Technical report

Agrifood systems transformation through circular migration between Pacific island countries and Australia

Date released
30 March 2022
Publication Code

Federico Davila, Olivia Dun, Carol Farbotko, Brent Jacobs, Natascha Klocker, Ema Vueti, Lavinia Kaumaitotoya, Angela Birch, Peter Kaoh, Tikai Pitakia and Sinaitakala Tu’itahi


Among Australia’s neighbours in Pacific island countries, the COVID-19 pandemic has precipitated a sudden and protracted decrease in external sources of income, such as tourism. The loss of external income has further amplified the social and economic challenges in a region fighting a rapidly changing climate and deteriorating food security.

ACIAR commissioned a study in 2021 to identify the barriers to and enablers of agricultural knowledge and skills exchange between Pacific island and Australian farmers who participate in seasonal worker programs. The findings of this report, which focus on opportunities for agricultural knowledge exchange through temporary international labour mobility, are relevant to previous and new Australian Government labour mobility schemes.

Australia’s economic relationship with Pacific island countries will become increasingly important as we all face the headwinds of unprecedented social, economic and environmental change. Labour mobility programs enable workers to acquire significant earnings, but also address critical labour shortages on Australian farms. Such programs enable the invaluable exchange of knowledge and skills that could play a catalytic role in rural development, food security and livelihoods in Pacific island countries.

As a knowledge-brokering and capacity-building organisation, ACIAR is ready to embrace the potential for knowledge and skills exchange to support both Australia and the Pacific island countries as we face shared challenges and continue our work in translating rigorous science into practical knowledge for developing smallholder systems. 

It is the first of 4 ‘deeper dive’ assessments of research-for-development issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic, which are the conclusion of a three-stage assessment process that began with ACIAR Technical Report 95 Food systems security, resilience and emerging risks in the Indo-Pacific in the context of COVID-19: a rapid assessment and continued with ACIAR Technical Report 96 COVID-19 and food systems in the Indo-Pacific: An assessment of vulnerabilities, impacts and opportunities for action.