Previous ACIAR in the Indo-Pacific

Regional summary

The agriculture, fisheries, forestry and tourism sectors are of vital economic importance to the Pacific region. The agriculture sector underpins livelihoods for a large proportion of the region’s population, which is dependent on subsistence production, and also accounts for an important share of the export earnings for many countries in the region. The high dependency on certain subsectors, however, makes relatively weak economies vulnerable to external economic shocks, natural disasters, environmental degradation and impacts of climate change. These vulnerabilities have restricted the development of commercially oriented agriculture, fisheries and forestry and limited their contribution to economic growth.

Each ACIAR partner country in the Pacific region is confronted with constraints to agriculture. These are major challenges to sustaining food security and commodity export incomes and supporting vulnerable groups, especially the rural poor, women and youth. While many of these constraints are shared with other countries, they can affect an individual country (or islands within countries) differently, depending on the local context. Some of the main shared challenges are:

  • continued population growth
  • urbanisation and labour migration
  • low or stagnant agricultural production and yields
  • land tenure and use
  • skills gaps
  • inadequate government investments in agriculture
  • increased dependency on imported food
  • environmental degradation
  • market access.

Additionally, countries in the Pacific region face intense competition in international markets for agricultural exports, and income from most of these products is not growing. Strengthening the environment for private sector development within the agriculture sector remains an important challenge for industries and governments.

The Pacific region is also contending with the implications of a triple burden of acute hunger, malnutrition and a high prevalence of nutrition-related diseases. The falling productivity of domestic food production and the increasing availability of cheaper food imports has led to increasing dependence on imported food and dietary transition towards food that is high in salt, sugar and fats. This has led to an increase in conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and micronutrient deficiencies.

Weather and climate have a major influence on the agriculture sector in the region. Natural disasters (such as cyclones, floods, droughts, earthquakes and tsunamis) are a regular event. Current climate projections suggest that extreme weather events (such as heatwaves, droughts and floods) are likely to increase in frequency and intensity, and projected rainfall and rainfall patterns are likely to create problems for the region. Extremely high tides and storm surges continue to threaten low-lying islands and continued sea-level rise may contaminate fresh groundwater.

Despite these challenges, there are many reasons for optimism in the Pacific region. Sustained investment in capacity building over decades has resulted in a growing network of highly skilled, motivated and influential researchers within the region. They underpin ACIAR research collaborations and address the many common elements within each of our partner-country development strategies. These include:

  • strengthening policy, legal and regulatory frameworks
  • increasing agricultural productivity and food security
  • decreasing food imports
  • improving nutrition and diets
  • sustainably developing aquaculture and fisheries
  • improving marketing and export performances
  • enhancing sustainable resource management
  • developing human capacities.

Countries in the ACIAR Pacific region

  • Fiji
  • Kiribati
  • Papua New Guinea
  • Samoa
  • Solomon Islands
  • Timor-Leste
  • Tonga
  • Tuvalu
  • Vanuatu

Drivers of regional collaboration

There are many bilateral and multilateral development partners who provide substantial assistance to Pacific island countries. To ensure this assistance translates into sustainable development gains, priority must be given to better coordination and harmonisation of support between development partners.

For ACIAR, working through a regional approach presents an opportunity to identify complementarities and improve coordination of development resources, based on respective comparative advantages of different organisations.

ACIAR-supported projects in the Pacific region are mostly regional, rather than bilateral, except for our program with Papua New Guinea, where projects are mostly bilateral. While acknowledging individual country-partner needs and research and development priorities, the scattered geographical nature of the Pacific region and small populations mean that several countries cannot address all their challenges and opportunities in agriculture alone.

ACIAR has a strong focus on enabling regional collaboration, especially through our close relationship with the Pacific Community (SPC) and we will develop a new strategic partnership with SPC in 2020–21. While our program focuses on nine countries in the region, SPC plays a key role in communicating research outcomes of relevance broadly across the region. Our support of SPC under the new agreement will assists the organisation to deliver strategic public goods in agriculture, fisheries and forestry across the region. Regional research programs and projects are implemented through agencies with regional capability, including SPC, the University of the South Pacific and CGIAR centres, and bilateral research and extension agencies.

ACIAR program in the region

As part of Australia’s official development assistance (ODA) program, ACIAR is part of a whole-of-government approach to deliver results in line with government policies.

The Pacific Step-up is Australia’s foreign policy that specifically prioritises support towards building a resilient region. The step-up responds to the significant long-term challenges faced by our partners in the Pacific, including:

  • climate change and responding to natural disasters
  • sustaining economic growth and boosting education, developing skills and jobs for growing populations
  • pursuing gender equality and recognising the essential role of women in achieving better development outcomes
  • preventing major disease outbreak
  • tackling transnational crime.

During 2020–21, ACIAR will build on its long history of engagement with the Pacific region through its new 10-year strategy with the Pacific island states and Papua New Guinea, which identifies high-level priorities for the region. ACIAR is developing country-specific implementation plans in consultation with partner countries and national and regional research and development agencies. The research priorities in the implementation plans with each partner will be revisited and adjusted through consultations with the heads of these agencies every two years at Pacific Week of Agriculture and Forestry.

A key focus of ACIAR in the region is enabling more regional collaboration in research and capacity building to address common issues and opportunities, including projects addressing biosecurity, climate-resilient livelihoods and opportunities for stronger agribusiness development. ACIAR contributes to this through the way it funds regional research collaboration, through its support of SPC and through its support and chairmanship of APAARI. ACIAR is also contributing through its membership of the Pacific Week of Agriculture and Forestry working group, which aims to make this the premier event drawing global attention to agriculture and forestry in the Pacific. Pacific Week of Agriculture and Forestry provides a forum to showcase recent R&D achievements, creates opportunities for regional and international collaboration and brings together regional leaders around implications and opportunities for supporting policy.

Australia’s Partnerships for Recovery: Australia’s COVID-19 Development Response recognises that COVID-19 has had a profound impact on the region and notes that many countries:

have closed their borders or limited movement, with substantial initial success in stopping the spread of the virus. But most have a narrow economic base, and all are experiencing an economic shock. This has seen the collapse of government revenue, foreign reserves and cash balances, and the loss of incomes and livelihoods in contexts where formal social safety nets are limited. Critical industries such as tourism have effectively shut down. Most countries have limited capacity to mobilise an effective health or economic response. Some countries are at risk of debt distress, limiting their options for raising finance to respond. A number have underlying security vulnerabilities, including from the climatic threat and natural disasters. A concurrent health and economic crisis could exacerbate these vulnerabilities…

ACIAR is supporting an assessment of food system security, resilience and emerging risks in the Indo-Pacific in the context of COVID-19. This assessment is monitoring, documenting and analysing food systems vulnerabilities resulting from the COVID-19 crisis and their impacts on smallholder farmers. It will identify possible actions that could be taken by governments and other food systems stakeholders to increase food systems resilience in the face of future shocks. This assessment may influence future ACIAR investments in the region.

In 2020–21, ACIAR takes over the chair of the Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases. The alliance brings together 62 member countries to find ways to grow more food without increasing greenhouse gas emissions. Many countries already have research underway to better understand, measure, and manage agricultural greenhouse gases emissions. By linking these efforts through the alliance, we can achieve faster progress towards the solutions needed to improve agricultural productivity but reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This year, with co-funding from Australia and New Zealand, ACIAR will organise and host a Pacific regional forum on agriculture and climate change inviting representatives from across the Pacific to discuss the challenges of ‘growing more food without growing greenhouse gas emissions’.

During 2020–21, 62 ACIAR-supported projects will be active in the Pacific region (Table 5.1).

Research for One Health Systems Strengthening

One Health is an approach that recognises that the health of people, animals and the environment are interconnected. Approximately 75% of newly emerging infectious diseases are zoonoses (diseases that can transmit from animals to humans) that arise as a result of one or several factors that are anthropogenic, genetic, ecologic, socioeconomic and climatic in origin. Across the Indo-Pacific region, animal production systems are changing rapidly; however, local and regional capacity to diagnose, treat and control diseases is generally weak and under-resourced.

Projects in the Pacific region

  • A One Health approach to establish surveillance strategies for Japanese encephalitis and zoonotic arboviruses in Papua New Guinea (LS/2018/213)
  • Drug sensitive and resistant tuberculosis and zoonotic infections as causes of lymphadenitis in two provinces in Papua New Guinea (LS/2018/217)
  • Enhancing the management of antimicrobial resistance in Fiji (LS/2019/119)

Projects in South-East Asia

  • Zoonotic malaria in Indonesia (LS/2018/214)
  • Evaluating zoonotic malaria transmission and agricultural land use in Indonesia (LS/2019/116)
  • Collaboration on One Health economic research for systems in Cambodia (LS/2019/118)

Securing the future of coconut

Grown in more than 90 tropical countries, on more than 12 million hectares, coconut is important to millions of smallholder households. The future of coconut production and livelihoods is threatened by senile plantings, which face further decline from pest and disease, climate change and poor conservation and management of genetic resources. Access to coconut genetic diversity is vital to sustaining the livelihoods of millions of smallholders and their communities around the world, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region.

During 2020–21, ACIAR, DFAT and the International Coconut Community will continue their collaboration to reinvigorate and sustain the Coconut Genetic Resources Network (COGENT). The program will focus on better coconut science, through a global coconut strategy to address the challenges outlined above. The program will work with other organisations to ensure a viable COGENT secretariat to safeguard coconut genetic resources and better address disease threats.

The network is active throughout the Asia-Pacific region and led by Dr Jelfina Alouw, Executive Director of the International Coconut Community, who is based in Jakarta, Indonesia.

ACIAR project GP/2018/193

Table 5.1 Current and proposed projects in the Pacific region, 2020–21
Project title Project code Country

Policy drivers for public–private partnerships in Pacific organics: improving extension policy through an evidence-based approach


Fiji, Vanuatu

Pacific Agribusiness Research in Development Initiative – phase 2 (PARDI 2)


Fiji, Tonga, Vanuatu


Developing a foundation for the long-term management of basal stem rot of oil palm in Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands


Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands

Agricultural innovations for communities for intensified and sustainable farming systems in Timor-Leste (AI-Com)



Managing basal stem rot in oil palm by converting infected logs to biochar


Papua New Guinea


Developing pearl industry-based livelihoods in the western Pacific


Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Tonga

Improving technical and institutional capacity to support development of mariculture-based livelihoods and industry in New Ireland, Papua New Guinea


Papua New Guinea

Half-pearl industry development in Tonga and Vietnam


Tonga, Vietnam

Strengthening and scaling community-based approaches to Pacific coastal fisheries management in support of the New Song


Kiribati, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu

A nutrition-sensitive approach to coastal fisheries management and development in Timor-Leste and Nusa Tenggara Timur Province, Indonesia


Indonesia, Timor-Leste

Institutional strengthening in Papua New Guinea: translating fisheries research into policy and management


Papua New Guinea

Improving peri-urban and remote inland fish farming in Papua New Guinea to benefit both community-based and commercial operators


Papua New Guinea

Agriculture and fisheries for improved nutrition: integrated agri-food system analyses for the Pacific region


Kiribati, Solomon Islands, South Pacific general, Vanuatu

Towards more profitable and sustainable pearl-industry based livelihoods in the western Pacific


Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tonga

Innovating fish-based livelihoods in the community economies of Timor-Leste and Solomon Islands


Solomon Islands, Timor-Leste

Improving nutrition through women’s and men’s engagement across the seaweed food chain in Kiribati and Samoa


Kiribati, Samoa


Enhancing value-added products and environmental benefits from agroforestry systems in Papua New Guinea and the Pacific


Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu

Improving agroforestry policy for sloping land in Fiji



Enabling community forestry in Papua New Guinea


Papua New Guinea

Enhancing returns from high-value agroforestry species in Vanuatu



Domestication and breeding of sandalwood in Fiji and Tonga


Fiji, Tonga

Enhancing private sector–led development of the Canarium industry in Papua New Guinea – phase 2


Papua New Guinea

Promoting smallholder teak and sandalwood plantations in Papua New Guinea and Australia


Papua New Guinea

Coconut and other non-traditional forest resources for the manufacture of engineered wood products




Supporting an international initiative to maintain the coconut genetic resources network (COGENT)



Enhanced fruit production and postharvest handling systems for Fiji, Samoa and Tonga


Fiji, Samoa, Tonga

Aligning genetic resources, production and post-harvest systems to market opportunities for Pacific island and Australian cocoa


Fiji, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu

Integrating protected-cropping systems into high value vegetable value chains in the Pacific and Australia


Fiji, Samoa, Tonga

Developing improved crop protection options in support of intensification of sweetpotato production in Papua New Guinea


Papua New Guinea

Developing the cocoa value chain in Bougainville


Papua New Guinea

Enterprise-driven transformation of family cocoa production in East Sepik, Madang, New Ireland and Chimbu Provinces of Papua New Guinea


Papua New Guinea

Supporting commercial sweetpotato production and marketing in the Papua New Guinea highlands


Papua New Guinea

Responding to emerging pest and disease threats to horticulture in the Pacific islands


Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga

Safeguarding and deploying coconut diversity for improving livelihoods in the Pacific islands


Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu

Protecting the coffee industry from coffee berry borer in Papua New Guinea and Australia


Papua New Guinea

Enhanced fruit systems for Tonga, Samoa and Fiji (phase 2): community-based citrus production


Fiji, Samoa, Tonga

Livestock Systems    

Smallholder cattle enterprise development in Timor-Leste



Increasing the productivity and profitability of smallholder beekeeping enterprises in Papua New Guinea and Fiji


Fiji, Papua New Guinea

Improving small ruminant production and supply in Fiji and Samoa


Fiji, Samoa

Evaluating the opportunities for smallholder livestock keepers in Timor-Leste



Sectoral analysis and investment requirements for improving the Fiji and Samoa small ruminant sector


Fiji, Samoa

Establishing the linkages between foodborne bacterial enteropathies and malnutrition in Timor-Leste



Promoting business development pathways for more productive and profitable smallholder cattle systems in Vanuatu



A One Health approach to establish surveillance strategies for Japanese encephalitis and zoonotic arboviruses in Papua New Guinea (One Health)


Papua New Guinea

Drug sensitive and resistant tuberculosis and zoonotic infections as causes of lymphadenitis in three provinces in Papua New Guinea (One Health)


Papua New Guinea

Enhancing the management of antimicrobial resistance in Fiji (One Health)



Improved animal health surveillance in Timor-Leste



Value-adding to existing livestock programs to understand and quantify the implications of greenhouse gas emissions, provide options for emissions reduction and inform in-country policy development


Cambodia, Indonesia, Kenya, Laos, Myanmar, Pakistan, South Africa, Tanzania, Timor-Leste, Vanuatu, Vietnam, Zambia

Social Sciences    

Identifying opportunities and constraints for rural women’s engagement in small-scale agricultural enterprises in Papua New Guinea


Papua New Guinea

Improving livelihoods of smallholder coffee communities in Papua New Guinea


Papua New Guinea

Climate-smart landscapes for promoting sustainability of Pacific island agricultural systems


Fiji, Tonga

Climate-smart agriculture opportunities for enhanced food production in Papua New Guinea


Papua New Guinea

Improving agricultural development opportunities for female smallholders in rural Solomon Islands


Solomon Islands

Gender equitable agricultural extension through institutions and youth engagement in Papua New Guinea


Papua New Guinea

Landcare—an agricultural extension and community development model at district and national scale in Fiji



Soil and Land Management    

Better soil information for improving Papua New Guinea’s agricultural production and land use planning—building on PNGRIS and linking to the Pacific Regional Soil Partnership


Papua New Guinea

Optimising soil management and health in Papua New Guinea integrated cocoa farming systems


Papua New Guinea

Soil management in Pacific islands: investigating nutrient cycling and development of the soils portal


Fiji, Kiribati, Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu


Closing the loop between agriculture and wastewater discharge: a novel technique for turning wastewater into fertiliser in the Pacific


Kiribati, Vanuatu Tuvalu

Climate Change    

Climate change and Pacific food systems: decision-making for transformational change (proof-of-concept)


Samoa, Solomon Islands

Conservation agriculture and sustainable intensification of smallholder farming systems in Pacific countries as a pathway to transformational climate change adaptation and reducing greenhouse gas emissions


Fiji, Samoa

Supporting greenhouse gas mitigation for sustainable farming systems in the Asia-Pacific and East Africa


Fiji, Indonesia, Kenya, Vietnam

Notes: More details (including project leader, commissioned organisation and partner organisations) are provided in the appendixes. The project list was compiled during July 2020. Additional projects, not listed in this table, may be commissioned during 2020–21.

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