Friday, 29 August 2014

Private sector agroforestry: enhancing farmers livelihoods

On a recent trip to Lao PDR to visit an innovative, private sector led and community-focused forestry project, ACIAR RPM, Tony Bartlett met a passionate young Australian forester. 

Richard Laity has been working in Lao PDR, primarily with Burapha Agroforestry Ltd, but also with the Luang Prabang Teak Project. Richard has a forestry degree from the Australian National University, but since graduation has spent most of his time working overseas – particularly in Laos and Solomon Islands. He is particularly passionate about using forestry systems, involving eucalypts and teak to improve the livelihoods of poor farmers.

Richard showed us examples of the company’s work to produce high quality eucalypt and acacia seedlings, as well as some very interesting and successful examples of agroforestry systems supported by the company. Of particular interest to Richard is research on biocontrol of the Eucalypt gall wasp pest which is devastating many eucalypt plantings in the Mekong region.

Richard Laity talks to ACIAR project partners          Why aren’t all the trees like this one?
  at Burapha nurser

Richard’s main work is leading Burapha Agroforestry’s program to expand its plantation estate in Laos. The company has 6000 hectares of Eucalypt and Acacia plantations, most of which have been established in the past 3 years. They plan to increase the total plantation estate to 60,000 hectares, with plantings around Vientiane and Saynabouri in southern Laos. Not your run-of-the-mill plantation development, Burapha is developing agroforestry style plantations that actively engage local communities. They put considerable effort into working with communities to develop agroforestry plantings on land rented from local people, but still allowing them to farm this land and receive income from participating in the management of the plantations.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Researchers in Agriculture for International Development: A new network for young Ag scientists

Jack Koci discusses ‘Researchers in Agriculture for International Development (RAID)’ – a new Australian-based network of early-mid career agricultural scientists working in international development. 

RAID was established in late 2013 by a group of young scientists from around Australia. The group saw a need to promote international agricultural research for development, as part of an Australian career in agricultural research.

As Jack explains, “I grew up in a farming community on the Atherton Tablelands, Queensland, and always knew I wanted to be involved in agriculture, but I had no idea in what capacity. Going through uni, I gained a keen interest in agricultural research to improve productivity and reduce environmental degradation, but was unaware of the amazing opportunities to apply my research skills in developing countries.”

Visiting an ACIAR funded rice trial in the Ayerwady Delta, Burma.

Working at ACIAR, over the past year, has opened Jack’s eyes to the rewarding opportunities that a career in international agricultural research for development can provide.

“Travel to developing countries and seeing, first-hand, the daily struggle faced by millions of smallholder farmers and their families, while also witnessing the amazing positive impact agricultural research can have on livelihoods and food security, has provided me with the motivation to dedicate my career to this cause. If it wasn’t for my time at ACIAR, I probably wouldn’t have even thought about this as a career pathway.”

Thursday, 21 August 2014

A personal bulletin from the International Horticultural Congress (IHC)

It’s been a roller coaster few days at the IHC2014 for ACIAR, beginning with the set up, and its usual furniture and technology problems…where can we hide the boxes!!  Phew, we finished setup 5 minutes before the fabulous IHC opening event – enough time for myself and Richard Markham, ACIAR’s Horticulture Research Program Manager to put on fresh shirts.  

The writer at the ACIAR booth
The 3,000 IHC2014 delegates are invited in and it’s time to meet and greet.  As an office based worker, it’s great, even funny, to finally put a face to a name you’ve emailed for a months or even years.   

The Pacific Community has a big presence and gorgeous display – not all display materials made it through Australian quarantine in time, but with billums, provincial dresses, woven bags on a large tapa (cloth made from paper mulberry tree) – it all makes beautiful centre piece for the walls of bamboo, grasses and leafy plants.   

Display by ACIAR partner Secretariat of the Pacific Community