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ISSUE ONE 2016 PARTNERS
PROFILE—DR MAR MAR WIN
Dried pulses produced by legumes are an important source of protein
for humans. These crops provide farmers the additional benefit of adding
nitrogen to soils, thereby improving soil fertility without expensive inputs.
A much-loved and highly versatile pulse is the chickpea. In Burma,
chickpea is processed in several ways, including grinding to produce a
tofu-like paste used in popular recipes such as warm tofu noodle soup.
Among Burma’s pulses, chickpea (ka-la-be) is unusual. Pulses are by
far the most valuable agricultural export commodity for the country. Yet
a fair proportion is consumed locally rather than exported. In 2011–12,
the Department of Agriculture estimated the area sown to chickpea at
327,795 hectares for a total production of 441,000 tonnes produced at an
average yield of 544 kilograms per acre.
Domesticated chickpea, however, has a narrow genetic base, limiting
where it can be grown and reducing its resistance to fungal diseases. As
such, work by breeders is essential to ensuring chickpea varieties can
keep pace with challenges in farmers’ fields.
One chickpea breeder whose work has important bearing on
smallholder farmers is Dr Mar Mar Win, who is based at the Myanmar
Department of Agricultural Research.
Dr Mar Mar Win says she became a crop specialist in chickpeas in
order to help farmers obtain and benefit from improved varieties. She
credits working on ACIAR projects since 2007 for helping to develop her
capabilities and career.
“I like ACIAR projects for covering multilateral programs to improve
the wellbeing of [the] rural population,” she says. “ We need to do
more participatory research with farmers, because most farmers lack
knowledge about improved varieties, cultural practices, insect and
disease control, and market information of their crops, as well as access to
the inputs of crop production.”
She has adopted the practice of engaging farmers in the project by
making field visits where she uses field demonstrations and promotes
discussions on problems in chickpea production.
ACIAR has also facilitated engagement with the chickpea crop-
improvement programs at the International Crops Research Institute
for Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in India and the University of New England
“I am proud of International Women’s Day,” she adds. “ Women play
a significant role in agricultural production. I think that long-term and
sustainable development will only be possible when women and men
enjoy equal opportunity to rise to their potential.”
and NARI is willing to construct them free of
charge if women pay for the raw materials.”
Also covered at the workshop were issues
relating to the entire value chain needed to get
processed canarium products to a larger market,
including postharvest physiology, good handling
practices, value-adding, food safety and hygiene.
“ We also provided hands-on exercises in nut
grading and simple but efficient methods for
depulping, cracking, drying, roasting, making
oil and packaging,” Professor Wallace says. “ The
women also compared the texture and taste of
nuts that were adequately and insufficiently dried
in addition to comparing nuts that were dried,
roasted and salted.”
A tour of NARI’s pilot plant completed the
bird’s-eye view of the fledgling supply chain. The
women were invited to sell directly to the plant—
and help sustain the market research that got
underway in 2016.
“ We want to create demand for the nut
products that the factory can produce,” Professor
Wallace explains. “So we are doing research
around what kind of canarium product the
market wants, which products sell the best, how
do we package it and what volume do we need
That means two income-earning options are
being created for smallholder farmers. Women
can value-add at the village level by harvesting
and solar drying for local markets or they can
supply the pilot factory to produce high-value
packaged products for more extensive marketing
in Port Moresby.
These amount to important first steps towards
greater agribusiness opportunities for women
who often exist on less than A$1,000 per year.
But Professor Wallace is certain that much bigger
outcomes are possible, even within just five to
“ When we started in 2008 there was just one
canarium nut processor in all of the Pacific region
and it needed nuts to be delivered frozen—an
unrealistic technique for most villagers,” Professor
“Now we have established that the nuts can
be dried efficiently in the villages to extend
their shelf life and that more extensive markets
can be developed.”
The workshop closed with the presentation
of Certificates of Participation to each attendee.
The chairwoman of East New Britain Women and
Youth in Agriculture, Lanieth Aua, presented Mari
blouses and gifts to the project team. n
ACIAR PROJECT: PARDI 2012–16 FST/2010/013
‘Developing markets and products for the PNG and
Pacific canarium nut industry’
MORE INFORMATION: Professor Helen Wallace,
Dr Mar Mar Win, second from left, at a chickpea field
trial site, Burma.
1. Simple but effective nut-
processing technology is essential
to the development of a canarium
nut industry in Papua New Guinea.
2. Women from the East New
Britain Women and Youth in
Agriculture were keen on the
modified TJ’s nutcracker developed
by ACIAR to process canarium nuts.
3. Canarium nut products
produced in Vanuatu by Ms Votausi
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