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AGRICULTURAL DEVELOPMENT POLICY
ISSUE THREE 2016 PARTNERS
BY GIO BRAIDOTTI
C oncern over degraded and
unproductive land has prompted
governments in Fiji and Vanuatu to
review policies that affect land-use
practices. The governments wanted to pursue
a process based on strong empirical data. They
opted to partner with ACIAR, whose team of
in-country and Australian researchers used models
of economic viability to supplement the analysis of
existing land-use practices.
The review was done in 2015, in a project that is
likely to have important impacts for years to come,
says Dr Ejaz Qureshi, ACIAR Research Program
Manager for Agriculture Development Policy.
"The goal of the project was to systematically
catalogue land-use policy, the extent of land
degradation and to explore land-use options,
their financial viability and the nature of incentives
needed to make change," Dr Qureshi says.
The project is now complete and produced
an impressive body of work. The findings were
compiled into 15 research articles and collated
into an ACIAR monograph, which is due to be
published by the end of this year. "This project
was keenly supported by the governments of Fiji
and Vanuatu and gained strong buy-in from key
policymakers," Dr Qureshi says.
The exercise went beyond providing farmers
with information about land-use options; it opened
a gateway for Australia to support the governments
of these partner countries to adopt, implement and
restructure land-use policy in ways that increase the
welfare of these Pacific island countries.
RESEARCH BUILDS DEMAND
n Land-use policy and practices in Fiji and Vanuatu
have been reviewed due to concerns about
unproductive and degraded land.
n The review was undertaken in partnership with
Australia through a highly productive ACIAR project.
Farmers who helped an ACIAR team analyse the most viable land-use options
and policies in Fiji and Vanuatu have asked the Australian and in-country
partners to come back and help communities implement change
International law and governance expert
Dr Saiful Karim, of Queensland University of
Technology's Faculty of Law, led the analysis team.
For Dr Karim, the ACIAR project was an opportunity
to apply his longstanding interest in the impact of
policy frameworks on land use in the Pacific region
to practical research in Fiji and Vanuatu.
He says abandoned sugarcane plantations
in Fiji are symptomatic of the problems these
Pacific island countries face. In that instance, land
ownership issues caused farmers to lose access to
land that then became unproductive.
FOCUS ON AGROFORESTRY
Of particular concern is a steady decline in
agroforestry, a land-use practice known for its
environmental resilience, sustainability and high
productivity. Agroforestry is a holistic farming-
system approach. One of its core traits is the
practice of recycling and re-using outputs in a
sustainable way across crop, livestock and forestry
"Agroforestry has been practised for many years
in the Pacific region, however, at a time when it
is especially needed to help bring degraded land
back into production, its popularity is in decline,"
Dr Karim says.
Dr Karim, with the help and mentorship of
Professor Steve Harrison, who has worked on
previous ACIAR projects, built a multi-disciplinary
team to explore the legal, policy, economic and
cultural issues that influence land-use choices
in a Pacific context. The team comprised
researchers from Australia as well as in-country
At a national level, the team identified the
need for government-department unity, with
separate departments responsible for areas of
agroforestry expertise, including forestry, livestock
"We also looked at land ownership, particularly
how to share benefits from farming where the
land is farmed by few, but it is owned
communally," Dr Karim says. "Without a benefit-
sharing arrangement land can become
unproductive, as we have seen in some of Fiji's
Security of tenure for farmers on agricultural
lands is an issue. The challenge is to put in place
frameworks that build confidence in livelihood
security, encouraging long-term investment and
commitment to sustainable agricultural practices.
NEW FINANCIAL MODELS
Finally, the team led by Professor Harrison, an
agriculture and natural resource economics expert,
examined the financial viability of different farming
and land-use practices, including agroforestry
practices that incorporate different kinds of
species and commodities. The idea of developing
the financial models was to better understand
the costs, benefits and risks over the long periods
of time required for trees and crops within these
farming systems to mature and reach markets.
The project developed financial models for five
overall mixed-species agroforestry systems and
eight additional 'priority' tree and crop species.
The models focused on the production of timber,
fruit and nuts, cocoa, root crops, citrus, bananas,
pulses and kava.
Both Dr Karim and Dr Qureshi stress that strong
relationships and trust between the Australian and
in-country governments, and their public-sector
researchers, are essential to a policy-oriented
project, where local nuances, cultural practices and
historic context needs to be understood
There is a legacy of high-value, public-good
impacts associated with ACIAR projects in the
Pacific region. ACIAR's experience, reputation
and established networks assisted greatly in
the planning and negotiation stages of this
agroforestry project. The project relied heavily
on innovation-friendly partnerships with key
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