Academic journal article Adult Learning

Place-Based Picture Books as an Adult Learning Tool: Supporting Agricultural Learning in Papua New Guinea

Academic journal article Adult Learning

Place-Based Picture Books as an Adult Learning Tool: Supporting Agricultural Learning in Papua New Guinea

Article excerpt

Abstract: This article describes the rationale, development, and outcomes of two place-based, dual-language picture books with agricultural messages for women farmers and their families in Papua New Guinea. The purpose of the books was to disseminate better agricultural and livelihood practices to women farmers with low literacy. The books were designed and illustrated in collaboration with women fanners from two provinces. Evaluation data were collected through focus groups with local peer educators (village community educators [VCEs]). The VCEs reported changes in family practices related to marketing, budgeting, and saving that reflected messages in the books. The books helped the VCEs who had received livelihood and agricultural training to recall and implement the training in addition to sharing their knowledge. Farmers with low literacy were able to access the messages through the illustrations. Such place-based picture books are a powerful medium for low literacy women farmers and their families to learn about and reinforce positive livelihood and agricultural practices.

Keywords: agricultural learning, farmer learning, picture books, place-based learning, low literacy women farmers


For hundreds of years, women farmers in Papua New Guinea (PNG) spent their days working to produce food to feed their families. With colonization and the introduction of commodity crops such as coffee, cocoa, coconut, and oil palm, men engaged in the commercial opportunities and women labored to feed the family. However, today, it is essential that women subsistence farmers are supported to engage in the cash economy, especially as the majority of income generated by women is used for the benefit of the family (Garap, 2004; The World Bank, 2001). It is only in the last decade that agricultural learning in PNG has focused on training and development that addresses the particular needs of women farmers.

This was the launching point for a 4-year project that, through a range of participatory learning processes, developed the business acumen of women subsistence farmers in PNG. This article describes the development of place-based, culturally relevant picture books that featured a number of the key business and agricultural messages from the project. Two findings from the baseline study informed this innovation: (a) Many women aspired to be able to read and write and (b) an even larger number wanted to support their children's education. We hoped that simple place-based books would help mothers interact with their children and with the books as well as recall and learn good practices in marketing, budgeting, and saving.

PNG is the largest of the Pacific island nations and has an estimated population of seven million. It is one of the most rugged and bio diverse countries in the world with vast natural resources. The population is dispersed widely across the country with approximately 87% of the population living in villages or rural communities (Department of National Planning and Monitoring, 2010). The majority of these people are subsistence farmers without access to basic services of health, education, clean drinking water, and adequate sanitation. There are more than 860 local languages, accounting for 14% of the world's languages (Papua New Guinea National Commission for UNESCO, 2008). Tok Pisin, Motu, and English are the official languages; however, less than 2% of the population is fully literate in English (Rena, 2011).

PNG has recently moved to free primary education, but girls are expected to work on farm plots and/or help with housework rather than attend school. The latest available figures show literacy rates at 56%, with female literacy rates significantly lower than males (Department of Education, 2011). However, in studies that do not rely on self-reports as the census does, literacy rates of women are reported as much lower, as low as 12.9% in Chimbu province and 2. …

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