Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Sustainable intensification gets rural economies moving

2014 is the Year of Family Farming. Small-holder farmers, the majority of whom live in developing countries, will play an increasingly critical role in meeting future demands for food and fibre. Dr John Dixon, ACIAR's Principal Adviser, Research and Cropping Systems and Economics Research Program Manager, provides an opinion piece on why sustainable intensification (SI) of agriculture is essential to help these farmers grow more while caring for the environment...
A family head to market in Myanmar (photo by Keshia Hilliam)
The central rural development question of our times is how to deploy science and policy to boost farm productivity and rural economies without degrading resources, that is, for sustainable intensification.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Tip-toe through the (African) tulips

Dr Richard Markham, ACIAR’s Pacific Crops research program manager, recently attended a planning workshop in Fiji on managing weeds in the Pacific islands. Participants debated the conundrum of how to deal with a species, such as the African tulip tree, that is valued by some and loathed by others...
Fiji landscape
Fiji's northern coast is dominated by introduced plant species -
some are vital economic species and some are weeds
Visitors to Fiji and other Pacific islands often admire the 'beautiful, open landscapes’ of the northern and western sides of the larger islands. Protected here from the rain-bearing trade winds, rain forest gives way to grassy hills, and orderly farms of cereals, legumes and sugarcane. Ecologically minded folk, however, realise that this landscape is created by human intervention and dominated by exotic species (introduced from other parts of the world), including crops and the weeds that arrived with them. The original forest has gone and nobody knows how many species of indigenous plants and insects disappeared with it.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Farming on sloping lands: it’s not all downhill from here

One of ACIAR’s Graduate Officers, Jack Koci, recently travelled to Bohol Island in the Southern Philippines, to review an ACIAR project that is improving land-use planning in upland watersheds...

In the Philippines, agricultural development on sloping lands is intensifying in response to a growing population and the need to diversify food and income streams. However, sloping lands are vulnerable to erosion and degradation of watershed function. Land-use planning is therefore critical to ensure that these slopes can provide vital economic benefits as well as ecological services.
Upland watershed in southern Philippines - Farming needs to balance
intensifying crop production with preserving watershed function

Thursday, 2 January 2014

A woman’s touch to woodworking

An ACIAR initiative is helping build capacity of young professionals in the Indonesian furniture industry—Tony Bartlett, ACIAR’s Forestry research program manager, tells us more...

Ibu Ria with her coffee table
Prize-winning innovation and craftsmanship has given a young Indonesian woman a trip abroad to refine her skills in furniture design.