Monday, 31 August 2015

Gender equity in agriculture

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations estimates women comprise 43% of the agricultural labour force and that productive outputs could increase by 20 – 30% if women received the same access to agricultural services and inputs.

So how do we integrate gender equity and women’s economic empowerment into agricultural programing?

This is the question we explored over a two day course at the CSIRO in Canberra. Linda Jones facilitated the workshop which was attended by around 20 participants from the CSIRO, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), ACIAR and World Vision. Each participant brought unique experiences and knowledge to address the constraints and benefits of empowering women in agriculture in developing countries.

Women-only focus group and farm practice discussion, Eastern Gangetic Plains, India. Credit: ACIAR

The first day of the workshop focused on understanding gender equity and women’s economic empowerment, the rationale for women’s economic empowerment in agricultural development programs, and the pillars of women’s economic empowerment. The five pillars used throughout the workshop were:

1. Economic advancement – increased income and return on labour;
2. Access to opportunities and life chances, such as skills development or job openings;
3. Access to assets, services and needed supports to advance economically;
4. Decision-making authority in different spheres including household finances; and
5. Manageable workloads for women.
Source: Jones (2012) – The genesis of the five domains

Toitiu Alabu checks on her sweet peppers and tomato plants in Fiji. Credit: Conor Ashleigh
The program was designed around DFAT’s ‘Empowering women’ priority as part of the Australian aid program. During the afternoon session, we used a systems lens and life cycle approach to analyse case studies on inclusive agricultural development.

On day two, the group discussed the design and implementation phases of the project and intervention life cycle. This included looking at the methods for the integration of women and for greater gender equality in agricultural market systems, including innovation systems. We then split up into groups to identify and design winning solutions for real-world problems. After lunch, we then explored implementation challenges and risks, including using a risk register. As always, we identified the importance of appropriate monitoring and evaluation – and answered those all important questions - What do we measure? When do we measure? Why should we measure?

Krishna Kumari cuts grass to feed her animals, Nepal. Credit: Conor Ashleigh

The two day workshop provided an open forum for government officials and scientists to share their insights for successful agricultural program design and delivery. As the workshop concluded, participants shared their positive feedback about the practical benefits of the workshop and how they could incorporate the new knowledge into both future program design, but also current program improvement. Laura Carew from ACIAR highlighted, “the course was an invaluable insight into the importance of a participatory approach to program design and the case studies that we explored throughout the course allowed us to apply what we had learnt to practical, real-world scenarios”.

By Elise Crabb, External Engagement and Media Presence Officer, ACIAR

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Building capacity in monitoring and evaluation

Thirty participants recently gathered at the Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (MARDI) training facility to complete a five day intensive training program focused on monitoring, evaluation and impact. Participants came from 17 different countries ranging from Pakistan to Samoa, and everywhere in-between.
Participants came from 17 different countries. Source: ACIAR

Friday, 17 July 2015

The rewards and challenges of collaboration in research and development projects

By Jim Young, Project Officer - Mekong Livestock Research (University of Sydney)

‘Collaboration’ is a word that rolls off the tongue and I think is generally perceived in a positive light. So I was somewhat surprised to find two definitions on a 'Google search'. The first, was expected; ‘the action of working with someone to produce or create something’. The second, was a little more surprising; ‘traitorous cooperation with an enemy’. Hmmm, interesting and I thought it might be useful to explore collaboration in further detail in the hope of stimulating some discussion and learn the experiences of others.

My view, and I am confident I can speak on behalf of our University of Sydney Mekong Livestock Research team, is that collaboration refers to the first definition: Joining forces to reach a common goal. Sounds simple, right?

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Safe vegetables for the benefit of all stakeholders along the supply chain

By Nguyen Thi Sau, Fruit and Vegetable Research Institute, Vietnam

During a recent visit to Vietnam, Dr Nick Austin, Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), spent some time on project-related activities in the country.

On 8 July, he visited a Fivimart supermarket on Chuong Duong Do Street with ACIAR country staff to see the sales point of certified safe vegetables from Moc Chau District, Son La Province. These vegetables have been produced under the ACIAR project ‘Improved market engagement for counter-seasonal vegetable producers in north-western Vietnam’ (AGB/2009/053). While there, ACIAR met with the distributors, collectors, farmers and market researchers who are directly involved in the Moc Chau safe vegetable supply chain.

Successful connection between safe vegetable producers in Moc Chau and Fivimart in Hanoi through the ACIAR project has led to the consumption of about 737 tons of vegetables since 2012 with an increase in volume and vegetable types from year to year.

Dr Nick Austin, ACIAR’s Chief Executive Officer (fourth from left) join farmers from Moc Chau and ACIAR Vietnam staff in the visit to a Fivimart outlet in Hanoi on 8 July 2015. Photo by Nguyen Phuc Dinh

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Combine harvesters used for rice production in Central Laos

Combine harvester is commonly used to harvest rice crops in neighbouring Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, but it is of limited use in Central Laos where rice is mostly harvested by hand. However, the shortage and high cost of labour at the time of harvesting in recent years make it difficult to sustain manual harvesting methods. Combine can harvest rice crops quickly in the field–often 2-4 hectares a day. This makes it suitable in areas where there is not enough labour to harvest rice crops in a timely manner. Farmers in Central Laos often mention difficulty in introducing combine to the area due to: small and irregular rice fields, lack of resources to dry harvested paddy rice, and high fees charged by the combine contractor (commonly 20% or more of harvested rice).

Combine harvester performance is compared in small fields is typical in Tung village, Khammouan and larger field in Pakpung village, Bolikhamxay. Source: Professor Shu Fukai

Friday, 3 July 2015

PARDI market day proves huge success

Over 150 researchers, farmers, agribusiness and government representatives from Australia and across the Pacific came together in Fiji this week. The occasion was the PARDI Impact Workshop and Market Day. An event marking the completion of the first phase of the Pacific Agribusiness Research for Development Initiative (PARDI) and a chance to network, share experiences and see firsthand the impact of agribusiness research on economic and social development in the region.

ACIAR's Tara McKenzie learning about breadfruit from stallholder Livai Tora. Source: ACIAR

Monday, 29 June 2015

The ups and downs of field work

By Shumaila Arif
This blog first appeared on the RAID website.

Last year I started my PhD at Charles Sturt University. Prior to this I worked for 3 years with the ASLP Dairy Project (an ACIAR funded project in Pakistan). Due to my work experience with smallholder dairy farmers in my home country I was passionate to do something for them. Therefore, I decided to apply for a PhD scholarship to work on a disease (brucellosis) that is highly zoonotic and something that farmers are generally unaware of. I was lucky enough to receive a John Allwright Fellowship (care of ACIAR) which has given me the opportunity to come to Australia where, with the help of my supervisory team (Jane Heller, Marta Hernandez-Jover, David McGill & Peter Thomson), we have started an epidemiology project. The main aim of the project is to looking for risky farm and household practices that could possibly be linked to the transmission of brucellosis and associate this with the prevalence of the disease. We hope this information will be useful to predict risk of the disease and help direct education programmes.