came across this picture posted by a friend of mine on Facebook .In this picture Gidi Bampung, who lives at Mutzing Station in Markham is weaving a bilum as a pastime hobby using a colorful acrylic.

This is the kind of mindset and creativity that we want to encourage and see in young men in the communities and villages that we live in.

In a patrilineal society like Markham, bilum weavers are mostly women and girls. Only one or two men in a village can do this.

And bilums are hand-woven for decorations, to store small personal items while others are made as a gardening bag. Mothers often carry their babies in bilums too.

Bilum collections of Titie Barap of Mutzing.

Gidi’s friend who also live at the station decided to join him for a bilum session too.

Hope this can inspire other young men to embrace creativity and life skill and become responsible persons in their communities and villages.

The right teacher makes all the difference in the world

Despite the challenges of having limited teaching materials and having to walk for long hours before reaching the main road, Cleophas Giwibing loves being a teacher in remote Wantoat in the hinterland of Markham.

This year will be his ten years into teaching in remote school.

Cleophas is my classmate from Markham Valley High School.

He completed his primary schooling at Sangan and went on to grade nine at Markham Valley High School in 2006.

Cleophas and I joined the batch that became pioneers when the high school attained its secondary status in 2007.

In school, he was well mannered and disciplined, someone who was determined and focused in school.

At the end of grade 12, he was selected to pursue teaching at Divine Word University’s teaching faculty at St Benedict in Wewak.

 Cleophas did well and graduated in 2012, attaining a Diploma in Primary Teaching. His first teaching commenced at Kenong Primary School in Finschaffen soon after graduation where he served for two years.

In 2015 he moved to Onga and remained until 2019. Access into Onga is by crossing the Markham River on foot from Mutzing. Access road at Umi has deteriorated over the years with the recent collapse of a bridge which makes it difficult for cars and PMVs to transport people and cargoes.

Regardless of the circumstance and daily struggles, Cleophas has never regretted serving at schools in an effort to inspire and educate children to pursue their dreams.

“ I love teaching because it’s a noble task and it’s a two-way process where I help students learn and at the same time I’m also learning,’’ Cleophas tells me.

What really inspired him to pursue rural teaching is students and parents’ attitude towards school activities and learning as a whole as compared to road access schools.

“Parents are always there to lend a hand in school activities and their support goes to show their hunger and determination to see their children succeed’’, he explained.

Indeed parental attitude towards education has the potential to influence children’s daily lives and development.

Sometimes he is left in school with 300 or 400 students to look after in a day. It’s a massive task.

“ I just have to be friendly to all the students and whatever I say, they obey simple instructions.”

His biggest achievement came in 2020 when Bungkawe Primary School had to send 35 students of the total of 42 to high school after grade eight.

Last year, 12 students from a total of 18 continued to grade nine which was a testament of collaborative effort, dedication and team work.

Some students had to withdraw from school because of a landslide that occurred about 8 meters away from the school.

Cleophas is currently a teacher at Bungkawe Primary School.

Pig farmers in Simbu are privileged to make silage using kaukau

Photo credit: Lutheran Development Services

In an effort to boost livestock production and encourage good feeding practice, pig farmers in East Simbu District are privileged to receive trainings to make silage using kaukau. Thanks to Lutheran Development Services.

With this very important training, farmers can feed pigs and ensure they have enough feed for the dry season and also maintain good growth of pigs in each household.

Kaukau silage can be stored for up to seven months with very simple equipment and relatively-low material costs.



Where there is a will there is a way

Photo credit: Rangie Wai of Lutheran Development Services

For many years, over 1000 people living in Yamino and Rembufa in rural Sialum in Morobe province have to walk seven kilometers every day to access clean water.

With the hope of alleviating this problem with a water supply system right to their door step, the community have put their hands together to help Lutheran Development Services (LDS) complete a water supply project.

It’s not an easy task but the men, women and youth are determined to make this happen and to see change.

 They need about 1000 cubic meters of sand and rock before they can start with the construction of a water dam.

 And they have to walk for 8-10 kilometers to collect black sand and fill bags and then carry them back to the project site.

For white lime stones, they will have to walk another 10 kilometer to collect.

According to Rangie Wai of LDS, about 60 per cent of black sand and rock have been moved to the site for the construction of the water dam where the water will be piped for seven kilometers to the village.

The sheer determination and energy to work together is a testament of this water supply project in progress at the moment.

Women farmers in Finschaffen learn to make animal feed using kaukau leaves,starch and salt

Photo credit: Lutheran Development Services

Pig farmers mostly women in Helsbach in Finschaffen area of Morobe can now look after their pigs and keep them well nourished and healthy.

Thanks to Yangpela Didiman Program of Lutheran Development Services for facilitating a five-days training on making silage or animal feed using kaukau leaves, starch and salt.

The training is very important for three reasons. With this training, farmers can be able to prepare the mix and store them in air tight condition for two weeks before it is ready to be used.

Farmers can feed pigs for 6 to 8 months during which a new mix can be prepared.

And skills gained at this training is very important to prepare farmers for events such as drought which is a huge challenge to feed livestock.

With the outbreak of African Swine Fever(ASF) in Papua New Guinea it is very important to ensure pigs are eating well nourishable food to keep them healthy and safe for consumption.

Producing silage such as this cost less to prepare and help save money for farmers.

The onus now is on responsible farmers to make sure every feeding utensils and tools are clean and stored away for safety and best practice to avoid spread of diseases .

Why women pig farmers ? The responsibility and burden of feeding domesticated animals such as pig and poultry fall heavily on girls and women in most villages in Papua New Guinea.

I salute YD officer,Catherine Boira and her team of three female university students for their time and effort to transfer their skills and knowledge to help build the capacity of these farmers.

People of Towat village in Wasu can now access clean running water for the first time

Photo credit: Lutheran Development Service technical staff on site.

More than 600 people living in Towat village in Wasu Rural local level government in Tewai/Siassi District of Morobe Province can now have clean running water to drink, wash, cook and for various other uses.

It’s just a five minutes walk away from the village.

Access to this running water means girls and mothers do not have to walk very far to fetch water, instead they could spend more time being productive.
Towat village is one of the twenty-two recipients of the water supply project currently administered by Lutheran Development Service in Tewae/Siassi District.

Thank you David, you made uncle proud

Last year in May 2021, I ran into a young man at the Jackson’s airport in Port Moresby. I was on a duty travel to Lae for an assignment on school agriculture and nutrition survey organised by the Institute of National Affairs in collaboration with Australia Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

It was a sunny day and I was so excited because travelling to Lae was another privilege to see my parents apart from work.

And as part of my personal routine boarding protocol or aircraft maintenance fascination, I stopped and glanced at the propellers, horizontal stabilizers, wing of Air Niugini’s aircraft and fuselage before reaching for my seat.

A young man dressed in a flight attendant’s outfit walked down the aisle, stopped briefly and warmly greeted me.

He said; “moning sis.’’

I replied good morning and checked my watch to confirm the departure time so I could relax and read a book.

I kept wondering who the person was because his greeting implied someone I knew.

He knew I was confused so he said; “It’s me David, remember we use to live at Fort Banner before?’’

“I’m very happy to see you David, you look sharp keep it up my brother,’’ I thank him and strapped myself in for the journey.

David’s father was a well-respected man. He came from a village called Sairope in Kokoda in the Sohe district of Northern Province.

Having lived and worked in Melbourne before, he was a quiet man who minded his own business and lived well in the neighbourhood. His house was two blocks away from my auntie’s house and my aunty knew the family well.

David’s mum was from the Gulf of Papua and David had a kid brother named Mitcho who was always with him mum at the doorsteps selling delicious home made doughnuts.

And at that time of residence in 2014 and 2015, David was a student at Gerehu Secondary School.

You would find him in a company of youth whose nuisance made one question whether children realised how respectful their parents were and the values their father had instilled versus the company they found themselves in and the influences it has had on their choices and decisions in life.

I remember walking home from Waigani one afternoon and David was with three of his friends returning from school. They had their phones with music playing and one of the songs was quite pleasing to my ears, so I asked who the artist was.

David quickly explained and recommended few other songs from the same artist. From the way he was conversing, the tone of his voice and the language he was using, I knew at that moment he was a smart kid even though my personal communication with him was limited at that time.

He had the potential of becoming somebody but just that his company of friends at that time told people otherwise.

And I knew David must have gone through adversities that have taught him lessons on surviving in life.

His story also evoked the psychology of nature versus nurture and the debate that a person’s physical appearance and personality characteristic are influenced by genes and hereditary factors including environmental variables like social relationship and surrounding culture that has a greater influence on behaviour.

Seeing David neatly tucked and dressed in a well-polished shoe was a special feeling.

“Welcome to Lae, Nadzab Airport. Thank you for flying with us, enjoy your stay in the Morobe Province and we look forward to see you on the next Air Niugini flight,’’ the intercom end of flight PX 148 announcement came on and I took my bag to disembark.

“Sorry aba, I would love to serve you juice but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, meals are no longer served,’’ David told me.

“No problem David, I’m very happy to see you like this, make uncle proud,’’ I waved goodbye and ran off to join my colleagues.

It’s a very special and rewarding feeling to see someone succeed and I was genuinely proud of David.

Lessons learned on School Agriculture and Nutrition in Papua New Guinea

Report produced by Institute of National Affairs and first published in October 2021.

Acknowledgements by Paul Barker, Executive Director of INA.

The Institute of National Affairs would firstly like to thank the Australian Department of
Foreign Affairs and Trade for funding this survey of a sample of primary and secondary schools
across six provinces, tertiary educational institutions, the responsible National Departments
and Provincial office holders, NGOs involved in education, teachers from other schools and
other stakeholders. We’d like to specifically acknowledge the DFAT and ACIAR staff, notably
James Marshall, Jessica Raneri and Luke Simmons, for their enthusiasm and commitment to
this study and its potential follow up, including with the existing Morobe School Gardens
Project, but also the potential for up-scaling of relevant support for schools in PNG

We’d particularly like to thank the many respondents to this survey, conducted at a difficult
time for schools with the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic in 2020/21, which caused major delays
in the conduct of the survey, which occurred to minimize any potential health risks to
participants. The respondents included staff from the Departments of Education, Health and
Agriculture and Livestock, Provincial Education Advisors in the six provinces visited, Principals,
agriculture and other teachers and students in the Secondary and Primary schools visited, as
well as a few school principals from other schools and past education advisers, lecturers and
other staff in universities (notably UoG and UNRE), teaching colleges and technical training
institutions, as well NGOs involved in education and agriculture. Respondents are listed by
name (except the students and a few teachers whose names we didn’t secure) at the end of
the report. We were impressed by the high level of commitment of most of the teachers, who
were working with severe resource constraints (both time, financial and space) and the need
to stretch these resources between multiple functions, at a time when student numbers and
class sizes have been rapidly increasing, mostly well in excess of numbers envisaged, but when
funding has failed to keep pace.

The Institute would finally like to recognize the work of its research team for this survey,
which although commencing in October 2020, was largely conducted during May 2021,
namely: Marjorie Andrew, who was also principal author of this report, Tuari Gaudi, Doreen
Philip, Gwenda Rabiv, Paul Barker and Rufina Peter. We would finally like to acknowledge
the feedback from Prof. Peter Heywood, particularly on nutritional aspects of the report but
also on the wider content and findings, as well as from the DFAT and ACIAR team, who’d
both drafted the initial questions sought answering from the survey and with the feedback from
the successive iterations of this report.

Executive Summary
PNG’s National Nutrition Policy (2016-2026) recognizes the important role of PNG’s education
system in helping to address the country’s serious child malnutrition problems. The Policy
highlights the need to develop and update teaching resources and nutrition as part of the teaching
curriculum. In terms of agriculture, the Policy highlights that tools and resources are needed for
enhancing the state of food and nutrition in PNG, nationally and locally.
The lessons learned on school agriculture and nutrition in Papua New Guinea study, was designed,
managed and funded by the Australian Government through the Department of Foreign Affairs
and jointly designed by its agriculture team, and the Institute of National Affairs (INA). The
overall goal was to identify lessons learned and present good practices from schools, provinces,
training institutions and national departments and agencies. The survey gathered information about
the teaching of agriculture and nutrition, and feeding practices at schools in six provinces, Central,
Morobe, Eastern Highlands, Western Highlands, East New Britain, and Milne Bay.
The data gathered from primary and secondary schools is not representational. However, a sample
of 8 primary schools and 12 secondary schools was conducted, which had a combined student
enrolment number of over 14,606 (excluding schools that did not provide enrolment figures). The
proportion of female students was roughly 57% for primary schools, and 52% for secondary
schools. Four tertiary education institutions were also visited, together with national and provincial
education authorities and a few other teachers and education specialists.

Nursery at Goroka Secondary School.

School gardens
The primary purpose of school gardens are for conducting practicals in agriculture education.
This is the policy that is implicit in the Agriculture syllabus taught from primary through to
secondary levels.
However, schools also cultivate gardens to grow fresh produce for use to feed boarding
students. This is a practice that has been carried out since the establishment of boarding schools
in PNG since the 1950s. These days’ schools are heavily reliant on the government grants to
feed the boarding students, while supplementing meals with produce from their gardens.
Ways should be found to utilise the school gardens for the purpose of achieving the outcomes
specified in the Agriculture Syllabus activities and assessments. Land use by the school has to
be planned firstly to accommodate each of the agriculture syllabus units’ requirements for each
academic term, then secondly, to feed the boarding students.
On average primary schools have 1 to 2 hectares to use to farm. Secondary Schools have larger
plots of land for agriculture where the size ranged from 1 hectare (ha) at Malabunga Secondary
to 19 ha at Asaroka Lutheran Secondary School, or Benabena with 21.3 ha available, of which
16 ha is potentially arable. The average size of land is 6.4 ha for each school in the study.
Fruits and vegetables are grown by secondary schools. The most common cultivated are aibika
greens, corn, pak choi and green beans. Other varieties of greens, including cabbages are
grown along with tomatoes, capsicum, peanuts, as well as many schools producing
6 watermelons, pineapples and having mango trees. A few secondary schools grew cash crops.
Two of the schools in the Highlands region grew coffee (Asaroka had 1 ha –although the crop
is currently being forfeited to theft), one also grows pine trees and Goroka Secondary also
cultivates orchids. Two schools located in East New Britain grew cocoa and balsa trees. A
few schools kept livestock, especially broiler chickens, fish (in ponds) and goats, although
several others said they used to have poultry and pigs, and some in Eastern Highlands have
proposals to keep bees.

Schools that had a farm manager position (filled) performed much better than those that did not.
They could organize the maintenance of the gardens, plan out gardens, which the teachers did
not have the time or generally the skills to do so. Schools which previously had a farm manager
reported that they had experienced a noticeable decline in productivity in the school gardens
since they’d left. The success of the school farms may be more related to the people available
to run the farms – experience, commitment, budgeting and management capability.
The use of science teachers and business studies teachers should be more involved in teaching
agriculture, which was found to be useful. For instance, at one school, students were shown how
to generate an income from growing aibika greens on a small patch of land and sold the produce
at the local market. Most of the schools that produced livestock sold the output for school
income, although in some cases the school purchased some for the mess, notably on special
Student feeding practices
There is currently a policy being draft on school gardens and feeding students. There is no
school feeding programmes in primary schools, only in secondary boarding schools. The
overall budget and menu is guided by the School Board of Management. The school
administration plans the fortnight budget for the school mess. The Teacher In Charge of the
mess manages the daily operations including monitoring the procurement and rationing food
to students for each meal, and cooking arrangements, where usually students are given
responsibilities. Initial calculations show that schools spends K1.00 to K2.45 per student per
day to feed them.
In the main, rice and tinned fish sometimes mixed with noodles, were provided to boarders in
secondary schools for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but on some days in some schools tinned
meat, was served notably for certain students who were averse to tinned fish. Some money
was used to buy other store items and fresh produce from the market. In many schools the
greens were only provided occasionally on special occasion such as meals twice a term,
(public holidays or exam time): e.g. with cream bun, cordial, lamb flaps, red sausages, or
chicken/ fresh fish, and rice was served. Every payday fortnight, in most boarding schools,
students are allowed to go home for the weekend.
Most of the secondary schools visited had access to electricity often (unreliably) supplied by
PNG Power Limited. However, the schools often lacked funding to buy or repair their fridges,
freezers, ovens, baking and cooking equipment. This means that the school kitchens are
rudimentary. Many schools use gas cookers or firewood stoves. Often there is no refrigeration.
This works as a barrier to storage of meat, vegetable, frozen goods and dairy products.

Mt Diamond vendors.

The local vendors (sometimes teacher’s families) were found to play an important role in
providing food and drinks to school children. Some schools have policies to manage vendors;
they apply to be registered as a vendor; they obtain approval regarding the food sold, quantity
and price, and have a duty teacher assigned to monitor the sale of the food items. Other schools
chose to give turns to different groups or communities to cater on set days. Some schools did
not really care, and left vendors to sell food and drinks outside the school grounds sometimes
in unhygienic conditions. Vendors need to be given guidelines about food safety, and more
nutritious food items.

Vendors at Goroka Secondary School.

School canteens were useful to have especially at boarding schools. An innovation was for the
canteen to be managed with a separate bank account, run as a business within the school such
as selling goods to the kitchen as well as to staff and students. Half the number of secondary
schools (6 out of 12) had a canteen that was currently operating. Most of the other schools used
to have canteens but no longer in operation owing to a number of issues, such as no-one
available to run it, or past mismanagement. However, at least three of the schools had plans to
have the students operate the canteen, the Students Representative Council or by a student
business course students.
Parent knowledge about preparing food for their child to take to school was successful where
there was an active participation by parents in school meetings where awareness was given
and instructions on the type of food children can bring to school. This was applied as part of
the Covid-19 measures by the NDOE.
Teacher Training
There appears to have been a lack of standard approach to teaching Agriculture and
Nutrition/Home Economics under outcome-based syllabus. The design of the practical
agriculture lessons differ between schools depending on the availability of specialized
agriculture teachers, and influenced by the university or colleges from which these teachers
graduated. (Hitherto most agriculture teachers in primary school had were diploma holders from
agricultural colleges, until teacher training became a requirement. This greatly reduced the
availability of specialist agriculture teachers, however, with most primary teachers of
agriculture, therefore, being generalists).
While there are specialized Agriculture teachers, there are also Science teachers teaching
Agriculture, as well as Business Studies teachers. Interventions should be made in the teacher
training institutions curriculum on how best to train teachers to teach agriculture and business
subjects, along with home science, personal development and health subjects regarding
nutrition topics. Ensuring that students study biology prior to, or alongside, studying
Agriculture was necessary.
Teachers should be given regular and specific in-service or refresher training to help them to
plan, prepare and teach agricultural lessons using appropriate and effective approaches and
activities. The National Education Plan 2020 – 2029, has a set of ‘Minor Outcomes’ that address
standards-based curriculum (SBC) development and teacher training during the plan period.
The opportunity to review the agriculture and nutrition curricula, along with activities to
upgrade existing teachers is overdue, as well as to train new agriculture and nutrition teachers.
School lessons on agriculture are dependent on the leadership provided by the teacher who needs
more exciting lessons on the subject, including appropriate practical, and teachers need to be
better trained and supported with adequate resources. School leadership is key, with the
administration needing to provide adequate focus and support for teaching the theory and
developing practical skills in agriculture, food and nutrition. Schools that had committed
principals, teachers and parents, were successful with the running of school gardens and
agriculture education.
National policy settings and curriculum offered in schools
Most agriculture teachers are generalists with some training in agriculture. The teachers are
left to their own to interpret the Making A Living subject for upper primary grades, and the
Agriculture Syllabus for secondary grades, and to develop the best way of teaching these
subjects. All teachers complained that they did not have manuals, text books, materials such
as posters, and most felt they did not have the skills to conduct practical lessons.
There is a new agriculture syllabus for secondary schools, which is “Standards-Based”,
produced by the Department of Education. The staff in none of the Secondary schools visited
had seen or heard anything about the new syllabus and were still using the outcome-based
agriculture curriculum. Although the rhetoric was strong on agriculture (from national
government and in most cases provincial education advisers, but perhaps less so from the
Education Department/Curriculum etc.), very limited resources were provided to enable it to be
implemented effectively. Acquiring agriculture interest and knowledge comes through actual
agricultural activity and not just through theory. Students expressed that having more excursions
and practical lessons would improve their agriculture education.
Agriculture subject is an elective for grades 11 and 12, school staff with suitable agricultural
background and training are also limited. If school agriculture and nutrition education was made
a core subject up to grade 12, this would increase the number of students studying the subject,
as well as be an investment in a more sustainable future. A few schools, supported by Provincial
Education authorities, recognized the need for practical agricultural and related skills for their
students, considering the nature of PNG’s job market and resources available to students, and
converted or were in the process of being transformed into Agro-technical Secondary schools,
providing conventional education through to Grade 12, but also providing practical TVET
certification also. (This is somewhat reflective of the model long pursued in the pre-tertiary
education system in Solomon Islands, with a focus on formal sector technical skills
requirements, but particularly informal sector skills needs, including through their Rural
Training Centres).

Mt Diamond Secondary School

Funding for school agriculture, nutrition education and feeding programs
All education institutions are very much dependent on government funding, including the faith based schools and tertiary institutions. The government pays the salaries of school teachers
centrally (unlike with the church health services). The current policy with the funding of schools
throughout PNG depends largely on the National Government Tuition Fee Subsidy (GTFS)
policy which sets fee limits for each education sector institution, and the amount of subsidy to
be provided for student units. Boarding schools (since 2020 and the discontinuation of the
Tuition Fee Free system -TFF) are supposed to receive K1,650 for lower secondary per student,
and K1,749 per upper secondary student boarders. These amounts represent 62% of the tuition
costs, while parents are expected to pay 38% of the fees. In many cases it was found that during
2020 and 2021, to date, these amounts from government were received late or not received in
full, while parental contributions were also widely not received in full or in a timely manner.
In terms of expenditure, about 50% to 75% of the tuition fees are spent on buying food for the
mess to feed the students in secondary schools (with some implicit cross subsidization from
day student fees of boarding students). The school management generally is envisaged as
allocating K4,000 to K5,000 to each subject area for the year, including agriculture. This
amount was found inadequate for teachers to purchase text books, equipment and supplies to
run a proper agriculture education programme in many cases for hundreds of students
(especially with the largest schools now having up to 3,600 students, notably Goroka
Secondary, where classes reportedly ranged up to 120 students.

Demand for agriculture and nutrition education
During the school visits, the expressed demand for agriculture education largely came from
school teachers, lecturers and from provincial education officials (as well as some provincial
education advisers and other sources outside the schools themselves). Many teachers, including
many principals, expressed that agriculture should be given high priority as a subject to be
taught. They measured this by the number of class periods allocated for agriculture, the number
of agriculture teachers employed at the school, and the budget allocation for the subject.
The teachers saw that most of their students would leave at Grade 6 – 10 would return to their
homes in the village without any employment opportunities. Many teachers and provincial
officials recognize that school leavers should have a set of skills in agriculture and related
practical skills to help them become self-reliant and to generate an income from selling fresh
produce, livestock, honey and other products. While agriculture may not always be seen as the
preferred future by many students, many teachers understood the reality for many of their
students who would not continue on to further their education or limited formal sector
employment outside agriculture. Some school principals drove the initiative increase the
agricultural focus in their schools, including in the case of one of the sample schools, to rename
and refocus it as an agro-tech secondary school. Many parents and students set their ambitions
on professional or business careers, notably in urban centres, and showed less enthusiasm on what they seemed undue school focus on agriculture, although the students generally said they valued the food gardens and even garden work, particularly where it provided a direct impact, in improving the composition of the otherwise very dreary and unvaried school meals.
From recent nutrition surveys across PNG, and from the evidence in this survey of school meals
and budget, there is clearly a need for better nutrition in schools and the wider community,
agricultural education and, improved income earning opportunities. Female students should be
encouraged along with boys, to take up these subjects. There is a link between maternal health
and education and child nutrition, thus, a continued focus on female enrollment and retention,
but also on these practical subjects, as well as the more traditional academic choices, will influence continued reductions in the numbers and shares of children suffering from stunting, wasting, and other indicators of child malnutrition. It may be noted that in the initial years before, but particularly after Independence a major focus was given to improved access to education, but also to agriculture (including cash crops) as the backbone for livelihoods for most of the population, but also to improved health and nutrition, which is largely dependent upon nutritional awareness, enhanced and reliable income and livelihoods, in most cases from sustainable agriculture, at least for the immediate future years.

Recommendations on way forward

  • Government to develop its policy on school feeding programs.
  • The government will need to increase access of all children to quality education(especially for girls), so that understanding and awareness about nutrition, infant feeding practices and child feeding can be fundamentally changed.
  • The government to improve access to clean drinking water, and good sanitation and hygiene at schools and for all communities.
  • The national and provincial governments will need to commit sufficient financial and technical resources to support the implementation of the PNG National Nutrition Policy 2016-2026, the School Health Policy, and the National Food Security Policy, supporting schools where necessary.

Upscaling agriculture education

  • Ministry of Education to make Agriculture and Nutrition Education as core subjects and to allocate adequate budget for effective implementation.
  • To review the curriculum of MAL using the Lower Secondary Agriculture Syllabus Teacher Guide be adapted for use in primary and upper secondary school levels
  • The government to commit to implementing the Higher Education Strategic Implementation Plan 2017 – 2038. Supporting new scholastic infrastructure, particularly in fields such as agriculture, engineering, and teacher training.
  • To supply text books and teaching materials to schools. There is a need for high quality learning materials and text books with garden practices, nutrition guides, cooking guides and recipes etc.
  • Schools should use advanced methods in gardens such as small machines, irrigation, high quality planting material. Money for a shed and fencing were also expressed needs. Schools can buy small scale machinery to teach upper primary and secondary students how to process foods, how to plough the ground using small tractors, and care and maintenance of these. The Highlands Agriculture Training College offers Certificate in rural engineering which covers water, mechanical, small engines, soil management which teachers can be supported to do the course.
  • Position of Farm Manager to be created and funded for each school.
  • Teacher training colleges, and schools need to be able to visit a nearby model school farm with crops, livestock and fisheries. This could be set up by the agriculture training institutions or at the teachers colleges. Such farms could be set up under a pilot project initially.
  • Each year baseline data be collected on each student on the weight and height by age and sex, by grade for each primary and secondary school, by health teams and reports produced. In addition, the female adolescent students be tested to monitor and help address anemia levels.

A sample of six provinces were surveyed: Central, Morobe, Western Highlands, Eastern
Highlands, East New Britain and Milne Bay. Overall, key representatives were interviewed in 8 primary schools, 12 secondary schools, 4 teacher training colleges, 4 tertiary educational and training institutions and 5 provincial education officers. Other key informants included National Department of Education officials from Teacher Education Division, Curriculum Development Division, and experts who were
former agriculture teachers, a former student of an agriculture secondary school, and a current
school principal in the NCD, an academic, two international education advisers, and a manager/adviser with City Mission, an NGO involved in teaching, agriculture and practical skills with older students and supplying schools with related materials, including rice.

Concluding remarks and recommendations
The years immediately prior and post-Independence in 1975, saw a rapid increase in school
enrolment, bringing the percentage of eligible school age children entering Grade 1 (at age 7) to
67.8% according to the Education Department (Education Staffing and Enrolment Statistics, Aug
1975). The gender inequality at the time was stark with 62.2% boys and only 37.8% girls in Grade 1, with some provinces relatively equitable, but the Highlands provinces with ¾ male and only ¼ female students. Male retention rates in those days was also much higher than for females.
The Government’s plan in 1978 was to raise primary school attendance rates to 92% by 1985, but over the next decades enrolment and retention rates failed to show the planned increase, until the late 2000s and through the 2010s, when school intakes and retention increased strongly both in primary and secondary schools, but also class sizes, despite an increase in the number of schools established. This resulted in some very large schools, for example Goroka Secondary, reportedly the largest in the country, with approx. 3,600 students, and classes reportedly of up to 120.

This has placed major challenges upon the education system, its overstretched budget, institutions and teachers, despite increased teacher numbers through the 2010s. The consequence has been that some schools, like Goroka, have ceased not only to provide boarding facilities, but have even abandoned their mess and school meals, in view of incapacity. The introduction of Tuition Fee Free education in 2012 encouraged school intake, but placed growing demand on the national Budget. The resulting readjustment to a 2/3 government contribution to tuition fees in 2020, with 1/3 parental contribution, combined with major delays in fund release, and in many cases parents not fully paying their contribution, placed further pressure on school budgets, both to deliver education services, but also to adequately feed their students, particularly boarding students, resulting in borderline or in some schools deficient school meals, in terms of basic carbohydrates, protein and other essential nutrients, potentially jeopardizing students’ health and welfare, including prospective education development.

In the years prior to and post-Independence there was a major focus on human resource
development, consistent with objectives under the Eight Aims (1972), focusing on rural
development and self-reliance, the National Goals set out in the Constitution, then consolidated
into the National Development Strategy and to be applied in practice through the National Public
Expenditure Plan (NPEP). The emphasis of public expenditure under the NPEP was for
increasing rural welfare, rural education, helping less developed areas, improving subsistence
agriculture, food production marketing and nutrition, economic production, increased Papua
New Guinean participation in the economy, urban management, effective administration and
environmental protection. As stated in the NPEP 1978-1981 “Malnutrition has become a
serious national problem in terms of human suffering and death. The Department of Health
estimates that Papua New Guineans consume on average only 80% of the food energy
requirements recommended by the WHO. As a result the efficiency of the education system is
reduced, worker productivity is lowered and increased demands are made on health services”. A
major public focus was on addressing malnutrition, “in early 1978 the Government will launch
a National Nutrition Programme operating initially through the Departments of Health, Primary
Industry and Education and various media agencies” with “reports regularly to the National
Planning Committee”; “a core nutrition syllabus, drawn up at a workshop in Goroka in 1977 will
be introduced as all agriculture, teacher training and other tertiary colleges during 1978. The
training of Papua New Guinean nutritionists will continue” and “important contributions to the
Food and Nutrition Programme through education programmes in schools and the establishment
of school tuckshops, school gardens and lunch programmes. The Department of Education will
feature ‘good nutrition’ as a major theme in 1978 and at the beginning of the school year the
nutritional status of every child attending community school will be assessed”.

Nutrition partially slipped off the agenda of research, health awareness and education in the
1990s and early 2000s, with provincial nutritionist positions unfunded, agricultural extension
largely ceasing, school gardens and agricultural programs side-lined. However, as the decade
progressed the issue was gaining increased attention, from highlighting of PNG’s poor social
indicators, the priority on health, education and addressing hunger in MDGs and then in the
2010s a series of international and domestic reports on impending agricultural production
deficiencies of both staple foods and gaining an affordable balanced diet for much of the
population. The recent nutritional surveys in PNG, albeit localised, have highlighted continued
high malnutrition levels in PNG and growing food production and distribution challenges in
many rural areas, particularly in the face of higher population densities. Despite the higher rates
of school enrolment and retention over the past decade, there is increased recognition that formal
sector employment opportunities will remain scarce, particularly with the slow economic and
employment growth over the past decade, and that most school leavers will need to return to their
land and agriculture. This awareness of the realities of PNG’s demography and tight formal job
market, has encourage both the national and provincial education authorities to restore emphasis
on agriculture, practical education and nutrition. The Budgetary constraint on schools, with their
burgeoning student intakes and numbers, in ensuring the provision of an adequate diet for all
their charges, particularly boarding students, is recognised by school principals and teachers,
many of whom expressed eagerness to establish or restore school gardens, to be able to produce
more food and cash crops on school grounds, both to increase food availability and variety, to
supplement the limited purchased food (which is largely imported), as well as to enhance school
incomes and provide agricultural practicals for students. This awareness of the tight budgets and
often delayed release of fund for schools, and the limited, and in many cases inadequate, food
supply for students, is also recognised by national and most provincial education authorities, but
less starkly than in the schools themselves, and it doesn’t yet seem to have got on the National
Government’s radar, and few MPs have yet provided district funds to assist in this critical area, being more inclined to commit funds to build new schools and other facilities from their District Service Improvement Grants .

The Department of Education has yet to make deeper commitments in agriculture education as a
top priority, and this is shown with little funding provided for its implementation. Agriculture is
hardly given a mention in the latest National Education Plan 2020 – 2029.

Apart from being an examinable subject for Grades 9 and 10, school agriculture and nutrition
was not compulsory, and students preferred to pursue subjects such as information technology
in Grades 11 and 12, that would help them get white collar jobs. The key is to get students
interested in agriculture when they are in early primary school grades so that will be motivated
to continue learning about Agriculture in senior years.

There is a great need for agriculture teachers to upgrade their qualifications. No incentives are
provided at all to enhance teaching of Agriculture. Some members of parliament have taken upon
themselves to support secondary school education, such as Central Governor Agarobe in
supporting Iarowari and Mainohana Secondary schools with large grants.

The primary purpose of school gardens are for conducting practicals in agriculture education.
This is the policy that is implicit in the Agriculture syllabus taught from primary through to
secondary levels.

However, schools also cultivate gardens to grow fresh produce for use to feed boarding students.
This is a practice that has been carried out since the establishment of boarding schools in PNG
since the 1950s. Schools are heavily reliant on the government grants to feed the boarding
students, while supplementing meals with produce from their gardens. A policy is currently being
developed by the NDOE on feeding school students, which till now has been left to the school
boards and administration to manage.

Ways should be found to utilise the school gardens for the purpose of achieving the outcomes
specified in the Agriculture Syllabus activities and assessments. Land use by the school has to
be planned firstly to accommodate each of the agriculture units’ requirements for each academic
term. For example Lower Secondary Agriculture Unit one: Soil testing and soil preparation.
Ideally each student should have a ‘patch’ that they can apply the techniques.

Available resources need to be better managed. Although there are some education institutions
and schools that have very large allotments of land (over 5 hectares), a large number of schools
do not have available land to grow school gardens, due to location but also largely due to
landowner problems restricting the use of land (generally rural schools better provided). Several
pathways should be developed for each school to choose to take. Such as firstly, where land is
available, secondly where land is small limited they can focus on a vegetable patch or peanuts,
or livestock; and where no land is available to the school, how might they focus on seeds,
technology, etc. Teachers were seen to grow vegetables in their backyard, and were willing to
involve students in their gardening activities, or focus on nutritious food preparation.