Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR)
The Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) is the Australian Government’s specialist agricultural research-for-development agency, within the aid program. ACIAR does not undertake research but identifies opportunities and brokers partnerships between scientists from Australia and partner countries to undertake international agricultural research and capacity building. The partnerships and achievements support the aid program’s objectives to advance Australia's national interests, promoting economic growth and increasing sustainability.
ACIAR primarily works with countries in the Indo-Pacific region through bilateral and multilateral research partnerships. The beneficiaries of these programs include farmers, rural poor, consumers, researchers and policymakers. Many studies around the world over many years have consistently shown that improving farming systems and food security in developing countries delivers enormous social, economic and environmental benefits, and reduces threats to wider political stability and global security.
Australian farmers, agribusinesses and researchers also benefit tangibly through, for example, knowledge and technology exchange, preventing or solving problems before they reach Australia, and building linkages that can foster future trade relationships.
Research that works for the Philippines
For more than thirty years, ACIAR has been an active partner of the Philippine Government in agricultural research that focuses on increasing agricultural productivity, and the marketability and international competitiveness of agricultural products, as well as on reducing the adverse effects of climate change on the rural poor. Underpinning these priorities is the need to develop more effective extension processes and greater responsiveness to market opportunities.
The ACIAR Philippines program supports research for development to improve the market competitiveness of products from aquaculture, horticulture and livestock enterprises. The emphasis on higher-value products and competitiveness aims to improve food security by providing smallholder farmers and traders with diverse and significant opportunities to improve their livelihoods.
Currently, ACIAR’s Philippines program has 11 ongoing projects that address the following key priorities:
- increasing the market competitiveness of fruit and vegetable products
- managing land and water resources more effectively
- developing competitive and sustainable fisheries and aquaculture production
- improving returns from low-input livestock production systems
- mitigating the adverse impacts of climate change on the rural poor
- fostering technology adoption by poor indigenous households in the southern Philippines.
ACIAR’s research strategy and priorities in the Philippines are reviewed every 4-5 years through consultations between ACIAR research programs and key government research agencies, local governments, academia, farmer organisations and the private sector. The Philippines Program and priorities for FY 2017/2018 were endorsed by key stakeholders.
The Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCAARRD) is the main government partner of ACIAR in the Philippines. Research projects are carried out by Australian and Filipino researchers, extension officers and other partners from national agencies and local governments, non-government organisations (NGOs), academia, industry and farmer collaborators. Research projects are mostly concentrated in Mindanao and Visayas although ACIAR maintains linkages with research experts and policymakers in Manila and Los Baños.
In recent years, ACIAR’s Philippines program has had a greater focus on Mindanao and Visayas, where low productivity, natural resource degradation, high poverty incidence, and vulnerability to climate variability and disasters represent more serious constraints to agricultural development than in other regions.
ACIAR project sites in Mindanao are located in Davao City, provinces of Davao del Sur and Davao del Norte, Bukidnon, Misamis Oriental, North and South Cotabato, Zamboanga Sibugay and Maguindanao. In Visayas, project sites are in the provinces of Leyte, Bohol and Iloilo. Livestock and fisheries projects are found in Central and Northern Luzon, respectively.
Focus on Southern Philippines
In recent years, ACIAR’s Philippines program has had a greater focus on Mindanao and Visayas, where issues of low productivity, natural resource degradation, high poverty incidence, and vulnerability to climate variability and disasters represent more serious constraints to agricultural development than in other regions. Ongoing initiatives focus on the following research areas:
- Market competiveness of fruits and vegetables. The southern Philippines Horticulture Program is one of ACIAR’s major initiatives in the country. It aims to improve smallholder and industry profitability and market competitiveness for various vegetable (including potato, tomato, capsicum, brassicas, eggplant, and leafy vegetables), as well as identifying and implementing improvements to domestic and export value chains for tropical fruits (bananas, mango, papaya, durian and jackfruit). This involves targeted interventions in value chains, from production (especially genetic resources and disease and pest management) through to postharvest handling and processing, to respond to market needs and opportunities.
- Crop nutrition and soil management. Complementing the horticulture research, ACIAR is supporting collaborative research on soil fertility, to identify constraints and develop cost-effective strategies for improving crop nutrition and so enhance the profitability and sustainability of vegetable production; the researchers work closely with smallholders to develop integrated soil, crop and nutrient management practices that are well suited to farmers’ needs and local conditions.
- Fisheries and aquaculture production. ACIAR has been working with Philippine research agencies, both national and regional, to develop and refine technologies for the culture and grow-out of high-value marine species such as groupers and sea cucumbers, using approaches that are adapted to the needs of coastal communities. Work to restore damaged coral reefs is also designed to benefit these communities.
- Land and watershed management. ACIAR continues to support collaborative watershed R&D programs that can help in the rehabilitation of critical watersheds and prevent further degradation of vulnerable sloping land, while providing agricultural enterprise opportunities for upland communities and local governments.
- Technology adoption and extension. Building on previous work in Mindanao that has highlighted how certain types of community-based extension methods can rapidly enhance agricultural livelihoods, ACIAR’s current program is testing and evaluating how these approaches can be best be applied in conflict-affected areas in the southern and western Philippines.
ACIAR project sites in Mindanao are located in Davao City, provinces of Davao del Sur and Davao del Norte, Bukidnon, Misamis Oriental, North and South Cotabato, Zamboanga Sibugay and Maguindanao. In Visayas, sites are established in the provinces of Samar, Leyte, Bohol and Iloilo.
Research achievements for 2017
- In Davao del Norte province, smallholder farmers are learning how to reduce the impact of the highly destructive Fusarium wilt (TR4) on banana yields by adopting disease control practices including introduction of semi-resistant Cavendish cultivars that allow farms to have some degree of production in the presence of TR4.
- Researchers have identified a range of benefits possible from restoring coastal livelihoods and ecological function, based around commercial-scale hatchery and grow-out technologies for sandfish. The project has developed new techniques for feeding the larvae, and seen hatchery output significantly increase despite the devastation wreaked by Typhoon Haiyan in November 2013.
- A locally–formed People’s Organisation in Biliran Province learnt about high–quality seedling production and established a tree nursery program, growing seedlings to supply not only the community’s reforestation, but broader rehabilitation across the Philippines. The real–life setting has provided new insights into the practicalities of successful rehabilitation, which relies on community engagement and opportunities for financial returns at different stages of growth.
- Researcher helped Leyte farmers to change the whole culture of how they work together, sell, plan and schedule. When poor smallholder farmers act as individuals, they often lack the capacity to run a business linked to modern market chains. They can, however, overcome these deficits by acting collectively. Through the project, the farmers learnt new skills in postharvest handling, grading, marketing, and safe vegetable production practices and accreditation to ensure they receive premium prices.
Training and capacity building
ACIAR is also committed to strengthening the research capacity of institutions in partner countries through two scholarship programs under the Australian Government’s Australia Awards - the John Allwright Fellowship (postgraduate degree) and John Dillon Fellowship (leadership training).
As of December 2017, there are eight scholars currently in Australia working on their Masters and Doctorate degrees. By June 2018, 3 women scholars will commence their fellowship: one PhD student and 2 scholars participating in the Research Management and Leadership Training. ACIAR has provided a total of 67 scholarship to the Philippines: 47 John Allwright Fellows and 20 John Dillon fellows.
Assistant Country Manager
updated: March 2018
SUPPORTING FILIPINO RESEARCHERS
STOPPING PANAMA DISEASE IN BANANA PLANTATIONS
FARMING COMMUNITIES AND RESEARCHERS WORKING TOGETHER IN BILIRAN