Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Launching of the Maria Family Books by Foreign Minister Hon. Julie Bishop in Goroka 18 December 2014

Minister Bishop at BbP library about to read 'Maria's family goes to market'. Photo Eva Kuson/DFAT
It was a blissfully cool and clear day as the sun came out from behind the clouds amidst the pine tree tops. Dr Lalen Simeon and I were delighted to be part of the team that travelled up to Goroka to meet the Foreign Affairs Minister; Hon. Julie Bishop, for the launching of the “Maria’s Family” books at Buk bilong Pikinini (BbP) Library, at the University of Goroka campus.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Is short-rotation plantation forestry in Asia sustainable?

Sustainable management of agricultural and forestry systems is one of the most important challenges facing people all over the world. As we strive to feed, house and provide for a rapidly growing and increasingly affluent global population, we need to produce more. At the same time we need to make sure that the production systems we use don’t diminish our ability to produce in the future.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Tiny wasps to safeguard forest plantations in the Mekong region

Tiny wasps were the subject of the first meeting for partners in the ACIAR project ‘Biological control of galling insect pests of eucalypts’ held in Vientiane, Lao PDR in July 2014. Delegates from Vietnam, Cambodia and Lao PDR outlined the eucalypt pest situation in the Mekong region, where large-scale reforestation projects are in train.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Rice futures in the Mekong region

Farmers in the Mekong region could remain poor if they grow rice alone. This is one of the messages that have come out of a recent meeting of policymakers and agricultural researchers in Cambodia.

Ideas on policy measures for improving rice-based farming systems in the Mekong region are outlined in a conference proceedings just released by the Australian Centre for International Agriculture Research (ACIAR). 

Cambodian smallholder farmers in rice fields. Photo: ACIAR.
The report, A policy dialogue on rice futures: rice-based farming systems research in the Mekong region, marks the conclusion of a AU$14.8 million ACIAR program on farm productivity and policy-focused research in the region. 

The meeting brought together 60 senior policymakers and agricultural researchers, primarily from Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Australia. The resulting report comprises 25 edited papers, including five synopses of panel and audience deliberations. 

Friday, 5 December 2014

ACIAR celebrates World Soil Day - 5 December 2014

Did you know that 95% of our food comes from soil? And that there are more organisms in one tablespoon of healthy soil than there are people on Earth?

Despite soil being all around us, we often fail to realise how much we need it for food, water and most importantly, life! Today marks World Soil Day, a day for celebration and recognition of the importance of soil as a critical component of natural systems and a vital contributor to human wellbeing. The day is celebrated by the global community of 60,000 soil scientists charged with responsibility of generating and communicating soil knowledge for the common good.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Teak fever in Solomon Islands

Me go long Solomon Islands lookem wat now one fella projek long ACIAR doem. In other words, in October 2014, I travelled to Solomon Islands to participate in an end-of-project review of an ACIAR forestry project on teak production. While I may not have picked up the local lingo in 5 days, I certainly learnt a lot about forestry in the Pacific.

Friday, 28 November 2014

Battling Panama disease in Philippines' bananas

Every few years, it seems, a scare goes around threatening the end of the global commercial banana industry—and usually the focus of the scare-stories is Panama disease, caused by the fungus ‘Foc’ (short for Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. cubense).

The variety that made banana the ‘world’s favourite fruit’ was Gros Michel, but it was knocked out as a commercial crop in the 1950s and 1960s by Panama disease, specifically a form that we now call ‘Foc Race 1’. The banana that took its place was Cavendish, a variety found to be resistant to that form of Panama disease and subsequently distributed around the world. It currently dominates the global trade in bananas. But now the Cavendish banana has met its nemesis in the form of Tropical Race 4 of Panama disease—Foc-TR4. The new form of the disease has just about wiped out commercial Cavendish production in Malaysia and Indonesia (despite the best efforts of ACIAR’s previous Panama disease project in Indonesia), and this year there have been outbreaks, for the first time, in Africa and the Middle East.

A banana plantation devastated by Panama disease (Tropical Race 4). Photo: Richard Markham/ACIAR

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Animation: a new approach to communication for development

A new approach to communication for development will help low-literate farmers adopt improved agronomic practices in Timor-Leste.

Farmers who adopt new maize varieties developed by the Seeds of Life (SoL) program and Ministry of Agriculture (MAF) can expect significant yield increases if they use traditional cultivation methods. If they also apply appropriate agronomic practices (such as planting in lines, weeding, drying and storing seed in airtight containers etc.), even higher yield increases are achievable. But how do you teach these practices to farmers?

Farmers at a maize field day: a traditional form of communication for development

Friday, 7 November 2014

Vanuatu Chocolate - it's all in the smell

Judges son and father, Josh and Mark Bahen, cocoa grower Denis Nambith and cocoa buyer Basille Malily enjoy
 chocolate over the water in Port Vila at the end of the competition. Photographer: Conor Ashleigh
First Annual Vanuatu Chocolate Competition Salon Culinaire 2014
The joy that is chocolate, the desire to source flavoursome cocoa beans, and the opportunity to improve livelihoods for Vanuatu cocoa growers – could these ingredients be a recipe for success?

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

ACIAR benefits Australian farmers

At ACIAR, we broker research partnerships between Australia and developing countries. These partnerships deliver benefits not only to the developing countries where we work, but also to Australia  such as strengthened biosecurity, access to germplasm for improved crop varieties, and capacity building for farmers and researchers alike.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Family farming feeding the world: World Food Day 2014

Today is World Food Day. While we acknowledge the number of people worldwide who go hungry everyday, we should not lose sight of the fact that the only acceptable number of hungry people is zero.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Fijian women take the lead on cocoveneer

ACIAR is funding innovative research and training to help Fijian scientists conduct research on how to produce high-quality veneer products from ‘senile’ coconut stems. On this International Day of Rural Women we would like to highlight this important project that is building the capacity of Fijian women and enhancing livelihoods in the South Pacific. In many Pacific Island countries there are vast areas of coconut palms  that are too old to produce fruit, which provide little use to farmers. However with ACIAR’s help, Fijian locals are developing a better understanding of how to turn unused resources into a higher value, profitable product.

Eric Littee (QDAFF) , with Sainiana (measuring veneer), Temo and Elenoa from Fiji Department of Forestry.
Photo: Tony Bartlett.

Friday, 10 October 2014

Volunteering in Vanuatu

A year in Vanuatu as an Australian Volunteer for International Development (AVID) is a great opportunity to learn more about food security issues in the Pacific, meet unforgettable people, learn Bislama and climb many volcanoes.
I had the privilege of working with several NGOs, most notably Care International in Vanuatu and Adventist Development and Relief Agency Vanuatu, on food security projects across four islands—Araki, Efate, Futuna and Malakula.

Fitu, a gardener and weaver from Mission Bay, Futuna, presented me with a beautiful basket that she made as a farewell gift. Photo: Bronnie Anderson-Smith

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

First official Ba Women’s luxury jewellery launched in Suva

If you have ever searched for locally-made, high-quality jewellery in Fiji, chances are you were pretty disappointed. The truth is most available luxury items have been produced en masse outside of the South Pacific. And, given the items aren’t local, the sale of these imported products has limited livelihood benefits for Fiji people.

However, the ACIAR/Pacific Agribusiness Research for Development Initiative (PARDI) project, ‘Assessing potential for developing the mother-of-pearl (MOP) handicraft sector in Fiji: Empowering women’s’ groups and livelihood development in Fiji’ has tackled this issue and is turning it around.

New mother-of-pearl (MOP) jewellery handcrafted by members of Fiji’s *Ba Women’s Forum(BWF), was launched at an event staged in Suva in September at the well-known Tappoo ‘Market Place’ retail outlet. The jewellery range encompasses 20 variations of fashion wear and 14 variations of everyday wear items. For the first time since the PARDI research project began in 2013, fashion connoisseurs and retail representatives had the opportunity to view and purchase the jewellery, and discuss being part of the new venture.
Models showing off the mother-of-pearl jewellery handcrafted by the Ba Women's Forum.
Traditional and modern artistry are integrated into the new jewellery designs with dominant use of the MOP shell. Products are made from local materials to enhance ‘Fiji-made’ accreditation. The uniqueness and quality of these products position them in the premium value of +FJ$100 for the fashion range and +FJ$50 for everyday wear. 

The Suva launch means this range of jewellery items is now available for purchase by the general public. Interest is such that, in addition to the original stockists Tappoo, other retail outlets would like to stock the jewellery and well-known cruise ships are happy for Ba Women to sell products to tourists visiting Fiji.
The newly released Fiji-made mother-of-pearl jewellery is professionally presented with the Ba Women’s Forum's story about hand-made, local merchandise printed on the inside cover of their boxes.
How do these developments translate in terms of potential opportunities for the local economy? The ACIAR/PARDI project has identified an annual market value of around FJ$4 million for Fiji’s MOP handicrafts and pearl sector, of which currently only around 10% is met by local production.

Prior to the MOP launch, the project involved a rolling series of workshops on MOP jewellery product development. Local women’s group, the BWF, and the local Ba Town Council have worked closely with PARDI, jewellery designer Marie Erl, and Fiji-based fashion designer Robert Kennedy.
Ba Women's Forum team from left: Ms Marie Erl, Dr Maria Doton (Chair of BWF), Vani Saurara (trainee) and Theo Simos (project manager, University of Adelaide).

This project is providing an excellent opportunity to empower mature-aged, unemployed women and men. Trainees have achieved a basic level of capability, and will participate in further training to expand their jewellery-making skills and to develop their business and marketing capacity.

The long-term future of the MOP project will depend on further research funding to train interested locals and value-chain representatives towards the establishment of business models, and their own jewellery-making companies for sustainable and profitable livelihood benefits.
Vani Saurara (Ba Women's Forum trainee) and model Kirsten.
 ‘Assessing potential for developing the mother-of-pearl (MOP) handicraft sector in Fiji: Empowering women’s’ groups and livelihood development in Fiji’ is led by James Cook University’s Professor Paul Southgate and Adelaide University’s Research Associate Theo Simos. It builds on work undertaken by the University of the South Pacific’s Dr Anand Chand and his project team.
* Ba is a town in Fiji, 37 kilometres from Lautoka and 62 kilometres from Nadi, inland from the coast of Viti Levu, Fiji's largest island.
For more information contact:
Research Associate, Theo Simos – M: 0417816160 or
PARDI Communications, Julie Lloyd – M: 0415 799 890

Links for further information:
The ACIAR/PARDI handicrafts project is part of a suite of pearl projects led by James Cook University. More information can be found in ‘Fisheries Profiles 2014

Associated stories and YouTube link are listed below:
PARDI news articles on mother-of-pearl (MOP) handicraft and jewellery training in Fiji
ACIAR blog on opening up industry opportunities
PARDI YouTube supporting the role of Pacific women

Thursday, 25 September 2014

The JAFs are in town

This week the JAFs are in town. Short for John Allwright Fellows, JAFs are postgraduate (PhD and Masters) scholars supported by ACIAR’s John Allwright Fellowship scheme, which aims to enhance research capacity in ACIAR’s partner-country institutions.
Every year around September the new awardees gather in Canberra to meet each other and ACIAR staff, and to take part in a workshop on communicating research.

Nascimento Nhantumbo (Mozambique) and Khamtan Phonetip (Lao PDR)
This year there are five women and 17 men from 12 different countries – Bangladesh, Bhutan, Ethiopia, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Mozambique, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines and Vietnam.

The research topics are diverse. For example, Ms Risa Antari (Indonesia) is studying the effect of nutrition on bone growth in cattle at the University of Queensland. Mr Muneer Rehman (Pakistan) is investigating plant hormones to control citrus colouring at Curtin University. While Mr Khamtan Phonetip (Laos) is at the University of Melbourne to research the best way to dry plantation eucalypt wood using a solar kiln.

Ritika Chowdary (India) and Muneer Rehman (Pakistan)
They’ve had a jam-packed week so far. Day 1 was spent at ACIAR house, where they spent most of the day in the main conference room, meeting the research program managers and learning about ACIAR’s communications and impact assessment programs.

They also received insights and learnt of some of the challenges associated with completing a JAF from Muhammad Sohail Mazhar from Pakistan. Sohail is in his fourth and final year of his JAF-sponsored PhD on avocado bruising at the University of Queensland.

Ratih Damayanti and Dwiko Budi Permadi (Indonesia)
The next 3 days are spent offsite at a scientific writing workshop, run by Drs Margaret Cargill and Kate Cadman from the University of Adelaide. This is an intensive course where the students learn how to write scientific papers and deliver engaging presentations about their work.
Finally, on Day 5, the students will reward ACIAR staff with the presentations they have been preparing during the week.

JAF Week 2014 participants with ACIAR CEO Nick Austin.

But it’s not all work. There is plenty of time to play as well. Last night the students and ACIAR staff enjoyed a noisy and delicious dinner in Kingston. And after the presentations on Friday the students will be taken on a tour of Canberra. Then it’s back ‘home’ – to their Australian tertiary institutions – to get stuck into their studies.

By Georgina Hickey, ACIAR

More information:                                                                                                    

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Building on a decade long partnership — Afghanistan government agencies lead wheat trials

Improved wheat varieties are contributing to Afghanistan’s food security and economic growth.  Australia has been a major supporter of wheat varietal improvement, working in partnership with Afghanistan government agencies for well over a decade.

This program of improving wheat yields is implemented through an ACIAR brokered partnership between ARIA (the research institute of the Afghanistan Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock - MAIL) and CIMMYT (the CGIAR centre dedicated to wheat and maize improvement, ACIAR project CIM/2011/026). 

Wheat is the staple commodity in Afghanistan – in excess of 20 million rural people (or about 7 million households) depend directly on the crop. On average about 1.17 million ha of irrigated wheat is grown each year, while up to 1.38 million ha is planted and not irrigated,or rainfed, depending on the season. Rainfed systems are the most challenging to improve because of the associated risk and their very low productivity.

Afghanistan’s wheat yields face significant challenges – low yields from both irrigated and rainfed crops have been further challenged by susceptibility to disease. Of concern are the common strains of yellow rust and the looming regional threat from the aggressive UG99 strain of stem rust.

A ten year partnership ARIA/MAIL, CIMMYT & ACIAR

Research progress has been slow but solid, broadening the range and quality of the wheat varieties available for field trials.  On a recent visit to Afghanistan, it was very impressive to visit the Darulaman Research Station, as a guest of ARIA Director General Mr Obaidi and of CIMMYT.   The MAIL/ARIA team took the lead in describing all of the work undertaken – it was clear that they have full ownership of the wheat trials. 

The MAIL/ARIA team led by Director General Obaidi (second on left) at Darulaman Research Station in Kabul

In 2013, Australian sponsored research resulted in the release of 7 improved wheat varieties. The wheat lines released included irrigated varieties with the potential to produce over 6t/ha, and rainfed varieties with the potential to produce 3.8t/ha.

These yields are about 10% better than any current variety and are more than double the current average yields of 2-3t/ha for irrigated wheat and 1-1.5t/ha for non irrigated wheat.

Assisting adoption of new varieties

The MAIL/ARIA program is managing trials in 10 locations representing 4 major agro-climatic zones of Afghanistan. To accelerate adoption of the new varieties, the project has established 4 technical support hubs where the varieties and appropriate wheat growing methods are tested on farmer’s fields and demonstrated to farmers.

Rainfed wheat production in Char Kent, Balkh Province

Adoption of new varieties is, however, very slow. It is constrained by factors such as – seed availability and quality, timeliness of distribution, cost of seed, and localised agro-climatic requirements.

ACIAR estimates that adoption could reach up to 20% of the planted area in the medium to long term. If this occurs then up to 1.5 million households will benefit.

David Swete Kelly undertakes Monitoring and Evaluation on behalf of DFAT for the Afghanistan Research for Development Program

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Voicing the needs of women farmers

“Women farmers are vital, in the poverty-ridden Eastern Gangetic Plains of South Asia”, says Dr Kuntala Lahiri-Dutt, of the ANU.

ACIAR, with DFAT, funded a report by Dr Lahiri-Dutt highlighting the ‘feminisation of agriculture’ and the challenges facing women-headed farming households, in the Eastern Gangetic Plains. This is one of the poorest parts of the world – marked by male out-migration and deteriorating livelihoods.

Social and economic factors, and the need for off-farm income, have seen men increasingly move away from rural areas, to the point where up to 70% of South Asia’s agricultural work is done by women.

Dukhni Safi runs a farm of less than a tenth of a hectare in the Madhubani district of Bihar, India.
The farm is now so small it can only provide 4–5 months of the food required yearly for the household.

Women have emerged as the key producers, performing a wide range of tasks related to planning, cropping, managing, processing and marketing, in and around the agricultural fields.

The resulting women-headed farming households are often poor with small landholdings. These families and their livelihoods are further constrained by the lower levels of education and training afforded to women, and the discrimination to which they are subjected when accessing agricultural technologies.

Dr Lahiri-Dutt’s report is based on a detailed survey of the serious constraints being faced by women living in this extremely poor setting. She knows this region and its challenges for women farmers intimately. Dukhni Safi and Sajjan Devi are farming women whose voices can be heard in two short but insightful case studies featured in the report.
Dr Lahiri-Dutt canvasses the opinion of these women – of their perception of obstacles and constraints, and of possible local solutions.

Dr Lahiri-Dutt recommends a series of strategies, that are gender sensitive, to improve education for women-headed farming households – for example, introducing women to more productive agricultural methods and extension services.

The burden of work on women is exemplified by the case of 30-year-old Sajjan Devi, a widow, pictured here with two of her three young children.
She also sees knowledge sharing among peers, and in group situations, as a necessity. Dr Lahiri-Dutt suggests that these informal and safe peer groups could evolve into cooperatives, aimed at securing training and improving access to money, resources and equipment.

In the Eastern Gangetic Plains region gender roles have significantly shifted in the past 50 years. Feminisation holds implications for agricultural productivity, food security and gender equity issues. It’s of interest as much for agricultural scientists as it is for development agencies.

Ultimately, Dr Lahiri-Dutt’s report adds substantially to the field of agricultural knowledge by incorporating the voices of women. It will assist agricultural scientists and development agencies alike, in ensuring their programs and project activities are in tune with the actual needs expressed by women.
To reiterate, and as Dr Lahiri-Dutt says, the need to empower these women in their farming households is vital.

By Mr David Skinner (ACIAR Program Support Officer) and Dr  John Dixon (ACIAR Principal Adviser)

More information and further reading

ACIAR publication TR083 - Experiencing and coping with change: women-headed farming households in the Eastern Gangetic Plains

Dancing with the River: People and Life on the Chars of South Asia by Kuntala Lahiri-Dutt and Gopa Samanta (Yale University Press, 2013)



Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Helping women revive natural dye-making traditions

Some of the naturally dyed yarns produced by the village women.
In Indonesia, hand-woven and dyed textiles play an important role in the spiritual, social and economic aspects of life. These textiles are worn in ceremonies, traded, bartered and given as wedding gifts. They are made by women, with the traditions passed down through generations. Increasingly these textiles are produced using synthetic dyes. However, new research is encouraging women to revive their natural dye-making traditions, and increase their incomes in the process.
An ACIAR-funded project in eastern Indonesia is supporting the development of integrated agroforestry and non-timber forest product systems. The project partners include government researchers and non-government organisations, including a Bali-based fair-trade organisation—Threads of Life—that uses culture and conservation to alleviate poverty in rural Indonesia.

William Ingram, founder of Threads of Life, discussing dying with Halena Kase at Bosen.
Threads of Life works directly with over 1,000 women in more than 35 cooperative groups on islands from Kalimantan to Timor. The proceeds from sales of the textiles help weavers establish cooperatives, manage their resources sustainably, train younger generations, and keep their traditions alive while alleviating poverty. Threads of Life staff also teach the members of the cooperatives simple business skills, as well as how to manage and protect the plants used in dye making.

Under the ACIAR project, with the support of Threads of Life and the project researchers, women in the village of Bosen, East Nusa Tenggara, are reviving their ancient traditions of making natural dyes for use in weaving to enhance their livelihoods. Since the project started a year ago, the local researchers introduced the Threads of Life staff to the potential opportunities around the Bosen village study site. Women in this village were practising weaving but they had made the transition to using synthetic dyes. Only the older women in the village could remember which local plants had been used to make dyes and what the traditional practices were.

Margarita Liukae reducing indigo dye.
When we visited Bosen during the project’s annual workshop in August 2014, the local women were making a purple dye from the plant Indigofera—a plant that’s been traded around the world for centuries. Interestingly the genus Indigofera is widely distributed with local species occurring in Indonesia and Australia. However, the most commonly planted species in Indonesia is Indigofera tinctoria, which originated in India and was brought to Indonesia in the 19th Century. 

The plants, which are nitrogen fixing, are grown in the village gardens and the leaves are then used to make the indigo dye. Following soaking and partial fermentation, lime is added to reduce the indigo and make it more colour fast.

Halena Kase using the indigo to dye threads for weaving.
By reviving and adopting the traditional dye-making processes, and then using these dyes in their textile weaving, the women of Bosen are receiving up to four times as much for the textiles as they did when they used synthetic dyes. The project staff are supporting these activities and researching how the natural dyes can be made more uniform and colour fast.

By Tony Bartlett, ACIAR’s Forestry research program manager

More information
ACIAR project FST/2012/039 – Development of timber and non-timber forest products’ production and market strategies for improvement of smallholders’ livelihoods in Indonesia, led by World Agroforestry Centre

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

PAC to Perth

On landing in Perth one sentiment was common amongst our group: are we really still in the same country? Flying 4–5 hours in most of our group’s home countries would involve passing over at least more than one country.

We were in Perth as part of ACIAR’s annual meeting of the Policy Advisory Council (PAC), a group made up of representatives from the developing countries ACIAR works with.  The meeting consists of 2 days in Canberra , followed by a short field trip somewhere in Australia to meet with key research partners, policymakers, farmers and agribusinesses. This year I had the pleasure of organising the meeting and the field trip to Western Australia.

the Hon. Julie Bishop and members of ACIAR's PAC and Commission

After a busy 2 days in Canberra, meeting with ACIAR’s Commission for International Agricultural Research and the Foreign Minister, the Hon. Julie Bishop, we had landed safely in Perth and were looking forward to the 3-day tour ahead. 

Day 1 – Perth

University of Western Australia
PAC members with UWA researchers and chickpeas
First up was the University of  Western Australia (UWA) with researchers from the UWA Institute of Agriculture. It was a beautiful sunny day and the historic campus was showing off its best side. The group discussed common global issues for universities including research priorities, funding and how to attract students to agriculture. It was clear that everyone was passionate about agriculture and determined to engage future generations for development and sustainability of the industry.

After a busy start to the week, Dr Bo (Vietnam) was intrigued by the Centre for Sleep Science but especially interested in the Chickpea experiments. The research into water use efficiency and salinity tolerance was of particular interest to our South Asian colleagues. 

CSIRO – Floreat
We spent the afternoon with the CSIRO team at their Floreat facility. Our group was taken through the soil science basics in a demonstration of how CSIRO engages with farmers through training and field days.

Dr Bo demonstrated his soil science background by taking and examining a soil core from the CSIRO lawn

We were also shown a sheep nutrition study into the effect of diet on methane production and productivity, a new saltbush variety, and productivity testing of new lupin accessions recently collected from the Fertile Crescent region. 

Day 2 – Bunbury

Department of Agriculture and Food

Day 2 was a bus tour with Western Australia’s Department of Agriculture and Food (DAFWA). We visited a seed potato farm, a dairy farm and a vegetable packaging facility. The group gained a lot from interacting with the farmers and learning about the industry from their perspective. 

Wearing biosecure and fashionable plastic shoe covers to inspect the seed potato crop

At the DAFWA office we learned about the wine industry (even tasting a couple of new varieties) and a fledgling jujube (Chinese red date) industry. Some PAC members wondered why they weren’t exporting jujube to Australia at those prices!

Day 3 – Perth

Crawford Fund
We started the final day with a breakfast hosted by the Western Australian committee of the Crawford Fund. PAC members were very interested in the potential collaboration and training opportunities for their researchers back home.

Ruth Oniang'o (Kenya) and Leah Buendia (Philippines) show off their fluoro vests
Australian Grains Centre and Murdoch University
Next we headed off on the bus for a tour of the impressive Australian Grains Centre at the CBH bulk grain storage and handling facility, and a visit to Murdoch University

In an example of projects delivering benefits to both Australia and our developing-partner countries, we were shown an experiment focused on improving legume productivity through development of the rhizobia (nitrogen-fixing bacteria). Legume species collected from South Africa were being tested for their potential in improving Western Australian grazing systems. Ruth Oniang’o (Kenya) was particularly impressed with the African focus of the Murdoch team and was interested in further engagement with the researchers. 

Kings Park and Botanic Garden

Mr Xaypladeth from Laos taking a selfie with Perth in the background
We finished the day with a visit to Kings Park and Botanic Garden, and were fortunate enough to be guided by our enthusiastic, former botanist, bus driver Laurie. After a couple of quick snaps overlooking Perth and at the end of a very busy week, there was still some time for exploring the city and shopping! The tradition of gift-giving remains strong amongst our Councillors and they welcomed the opportunity to buy some Australian souvenirs to present to colleagues back home.  

It was a very productive, interesting, funny and exhausting week. Everyone seemed to have confidence in my calm exterior and trusted I had everything in control. Underneath though I was extremely relieved each day as we arrived and departed on time, didn’t get lost and, most importantly, didn’t lose anyone along the way.


Rebecca McBride, Communications Officer