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 theosimos@bigpond.com
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