Friday, 27 May 2016

Rice-based cropping system project in Myanmar makes significant contribution to local agriculture

The below article was written and published by our colleagues at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). It was originally published on their website on 18 May 2016. 

A project that promotes the adoption of new stress-tolerant rice varieties, greater crop intensification, and diversification, and postharvest management for smallholder farmers in the Ayeyarwady Delta has led to important developments in the local agriculture, according to farmers.

The project, Diversification and Intensification of Rice-based Cropping Systems in Lower Myanmar (MyRice), aims to improve farmers' profitability in Maubin and Daik Oo Townships in the Ayeyarwady and Bago regions, respectively, The project is funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), in partnership with the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), the Department of Agriculture (DoA), the Department of Agricultural Research (DAR), and private sector partners.

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Exciting and surprising outputs have emerged from an irrigation project in Africa

Liz Ogutu, ACIAR’s Regional Manager in Africa, recently visited Tanzania, Zimbabwe and Mozambique to engage with farmers and discuss the impacts of an irrigation project that has been going since 2013. The project aims to increase the productivity of irrigation in Mozambique, Tanzania and Zimbabwe to enhance food security. Below, Liz reflects on her trip. 

On 30 March 2016 we gathered at the ward offices to meet farmers of the Kiwere Irrigation scheme in Tanzania. In our team, we had Jamie, Henning, Makarius, Marna, Thembi and myself. We were there to engage farmers and to have a discussion about the project that has been ongoing at the scheme since 2013. The project, “Increasing irrigation water productivity in Mozambique, Tanzania and Zimbabwe through on-farm monitoring, adaptive management and agricultural innovation platforms,” is led by the Australian National University’s Jamie Pittock. As with most ACIAR-funded projects, it was time for project review and this was led by Marna de Lange, Managing Director, Socio-Technical Interfacing Consulting CC.
The mill built by the farmers in Magozi, Tanzania. Photo: Liz Ogutu, ACIAR

Friday, 20 May 2016

Why migratory fish are an important food supply and livelihood for millions of people around the world

For a huge number of fish and other aquatic animals, migration is a part of life. Atlantic salmon return to the same river they were born to lay eggs, whales swim from frigid Antarctic waters to the warmer climes to calf, and whale sharks never stop looking for food (covering thousands of kilometres in the process). There is a belief that fish migration only occurs between salt and fresh water (as in the case of our salmon) but fewer than 1% of species change habitat so drastically. Rather, the vast majority of migrating fish species feed in one place, then migrate to another to breed, all within the same system.

Tuna fishing in Indonesia. Photo: ACIAR

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Australia’s longest running agricultural aid project in Timor-Leste comes to an end

The TimorAg2016 Conference was held in Timor-Leste in April 2016 and was a great celebration of the conclusion of the 16-year Seeds of Life (SoL) project.

The theme for the conference was ‘food security in Timor-Leste through crop production’ and discussions were held around factors affecting crop production in Timor-Leste and the success technical advances have made to improving productivity. Two days of oral papers and posters were delivered across a number of sessions focusing on food security, elements for agricultural development in Timor-Leste, crops and their environments, reaching a food surplus, and communication of agricultural innovations. There were 260 registered participants and the conference was conducted in both English and Tetum, with simultaneous translation.

Day two ended with local farmer Francisca Pinto sharing her story of success. Francisca became involved with the SoL project in 2009, initially as an on-farm-demonstration-trial (OFDT) farmer testing sweet potato and cassava varieties. She then became a Timor-Leste Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF) contract grower of certified seed and is now an active member of a commercial seed producer group named ‘Unidade Sameklot’. Francisca spoke of the direct impacts the project has had on her family and her life: they now have enough food to eat and enough corn to last them the whole year, sometimes they can’t even sell it all; her and her family no longer get sick for no reason; she has been able to fix up her house and cover the cost of education for her five children; and she is now able to cover the cost of cultural ceremonies, which can be very expensive. It was amazing to hear the impacts the project has had on this family’s life and how excited Francisca was to be contributing to her family’s income.

Francisca Pinto addresses the conference. Photo: Laura Carew, ACIAR

Friday, 13 May 2016

Developing the future of agriculture in the north of Australia

Opportunities and challenges for the future development of agriculture in Northern Australian were discussed at the recent Northern Australian Food Futures Conference 2016. The conference, held in Darwin on 12-13 April, had a strong focus on agricultural investment in northern Australia and effective partnerships between the public and private sectors. The Food Futures Conference brought together a range of domestic and international participants from government, industry and farming groups and provided an ideal environment to learn lessons from past experience and discuss the future of agriculture in northern Australia. 

The two-day conference was a high profile event. It began with an address by Senator Matt Canavan, Federal Minister for Northern Australia, who spoke about the government’s investment in northern Australia and the importance of agricultural to the development of the area. 

Panel Session: A perspective from the top. L-R Matt Brann, ABC Country Hour (facilitator); The Hon Gary Higgins, Minister for Primary Industry and Fisheries (NT); The Hon Leanne Donaldson, Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries (QLD); The Hon Brendan Grylls, member for Pilbara (WA). Photo: ACIAR

Friday, 6 May 2016

Research to reduce papaya diseases in the Philippines saved from a cyclone

Cyclones present an ever-present threat to lives and livelihoods in the Philippines, and can also severely disrupt agricultural research efforts. An ACIAR-funded project to increase the profitability and sustainability of papaya production in the southern Philippines and Australia suffered an early set-back when a cyclone destroyed research infrastructure and field plots. More recently, plants waiting for disease screening narrowly escaped destruction.

In the Philippines the focus of research is integrated disease management (IDM) of Bacterial Crown Rot (BCR) which is caused by bacteria of the genus Erwinia. Aspects of IDM that are being investigated include identification of Erwinia strains, disease transmission, identification of resistant strains of papaya plants, natural defence mechanisms, and in-field management.

A developing theory for the transmission of BCR is that it is spread with windblown rain between plants and that infection is facilitated by wind damage, which provides an entry point for the bacteria in previously disease-free plants. So both dwarf plants (which are likely to suffer less damage from strong winds) and those with less susceptibility to the bacteria will most likely suffer less from the disease.

Aira Waje screening papaya breeding lines for resistance to BCR disease under glass-house conditions in the Philippines. Photo: David Hall

Thursday, 5 May 2016

New video identifies insights into developing PNG’s fresh vegetable supply chains

A project video has been released about ACIAR’s project SMCN/2008/008 Increasing vegetable production in Central Province for Port Moresby Markets. This project is led by a team from the University of Tasmania with members from the National Institute of Agricultural Research (NARI) and the Fresh Produce Development Agency (FPDA). The video highlights the potential contribution to poverty alleviation of these projects and the challenges faced by working in this highly diverse country.

Papua New Guinea’s (PNG) agriculture involves 86% of PNG’s population. This project addressed some of the major problems in PNG’s vegetable growing system: production problems associated with appropriate varieties, soil management and irrigation, the lack of coordination and targeted marketing in chains, poor quality, high levels of waste and exploitation of growers. Specifically it aimed to develop coordinated; formalised supply chains from Central Province into supermarkets and hotels in the capital Port Moresby; as well as supply the huge influx of foreign workers in the resources boom. It had a specific goal of improving the role of woman in PNG supply chains. This was the first such project in this province which has a very different culture compared to other major vegetable growing regions.

Soil Scientists visit village near Goroka. Photo: Laurie Bonney

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Agroforestry project impacting local farmers in Eastern Indonesia

Many farmers in Indonesia have either adopted high-value timber-based agroforestry systems or are involved in the collection and sale of non-timber products, often from remnant forest areas. While the agroforestry systems provide many benefits to the farmers, such as the ability to generate cash when they have large expenses, the trees take a number of years to reach a saleable size and these systems do not provide regular sources of income that farmers need. 

To address this important issue, ACIAR is funding the four-year “Kanoppi” agroforestry project in Eastern Indonesia which is conducting research to foster integration of timber and non-timber forest products in agroforestry systems and improve smallholders capacity to market high value products from these systems. The project is managed by the World Agroforestry Centre’s regional office in Bogor and involves collaboration with a with many Indonesian research and development partners, as well as with scientists from the University of Western Australia. The project also has two NGO collaborators, Threads of Life and World Wildlife Fund.

The landscape near Pelat on Sumbawa. Photo: Tony Bartlett, ACIAR