Vanuatu is an archipelagic nation of 83 islands, extending over 1,000 kilometres in a north-south direction between the Equator and the Tropic of Capricorn.
70% of people live in rural areas across 65 of the islands. Subsistence farming, fishing and growing cash crops such as kava, coconut and cocoa are the main sources of livelihood. Agricultural products, particularly kava, coconut products, beef and cocoa, dominate exports. Vanuatu’s economy has steadily grown over the last decade compared with other countries in the region. Economic and social stability attracted investment and tourists. Tourism, construction and agriculture have largely driven Vanuatu's recent economic growth, which is projected to reach 4.5% in 2017.
A third of Vanuatu’s population still lacks access to basic services, and 15% live below the national basic needs poverty line. Vanuatu’s widely dispersed population makes it difficult to deliver services. Literacy and numeracy, immunisation and nutrition are stagnating and, in some cases, declining. Violence against women and children is the most common and widespread crime (72% of women are beaten and raped).
Australia wants a prosperous and stable Vanuatu. Australia is an important economic partner for Vanuatu, providing the country with most of its tourists, foreign direct investment and aid.
Australia is Vanuatu's largest bilateral aid donor. Our aid promotes Australia’s national interests by supporting economic growth, stability and poverty reduction in Vanuatu. The Australian aid budget for Vanuatu is an estimated $62.5 million in 2016–17. In addition, Australia committed $50 million in cyclone recovery support in 2014–15. In recent years our aid has comprised 54% of total ODA to Vanuatu (excluding China which does not publish ODA figures). Our Governments recently signed the Vanuatu–Australia Aid Partnership, which focuses on improving economic governance, infrastructure, education, health and law and justice. We work with the Vanuatu Government, the private sector and community organisations.
ACIAR regularly reviews and updates its priorities for cooperation with Pacific Island countries in consultation with government, community and private sector stakeholders. It held forestry consultations in Vanuatu in December 2011. ACIAR also attends regional priority-setting meetings, including those of the Regional Conference of Heads of Agriculture and Forestry Services and the Pacific Community Heads of Fisheries. These processes make sure ACIAR’s priorities align with those of the Pacific Community (SPC).
Key research priorities across the medium term include:
- integration and sustainability of agriculture, fisheries and forestry resource management and development
- increasing resilience and reducing the effect of climate change on sustainable agriculture, fisheries and forestry
- making agriculture, fisheries and forestry value chains more competitive.