Farmer benefits

Previous Introduction

The ultimate beneficiaries of the investment of the Australian Government in agricultural research for development, through ACIAR, are smallholder farmers, fishers and foresters of the Indo-Pacific region. 

Here is a very small selection of stories from people in our partner countries who have improved their livelihoods and communities, through newfound solutions to address challenges in productivity, profitability and sustainability. ACIAR-supported research projects, that bring together Australian and partner-country scientists, have worked with countless smallholder farmers since 1982. 

Text says 'benefits for smallholder farmers'. Image shows a man in a white shirt kneeling next to a fruit tree, holding one of the tree branches in his hand.


Low-cost solution lifts returns

Partners in Research for Development
Winter 2006

Over the past decade, Mr Nguyen Van Dung and his neighbours in the Chau Thanh district of Vietnam, in the Mekong Delta region, have been putting the culture and knowledge of traditional rice farming behind them to become fruit growers. Several years into this endeavour, Mr Nguyen and his neighbours were losing up to 90% of their crops to fruit flies because there was neither the local knowledge nor the practical tools for combatting the pest. 

While pesticides initially seemed a straightforward solution, they are problematic in a landscape where open water is used for both farming and domestic water supply. What was needed – and what was developed with Australian help – was a low-cost bait for specific fruit fly species, which was safe for both users and the environment. 

Mr Nguyen has been trialling the bait for the past two years and says his farm income has risen by some 70 million dong (about A$5,000), which he is now investing back into his farm for further crop improvement.

‘It is giving my family a more reliable future,’ he said.

A woman stands in front of a field of very tall corn. She was standing next to a white sign with black lettering.


Greater bargaining power

Partners in Research for Development
Issue 1 2011

Ms Felista Mateo, a farmer from Kilima Tembo village, in Tanzania, is benefiting from participating in the project ‘Sustainable intensification of maize-legume cropping systems for food security in eastern and southern Africa’ (SIMLESA). A single mother of four, Ms Mateo supports her family with produce from her land, mainly maize and pigeon pea. Any surpluses, though small, are stored in a granary and used domestically or sold to middlemen.

Following advice from government extension officer Mr Frank Swai, Ms Mateo achieved yield gains that her neighbours are now attempting to duplicate. As her harvest increases, she plans to build a larger granary and sell more grain.

Traditionally, farmers have had no way of tracking the market, and the middlemen who buy their produce have exercised control over prices. However, Ms Mateo owns a mobile phone, and since the inception of SIMLESA and its support network, she can now call an extension officer and check market prices. The result is greater bargaining power for the villagers when the middlemen come calling.

A woman in a floral dress stands in a plant nursery. Her right hand is resting on the bench, and there are potted plants sitting on the bench behind her.


Saving forest, river and community

ACIAR blog
Agroforestry gives new lifeline to Nadroumai
May 2021

An ACIAR-supported project in Fiji has empowered women to improve community livelihoods and protect their environment through agroforestry. Increasing degradation of the Nadroumai catchment is on the rise due to unsustainable agriculture and resource exploitation.

The Nadroumai Women’s Club was keen to learn about agroforestry to mitigate environmental effects. ‘When the project started, our club consisted of 10 members, and ACIAR, through SPC, supported us to set up a village nursery. By 2019, we were able to rehabilitate the Nadroumai catchment successfully,’ said club treasurer, Mrs Amele Duguivalu. As the nursery developed and the community witnessed its success, more women joined in. The club doubled in size, and seedling profits increased from A$650 in 2018 to around A$3,000 in 2020. The club started with 300 seedlings, and today they are working with 1,500.

‘Apart from selling our seedlings, women have also taken up smallholder farming thanks to this project. Every week, we harvest fruits and vegetables and take them to nearby markets, and each member earns about A$80–200. This has truly changed our lives. This project has not only saved their forests and river but brought the whole community together.’

Close-up head of a domesticated buffalo with large horns and a rope harness around its head.


New crops, new markets

Partners in Research for Development
September 2004

Cattle, buffaloes and pigs are central to farming life in rural Laos. However, livestock production rarely extended beyond one or two large animals per household because of disease and limited feed.

ACIAR-supported researchers are encouraging farmers to cultivate fodder crops to increase livestock production and livelihood security. These crops – tropical grasses and legumes – provide a daily source of feed that allows more intensive and secure livestock raising, laying the foundation for sustainable village economies.

Farmer Mr Va Yer Lao has become an entrepreneur since he and his neighbours set aside land for forage crops. Mr Va Yer Lao established a new income stream for his household by buying under-nourished buffaloes from the market, fattening them, putting them to work at the plough, and then selling the improved animals for substantially more than he paid for them. Mr Va Yer Lao says that by ‘buying skinny, selling fat’ he can make a profit of US$70 per buffalo after just a couple of months, dramatically lifting his family’s agricultural prospects and living standards.

A woman wears a large straw hat secured by a scarf under chin, standing in a field with rice paddies in the background.


Farmers inspiring farmers

Partners in Research for Development
Issue 4 2017

Mrs Thao farms in the Mekong Delta, in Vietnam. Using better management practices in her rice–shrimp farming system, she has increased yields dramatically. New practices include changing planting time, planting salt-tolerant rice varieties and using waste from shrimp farming instead of fertiliser.

At Tan Bang Commune in Camau Province, where the new practices have been tested, rice yields on trial farms are up to five times higher than nearby farms using traditional methods. Farmers are noticing the results and are eager to adopt the new practices. With the help of the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (in Vietnam), the project team, led by University of New South Wales, is promoting the improved practices across four provinces.

The project’s success lies with its research partnership model, capacity building activities and regular engagement with stakeholders. Six research agencies are working together, and farmers contribute knowledge and participate in the trials. Some of the farmers involved, like Mrs Thao, are taking a lead role, inspiring other farmers to become involved.

A woman stands next to a white cow. She was wearing a blue and black sun hat and a blue-collared shirt.


Right crop in the right place

ACIAR blog
More crop per drop
December 2018

More than 75% of Cambodia’s agricultural land is dedicated to growing rice but in many places, the soil is too sandy and the local rainfall is too low to achieve good yields. ACIAR is supporting research to increase farmers’ knowledge of soils and the best crops to grow, to increase the profitability of their farming system, which also includes livestock production.

Mrs Sar Samoel is participating in an experiment that planted forage crops at 12 farms in southern Cambodia.

‘We grew rice here in this field but we now have grass for the cows. The grass grows well and it is good for the cows – it has more vitamins, it fattens the cows and makes it easier for them to carry calves. Now the cows look healthier and it also saves me time, because I have the fodder for the cows next to my home, where before I would have to take the cows out in the fields to graze,’ she said.

The project demonstrated that growing fodder crops after the wet season rice crop increased feed availability in the dry season.

Two women are cutting into the trunk of a small tree, in a nursery. They are very intent on their work.


Budding opportunity for women

Partners in Research for Development
Issue 2 2016

A citrus project in Pakistan is taking a broad, whole-orchard and value-chain approach to identify the key issues affecting the income-earning potential of orchards. One of the key achievements of the project team has been the improved inclusion of women.

Women in Pakistan do not work in citrus orchards or packing sheds, for cultural, safety and logistical reasons, which excludes half the population from a significant and growing sector of the economy. The opportunity to provide women with new skills and business opportunities came when researchers noticed that women were actively budding trees in informal nurseries in their backyards, with the trees then being sold by male household members.

Recognising the value of this work, researchers provided additional training and tools to propagate and maintain healthy, high-quality citrus nursery trees for supply to local industry. A small number of nurserywomen were also selected to undertake advanced training in Thailand and Australia. Since returning to Pakistan, these skilled nurserywomen have become industry leaders, trained other women in their region, and increased their profit margins by up to 100 additional rupees per tree.

Two men standing in a body of water. One man is holding a small fish and smiling.


Fish farming breaks crime cycle

Partners in Research for Development
Issue 2 2012

A novel prisoner rehabilitation project is teaching inmates and correctional officers basic fish farming and having a positive social impact in Papua New Guinea. Reduction in crime and antisocial behaviour, increases in self-esteem, and cooperation between former adversaries are just a few of the project’s effects.

The program, introduced in 2008, has trained many officers and inmates. Eight ex-inmates have since returned to their villages and established fish farms to supply fingerlings and table fish to their local communities. Since fish farming is a new activity, the knowledge of these ex-inmates is in high demand, with fellow villagers keen to learn and to be supplied with fingerlings. Moxy, who served time at Bihute Prison, has returned to his village, where he farms genetically improved farmed tilapia. Moxy has eight ponds with a total production capacity of 2 tonnes.

‘Had it not been for fish farming, I would have revisited the circumstances under which I was jailed. When I am angry or depressed, I go to the fish ponds and either feed the fish or just watch to take my mind away,’ he said.

A man in a light-coloured collared shirt standing in waist-high, mature wheat. He's holding his arm out in front of him at the height of the plants.


New technology improving lives

Partners in Research for Development
Issue 3 2013

Transforming farming techniques in rural Bangladesh is helping farmers to cut their costs and increase production, while offering others a way out of poverty. A small, versatile multi-crop planter developed by an ACIAR-supported project team can perform zero and strip tillage, form and plant beds, and more.

The planter is now being produced in Bangladesh for use locally and for export. Some of the biggest beneficiaries of the project are people like Mr Sree Shanaton Kumar Biswas, who have become machinery contractors and are providing services to farm families. Becoming a contractor has turned around the fortunes of the Biswas family.

‘I used to be a farm labourer, then sold clay pots to make money. We were very poor ... I went to one of the meetings about the planter and decided to buy one. There was a huge demand for the planter from the farmers. I had to have three drivers, and we were working day and night to meet demand. I made 80,000 taka (A$950) that year … this machine is helping to improve our lives,’ said Mr Biswas.

More than 3,000 small contractors like Mr Biswas now provide services to 150,000 farmers in Bangladesh.

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