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The Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) brokers and supports collaborative international research partnerships to improve livelihoods in the agriculture, fisheries and forestry sectors in the Indo-Pacific region, while emphasising individual and institutional capacity building and opportunities for development led by the private sector.

As an agency of the Australian Government, ACIAR works with regional partners to tackle the intersecting and complex challenges of growing more food, improving human nutrition and reducing poverty while using less land, water and energy. At the same time, while striving for more productive and sustainable agriculture, we must adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change.

Our work reflects Australian Government policy imperatives articulated in the:

  • Australian Government’s development program
  • Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations (UN) 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development
  • Paris Agreement under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Diversity and flexibility are key to our work, but equally important is that all programs, projects and partners are working towards common objectives and goals.

The ACIAR 10-Year Strategy 2018–2027 sets out 6 high-level strategic objectives that guide our partnerships, programs and projects. These objectives are consistent with the purpose stated in our enabling legislation and reflect the policy imperatives of the Australian Government. Of these objectives, 3 build knowledge to underpin crucial development objectives and 3 ensure that our work is equitable, inclusive and empowering.

Reflecting our ethos of ongoing reflection and improvement, ACIAR will start addressing recommendations arising from a mid-term review of our 10-year strategy during 2022–23. While much of the strategy has been achieved, there is still room for improvement and progress. We have the challenge of developing longer-term transformational and transdisciplinary research programs, and greater synergies between our bilateral and multilateral research investments, to respond to major issues of concern in our region.

ACIAR 10-Year Strategy 2018-2027

ACIAR strategic objectives

An enduring operational model

Establishment of ACIAR

Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research Act 1982 – an Act to encourage research for the purpose of identifying, or finding solutions, to, agricultural problems of developing countries

July 1981

The establishment of a small statutory body was approved by the Cabinet of the Australian Government. The agency would be charged with contracting research work to Australian institutions in the field of agriculture and related disciplines for the benefit of developing countries (Cabinet Minute – Decision No. 15987).

June 1982

The Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research Act 1982 was passed, establishing ACIAR as a statutory authority in the Foreign Affairs portfolio. Responsibility for operations of the centre was assigned to a Board of Management.

A Policy Advisory Council was established to advise the Minister on the agricultural problems of developing countries and research programs and policies that may address understanding and solving of these problems.

June 2007

The ACIAR Act was amended. Principally, the Board of Management was replaced by an executive management structure with a Chief Executive Officer reporting directly to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. A 7-member Commission for International Agricultural Research was established to provide advice to the Minister on the functioning of the Act. The responsibilities of the Policy Advisory Council were unchanged.

March 2018

The ACIAR 10-Year Strategy 2018–2027 was launched, setting out the high-level direction and priorities of the agency, to achieve its mission of ‘more productive and sustainable agricultural systems, for the benefit of developing countries and Australia, through international agricultural research partnerships’.

November 2022

The ACIAR 10-Year Strategy 2018–2027 was updated to incorporate recommendations from a mid-term review of the strategy.

On 3 June 2022, ACIAR marked the 40-year milestone of working with regional partners to reduce poverty and improve livelihoods. The ACIAR business model of brokering science partnerships in agriculture, fisheries and forestry between the Australian innovation system and our neighbours in the Indo-Pacific region remains as relevant today as it was when ACIAR was established in 1982.

Ensuring that the best of Australian science can be combined with local knowledge and implemented effectively in the field depends on the quality and durability of partnerships between farmers, researchers, industry and government. Our outstanding track record of building and sustaining deep, trusting partnerships over the last 40 years is now a great strategic asset.

As the capabilities and capacity of partner countries develop, through maturing economies and innovation systems, ACIAR actively seeks to devolve greater initiative, leadership and control to partners in project initiation, delivery and linking with Australian partners. ACIAR then takes on a more consultative role.

Within this evolving context, our operational model continues to deliver against our enabling legislation, Australia’s development program and the UN Sustainable Development Goals, through 6 strategic objectives and 3 key areas of work:

1. Global research collaborations: 

We develop and foster partnerships and relationships with other international research and development agencies, the most significant being CGIAR. We also develop and foster partnerships with development donors and the private sector to pursue shared goals and ensure that ACIAR-funded research results are implemented at scale.

2. Bilateral and regional research projects: 

We generate knowledge from ACIAR-funded projects and programs to empower smallholder farmers, extension agents, scientists and policymakers to take on the intersecting challenges of growing more and healthier food and reducing poverty while using less land, water and energy.

3. Scientific and policy capacity-building activities: 

We identify and establish opportunities for individuals and institutions in partner countries to boost technical, policy and management skills in agriculture, fisheries, forestry and management of land and water resources.

ACIAR partnership model

ACIAR partnership model


2022–23 operating environment

Our operating environment within the Indo-Pacific region is being reshaped by global-scale food, health and biosecurity crises, direct and indirect impacts of geopolitical tensions, and unprecedented weather events precipitated by a more variable climate.

While ACIAR has contributed to improved livelihoods in partner countries over 40 years, there is still much work to be done. The COVID-19 pandemic has reversed the 25-year trend of poverty reduction; and COVID-19 is just one of many zoonotic diseases that have the potential for endemic and pandemic impact. ACIAR will continue to build its participation and expertise in One Health and biosecurity – for the benefit of smallholder farmers, as well as the agriculture industry in Australia.

Food and energy shortages and rising inflation are having a global impact, including on the populations of our partner countries. These factors influence the opportunities we have to work with our neighbours to build the partnerships, knowledge and capacity required to achieve more productive and sustainable agricultural systems, while also enhancing food security, nutrition security and livelihoods.

In 2022–23 ACIAR will continue to develop long-term agreements for research collaboration with partner countries. Historically, these agreements defined a program of research collaboration, geographically and thematically tailored to the agricultural development needs of the partner country. Recently and into the future, many of these agreements have and will
become partnering arrangements reflecting new opportunities for collaboration as the science capability of partner countries increases and their innovation systems mature.

We will continue to foster positive changes to our operating models that came about during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, such as increased decision-making and leadership by in-country partners. However, we also plan to embrace the relationship and operational benefits that come from international travel by researchers between Australia and partner countries, and travel to Australia for training by scientists from partner countries.

The purpose of ACIAR to identify or find solutions to agricultural problems of developing countries has remained relevant over 40 years. The work of ACIAR and our partners with smallholder farmers in the Indo-Pacific region contributes to the knowledge, skills, technology and frameworks required to restore disrupted production systems and value chains across the agriculture, fisheries and forestry sectors.


Regional stability and economic security

Australian security and economic interests remain linked with the countries of our region. The Australian Government’s investment in agricultural development, through ACIAR, supports regional processes for promoting peace and economic growth, ensuring Australia is a trusted science partner and leader in the agriculture and natural resources sectors.


ACIAR CEO, Professor Andrew Campbell, and Vice Minister Le Quoc Doanh shaking hands and smiling.
In June 2022, Vice Minister Le Quoc Doanh (left) from the Vietnamese Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development presented a medal to ACIAR CEO Professor Andrew Campbell (right) in recognition of the work of ACIAR and its colleagues to advance agriculture and rural development in Vietnam over many years.
Improving food systems

Our first strategic objective of ‘improving food security and reducing poverty among smallholder farmers and rural communities’, is central to the purpose, vision and mission of ACIAR.

The COVID-19 pandemic exposed and exacerbated existing vulnerabilities in food systems around the Indo-Pacific region. Agriculture has played an important role as ‘shock absorber’ by sustaining food production and absorbing significant movements of people and providing useful work. While new variants of the coronavirus continue to emerge, countries in our region are opening their borders and rebuilding their economies. ACIAR is well placed to be an integral and constructive part of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic in our region, with our ability to harness the strengths of the Australian agricultural innovation system to provide scientific leadership.

The zoonotic origins of COVID-19 have shone a spotlight on biosecurity and One Health (the intersection of animal, human and environmental health) and during 2022–23 ACIAR will continue to support partnerships and programs that strive to develop far more effective integration across the human and animal health systems.

Our research portfolio will also support innovation in food systems through projects that produce livestock and grain with greater efficiency and targeting higher quality produce. This serves not only to provide more nutritious food for smallholder farmers and their families and communities, it also enables the production of marketable surplus to improve livelihoods.

ACIAR projects supporting improving food systems in 2022–23 include:

  • Food loss in the Pangasius catfish value chain of the Mekong River Basin (CS/2020/209)
  • Sustainable intensification systems for climate-resilient development in Pacific island countries (CLIM/2020/186)
  • Innovating fish-based livelihoods in the community economies of Timor-Leste and Solomon Islands (FIS/2019/124)
  • Strengthening vegetable value chains in Pakistan for greater community livelihood benefits (HORT/2016/012)
  • Increasing the productivity and profitability of smallholder beekeeping enterprises in Papua New Guinea and Fiji (LS/2014/042)
  • Crop health and nutrient management of shallot-chilli-rice cropping systems in coastal Indonesia (SLAM/2018/145)
  • Cropping system intensification in the salt-affected coastal zones of Bangladesh and West Bengal, India (LWR/2014/073)


Working in a changing climate

‘Managing natural resources and producing food more sustainably, adapting to climate variability and mitigating climate change’, our second research-based objective, is fundamental to the livelihoods of smallholder farmers, fishers and foresters throughout the Indo-Pacific region. Many countries are experiencing a degraded natural resource base, for example, poor soil health and water quality, and these issues are increasingly amplified by the growing impact of a changing climate.

Many projects across the ACIAR research portfolio address elements of this objective, and in particular the ACIAR Climate Change Program, which continues to consolidate its activities. The year ahead presents several opportunities to contribute and influence global discussions on food security and climate change, including the 27th session of the United Nations Conference of the Parties (COP27) for the Framework Convention on Climate Change. ACIAR plans to share tangible examples of game-changing Australian innovation and investment that, with the right partnerships in place, can be scaled for significant impact globally.

ACIAR will continue to represent Australia in collaborations with international partners through the Adaptation Research Alliance, which aims to increase investment and opportunities for action-orientated research to inform effective climate change adaptation, particularly for vulnerable countries and communities; and the Global Research Alliance for Agricultural Greenhouse Gases, an organisation finding ways to reduce the emissions intensity of agrifood systems.

ACIAR projects supporting climate change adaptation and mitigation in 2022–23 include:

  • Transformation pathways for Pacific coastal food systems (CLIM/2020/178)
  • Regional networks for large-scale coral and fish habitat restoration in the Philippines (FIS/2019/123)
  • Enhancing livelihoods through improved forest management in Nepal (FST/2017/037)
  • Responding to emerging pest and disease threats to horticulture in the Pacific islands (HORT/2016/185)
  • Climate smart agriculture opportunities for enhanced food production in Papua New Guinea (ASEM/2017/026)
  • Farmer options for crops under saline conditions (FOCUS) in the Mekong River Delta, Vietnam (SLAM/2018/144)
  • Trees for salinity Pakistan (WAC/2021/136)
Building healthier food systems

Better nutrition, food safety and food security are priority concerns in our partner countries, and therefore fundamental elements of the research and programs supported by ACIAR and its partners.

Throughout the Indo-Pacific region, there are countries, provinces and communities experiencing the triple burden of nutrition – acute hunger and malnutrition alongside increasing levels of obesity and diet-associated diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease. Higher incomes and urbanisation have led quickly to obesity and a rise in the incidence of non-communicable diseases. In many cases these are affecting previously under-nourished communities.

As we take steps to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, the safety of food systems is under scrutiny. During 2022–23, ACIAR will implement a program of One Health projects in partnership with International Development Research Centre (Canada). Focused on the interface between human, animal and environmental health, the program aims to support the continued operationalisation of One Health.

Leaders in farming, business, science and government recognise that if the UN Sustainable Development Goals are to be achieved by 2030, there must be a global transformation in how food is produced, processed, distributed and consumed.

Many projects in our research portfolio are designed with an element of enhancing human nutrition and reducing risks to human health. During 2022–23, ACIAR will continue to develop partnerships and broker research relationships that address the many factors that influence the nutritional value of food harvested and the safety of the food production system.

ACIAR projects supporting healthier food systems in 2022–23 include:

  • Agribusiness-led inclusive value chain development for smallholder farming systems in the Philippines (AGB/2018/196)
  • Increasing productivity and profitability of pulse production in cereal based cropping systems in Pakistan (CIM/2015/041)
  • Fruit trees for climate adaption and mitigation in East Africa (FST/2021/163)
  • Timor-Leste bacteria enteropathy and nutrition study (LS/2021/126)
  • Climate-smart coastal landscapes for sustaining fisheries-based livelihoods and food security in the Pacific (SSS/2021/120)
  • Managing heavy metals and soil contaminants in vegetable production to ensure food safety and environmental health in the Philippines (SLAM/2020/117)
Improving equity and empowerment

Gender equity is crucial to alleviating poverty in rural communities and a key consideration in all contexts in which ACIAR operates. As more than half the world’s farmers are women, ACIAR cannot credibly pursue its objectives around food security, human health and nutrition, climate change and reducing poverty unless we also promote gender equality and equity vigorously, both externally and internally.

ACIAR will update and build on its Gender Equity Policy and Strategy 2017–2022 with the ACIAR Gender Equity and Social Inclusion Strategy and Action Plan 2022–2027. The strategy provides a road map to scale up and integrate gender equity and social inclusion into all aspects of ACIAR research, capacity building and outreach programs. These efforts require improved analytical capacity to support research that addresses multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination and exclusion (such as socio-economic status, disability, ethnicity, age, gender and sexual identity, location and migration), while ensuring fair distribution of outcomes of research-for-development in agriculture, natural resources and food systems.

Consistent with the strategy and Australia’s aid program targets, we aim for a minimum of 80% of ACIAR investments reflecting the principles of gender equity in project design and implementation. Currently, women make up less than 25% of project leaders in ACIAR-supported research, and the new strategy seeks to address barriers to project leadership for women scientists. The strategy also guides our internal planning and organisation. The proportion of senior positions occupied by women within ACIAR increased from 11% in 2016 to 58% by June 2022.

ACIAR projects improving equity and empowerment in 2022–23 include:

  • Rapid breeding for reduced cooking time and enhanced nutritional quality in common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris) (CROP/2018/132)
  • Towards more profitable and sustainable mabé pearl and shell-based livelihoods in the western Pacific (FIS/2019/122)
  • Enhancing private sector-led development of the canarium industry in Papua New Guinea – Phase 2 (FST/2017/038)
  • Improving smallholder well-being through participation in modern value chains: sustaining future growth in the Pakistan citrus industry (HORT/2020/129)
  • Asian chicken genetic gains: a platform for exploring, testing, delivering, and improving chickens for enhanced livelihood outcomes in South-East Asia (LS/2019/142)
  • Transforming smallholder food systems in the Eastern Gangetic Plain (WAC/2020/148)
Fostering inclusive value chains

Through the strategic objective of ‘fostering more inclusive agrifood and forestry value chains and engaging the private sector where possible’, ACIAR brokers projects that identify opportunities and improve business outcomes for people all the way along the value chain, from the input providers and smallholder farmers, to their households and communities.

Effective, efficient and inclusive value chains have the power to transform livelihoods of some of the poorest regions of the world. Unlocking the potential for people to participate equitably in markets and benefit from the opportunities provided by business is a proven way to create employment, improve business outcomes for smallholders and communities and increase economic security in developing countries.

The ACIAR Agribusiness Program focuses on research opportunities to develop new or better business systems and build partnerships to increase the efficiency, safety and inclusivity of supply chains. However, projects in other programs of the ACIAR research portfolio link best practices in agriculture, fisheries and forestry to opportunities to support innovation in production systems and value chains, and create new domestic market opportunities.

During 2022–23, ACIAR and IDRC will continue the Food Loss Research Program, which is a series of projects working with partners in developing countries to address food loss through innovative, locally driven solutions. Read more here.

ACIAR projects fostering inclusive value chains in 2022–23 include:

  • Inclusive agriculture value chain financing (AGB/2016/163)
  • Preparing for mangrove-based climate and agribusiness transformation in the Mekong Delta (CLIM/2021/138)
  • Innovating fish-based livelihoods in the community economies of Timor-Leste and Solomon Islands (FIS/2019/124)
  • Coconut and other non-traditional forest resources for the manufacture of engineered wood products (FST/2019/128)
  • Strengthening vegetable value chains in Pakistan for greater community livelihood benefits (HORT/2016/012)
  • Improving small ruminant production and supply in Fiji and Samoa (LS/2017/033)
  • Improving livelihoods of smallholder coffee communities in Papua New Guinea (ASEM/2016/100)
Building capability

Innovation in agriculture is a key pathway to poverty reduction, increased food security and economic growth. Building the capacity of agricultural researchers and policymakers, their networks and institutions contributes to innovation potential and supports partners to deploy relevant and effective agricultural practices and policies to reduce poverty.

The ACIAR 10-Year Strategy 2018–2027 committed ACIAR to building its investment in postgraduate research training for individual scientists, as well as value-added training in management and leadership. Further, the strategy also identified the value in developing ongoing relationships with the network of ACIAR collaborators. During 2022–23, we will continue to deliver our core activities within the Capacity Building Program, being flexible and adaptive as COVID-19 continues to affect our region. Where possible, we will return to face-to-face learning opportunities and build on our lessons learned to strengthen our online platforms.

Capacity building is an intrinsic factor of many of the research projects we broker. This ensures that the people we work with have the skills, resources and knowledge to sustain new initiatives, systems and approaches, so our investment leads to lasting change. The collaborative international programs and partnerships underpinning ACIAR-supported research also serve to improve Australian scientific capabilities. We will also be reviewing our program to further integrate with the research function of ACIAR, a key recommendation from the mid-term review of the 10-year strategy.

ACIAR programs and projects building capability in 2022–23 include:

  • Pacific Agribusiness Research in Development Initiative Phase 2 (PARDI 2) (AGB/2014/057)
  • Locally led learning to turn polders into flexible assets for adaptation (CLIM/2021/137)
  • Demand-led plant variety design for emerging markets in Africa (FSC/2013/019)
  • Building effective forest health and biosecurity networks in South-East Asia (FST/2020/123)
  • Development of area-wide management approaches for fruit flies in mango for Indonesia, Philippines, Australia and the Asia-Pacific region (HORT/2015/042)
  • Intensification of beef cattle production in upland cropping systems in Northwest Vietnam (LPS/2015/037)
  • Gender equitable agricultural extension through institutions and youth engagement in Papua New Guinea (SSS/2018/137)
  • Managing heavy metals and soil contaminants in vegetable production to ensure food safety and environmental health in the Philippines (SLAM/2020/117)
  • Transforming smallholder irrigation into profitable and self-sustaining systems in southern Africa (TISA) (LWR/2016/137)


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