Monday, 31 March 2014

SIMLESA becomes kid’s business

ACIAR’s Dr John Dixon recently heard great news from the SIMLESA (‘Sustainable intensification of maize-legume cropping systems for food security in eastern and southern Africa’) Program in eastern Kenya.

A farmer group (known also as a ‘local innovation platform’) at the Kyeni SIMLESA Program site is enthusiastically participating in the program; thanks in part, they say, to John’s interactions with them. The group has tested the program’s maize and legume varieties and various conservation agriculture (CA) practices. Their tests have led to two CA tillage methods being endorsed by the community, and two maize and three bean varieties being chosen for wider adoption, both within and beyond the initial program sites.
The Kyeni farmer group presenting John with 'SIMLESA I'
(photo: A. Micheni)

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Private sector engages in Philippines papaya research

A new ACIAR project in the Philippines and Australia is partnering with the private sector to help papaya growers come up with better ways to manage serious crop diseases.

Papaya researchers at the Institute of Plant Breeding,
University of Philippines Los Baños
In the Philippines, papaya is an important and continually expanding crop. The papaya industry produces close to 160,000 tonnes each year. Most of this is used for domestic consumption, but about 5% is exported as fresh, tinned or dried products. In comparison, the Australian industry (mostly in Queensland) is small, with an average production of 13,000 tonnes per year.

Friday, 21 March 2014

World Water Day 2014 - Sustainability, equity and justice in water management

Saturday 22 March is World Water Day. ACIAR research in India is helping with water management from the village to State Government level to make it more sustainable, equitable and just...

In today’s world, the pressure on water resources increases daily. The growing human population with its associated increased industrial activity and farming means that there is less and less water to go around. This pressure also impacts upon natural ecosystems such as rivers, wetlands, estuaries and deltas. Unfortunately the world’s poorest peoples—the landless, fishing communities and indigenous peoples—are the ones who rely most strongly on these natural ecosystems to provide food, shelter and income. Thus, water use by “richer” users for income generation and development affects these poorest people the most, widening the rich–poor divide. 

One of the families involved in water management
research (photo: Basant Maheshwari)

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Celebrating the role of acacias on International Day of Forests

The United Nations has proclaimed 21 March as the International Day of Forests. It encourages countries to use this day to promote the role of forests in sustaining our environment while providing multiple values for everyone on the planet and direct livelihood benefits for an estimated 1.6 billion people.

ACIAR researcher with 1-year old acacia hybrid
trees in Vietnam 

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

New films showcase ACIAR’s work in Cambodia

Researchers tell their story about helping vegetable, livestock and rice smallholder farmers in Cambodia through ACIAR projects in three short films just released.

Dr Suzie Newman with Mrs Sarong who has had great
success with some of the technologies that she’s introduced
in her cucumber crop (photo: Sally Ingleton)
Vegetables provide a new future for Cambodia
Dr Suzie Newman has been working with vegetable researchers and producers in an effort to build up the vegetable industry in Cambodia, which imports 40-60% of its vegetables.

The ACIAR project has been helping farmers overcome production constraints through simple techniques including pest, disease and weed control, irrigation and reducing post-harvest losses. 
Farmers can earn 3-4 times the income of growing rice through producing vegetables. A number of farmers who are benefiting from this work are featured in the film.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Champions for chocolate - smallholder cocoa farmers linked to high-end chocolate makers

Smallholder cocoa farmers in Vanuatu are linking up with Australian and US chocolate makers enabling new economic opportunities, through ACIAR’s Pacific Agribusiness Research for Development Initiative (PARDI). The project ‘Facilitating improved livelihoods for Pacific cocoa producers,’ is focusing on ways to help cocoa farmers shift from exporting a low-value yet important commodity crop to producing a much higher value ‘niche market’ product. 

Cocoa beans need to be dried just right for great-tasting chocolate
Research addressing local cocoa farming issues and in-depth value chain studies began back in 2010. The value chain approach focused on understanding and meeting consumer needs. The project was well-timed to coincide with growing interest in South Pacific cocoa from a number of high-quality chocolate makers, some of whom have since become invaluable project participants.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Oysters opening up opportunities for Fiji communities

Engagement in the pearl farming supply chain is bringing economic opportunities and social harmony to many island communities in Fiji. Dr Chris Barlow, ACIAR’s Fisheries research program manager, recently visited Fiji and describes how...

Pearl farming is often considered big business, a rich man's game. Not so in Fiji, where communities, particularly women's groups, are increasingly involved in various aspects of the complicated animal husbandry process that ultimately leads to pearls being sold in jewellery shops around the world.

Emele (front) and Kelera (back) at J Hunter Pearls,
processing Pteria penguin oysters that have previously
been seeded for mabé pearl production. Mabé pearls
are ideal for handicraft and jewellery production,
at which Fijian ladies are particularly adept.
The first step in pearl farming involves collecting spat (or baby oysters), either from natural spawning in the open ocean, or from adult oysters spawned in hatcheries. In Fiji, the great majority of spat is collected from the ocean using "long-line spat collectors". These are basically fibrous ropes, set in the ocean for several months, onto which free-floating larvae settle and grow to juvenile oysters.

The collection of spat is not difficult, but it does require maintenance of the lines and careful handling of the juvenile oysters. Skill is required to recognise the species being farmed and then to separate them from the many other species that settle on the ropes. 

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Celebrating International Women's Day 2014

ACIAR works with women smallholder farmers across a wide range of countries, including Afghanistan, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea (PNG), and countries in south-eastern Africa. Our research aims to make agriculture more equitable for these women, to enable them to make money to send their children to school, improve housing and provide basic family necessities. The research particularly seeks to understand the constraints and opportunities faced by smallholder women farmers and to improve their knowledge and capacity. 

The emphasis on women is especially strong in PNG. Research covers a range of commodities, including staple crops grown for domestic markets (e.g. sweetpotato) and crops for potential export (e.g. coffee, oil palm and cocoa). A key area of focus is teaching women business acumen (‘liklik bisnis’), including financial literacy and management, how to match market supply with demand, and how to access credit.

Monday, 3 March 2014

Who says forestry is men’s domain?

While reviewing the forestry component of ACIAR’s Pacific Agribusiness Research and Development Initiative (PARDI) program in the Pacific recently, I was acutely aware of the substantial contributions that women make to forestry research and the development of related business enterprises.

(L-R) Prof Helen Wallace, Elektra Grant and Votausi
Mackenzie-Reur with a jar of the new tamarind  chutney
This research has been very well led by Professor Helen Wallace of the University of the Sunshine Coast. Helen had previously led an ACIAR project researching improved processing of canarium nuts in Vanuatu and Solomon Islands. Under the current PARDI program, Helen leads two forestry projects: one researching enhanced processing and markets for canarium nuts in Vanuatu, Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea, and the other developing processing and markets for tamarind products in Vanuatu. As with other PARDI research, this work has a strong focus on markets with grassroots benefits to smallholder producers.