A four-year project to enhance value-added products and environmental benefits from agroforestry systems is being rolled out in Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu and Solomon Islands with support from the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR).
The AUD 2.4 million (FJD 3.7M) project will be implemented in partnership with University of the Sunshine Coast, Southern Cross University, the University of Adelaide and the Pacific Community (SPC) in collaboration with the ministries of agriculture and forestry in the four countries.
The new project aims to promote sustainable agriculture and agroforestry to replace unproductive and degraded land, and improve livelihoods and economic progress through rehabilitating degraded catchments in Fiji and Vanuatu.
It will also look at markets and opportunities for value-adding for agroforestry crops in all four project countries.
Speaking at the inception workshop in Fiji last week, the Director of SPC’s Land Resources Division, Inoke Ratukalou, said this type of collaboration was not only crucial, but strategic in dealing with numerous challenges that Pacific communities face.
“Pacific development is complicated by geography and scale, and by a confluence of pressing national issues and regional cross-cutting issues, such as climate change, disasters, non-communicable diseases, gender equality and youth employment,” Mr Ratukalou said.
“We welcome SPC’s involvement in this new initiative given its holistic approach to boosting development and economic empowerment,” he added.
Permanent Secretary for Fiji’s Ministry for Fisheries and Forests, Samuela Lagataki, commented that agroforestry has great potential within the region to improve livelihoods for current and future generations.
“This project has a lot of key linkages to things we’re doing now and also with the many projects we have done in the past. It is encouraging to see SPC, with other regional partners and funding from ACIAR, making this a priority and finding the resources to continue the work that we had been doing in this area.
“The timing for this workshop is very important for me as we are now in the planning phase for our new financial year, and we will soon start to finalise our plans to be able to get the key activities and outputs from this project integrated into our key planning, monitoring and reporting process,” Mr Lagataki said.
Further, Tony Bartlett, ACIAR’s forestry programme manager, also added that this project addresses important short term needs for farmers as well as assisting with longer term environmental outcomes.
“By enhancing opportunities for new value-added products from agroforestry systems, farmers will have improved incomes and by linking the tourism sector to reforestation programs more progress will be made in restoring degraded catchments,” Mr Bartlett said.
The project will also develop value-added products for markets involving women and the private sector, and will be led by Professor Helen Wallace of University of the Sunshine Coast and supported by Tevita Kete of SPC, Kevin Glencross and the country coordinators.
Set to conclude in 2019, the project has culminated from the Pacific Agribusiness Research for Development Initiative (PARDI) project and several small research activities that were undertaken under ACIAR.
Participants at inception meeting visiting ACIAR/ SPC project site in Sigatoka, Fiji.