This project aims to increase the productivity and marketing options of smallholder cattle farmers in Vanuatu through social, business and production participatory research, demonstration and training activities.
75% of households in Vanuatu rely on traditional subsistence agriculture for their livelihoods, and 50% of rural households have cattle. Beef cattle turnoff into formal markets has declined in recent years, and butchers and abattoirs cannot meet increasing demand for beef.
The Government of the Republic of Vanuatu has identified increased smallholder cattle productivity, linkages with the commercial cattle sector and income from cattle sales as priority strategies to increase national beef production, meet expanding market opportunities, and improve the livelihoods of ni-Vanuatu smallholder households.
Implementing these strategies will require understanding the livelihoods objectives of smallholder cattle producing households and cattle production systems. The project will increase cattle productivity and improve market access within the smallholder cattle sector in Vanuatu.
Approximately 75% of households in Vanuatu rely on traditional subsistence agriculture for their livelihoods, with approximately 50% of rural households owning cattle. Despite favourable environmental, climatic and market settings for beef cattle production in Vanuatu, it is believed that small-holder beef cattle production, productivity and sales in to formal markets have declined in recent years. The Government of the Republic of Vanuatu has identified increased smallholder cattle productivity, linkages with the commercial cattle sector and income from cattle sales as priority development strategies to increase national beef production and to improve the livelihoods of Ni-Vanuatu smallholder households. Implementation of these strategies will require an understanding of the livelihoods objectives of smallholder cattle producing households and their existing cattle production systems, and the identification, testing and demonstration of strategies to increase cattle production and incomes and improve livelihoods. It is within this context that the Government of Vanuatu, via the Department of Industry, requested support from ACIAR to assist with the development of the smallholder cattle sector in Vanuatu.
The overarching aim of the project is to increase the productivity and marketing options of smallholder cattle farmers in Vanuatu through a range of social, business and production participatory research, demonstration and training activities coupled with the strengthening of institutional capacity.
The specific objectives of the project are to
1. Describe the economic, policy and social settings within which smallholder cattle farmers operate and their livelihood objectives and strategies,
2. Sustainably increase beef production of smallholder households through change in on-farm management practices,
3. Increase the returns to smallholder cattle farmers through whole-farm and cattle enterprise economic analysis, business training and marketing interventions, and
4. Create pathways to sustain and extend project outcomes and impacts beyond the scope of the current project.
To meet these objectives a multidisciplinary research team has formed with expertise in livelihoods analysis, cattle economics and value chains and cattle and forage production. The organisations involved in the project include, Department of Industry, Department of Livestock, Vanuatu Agriculture Research and Technical Centre (VARTC) and Vanuatu Agriculture College (VAC) in Vanuatu and The University of Queensland (UQ), Southern Cross University (SCU) and Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Queensland (QDAF) in Australia.
The project will primarily focus on the island of Espiritu Santo in Vanuatu, as this is where the highest number of smallholder cattle farmers are currently located with access to several different cattle markets. The project takes a grass-roots approach, working in-depth with a small number of household’s representative of the various scales and types of production systems that exist in Vanuatu. The project uses on- and off-farm participatory research, demonstration and training, with impacts on livelihoods and production systems monitored over time. A range of interventions will be tested with farmers and these will be used as demonstration and training sites for other farmers. Additional research activities are being conducted on-station at the VARTC where a greater level of experimental control is required than can be attained on-farm.
The project memorandum of understanding was executed in December 2015 and a project launch and inception workshop were held in February 2016. Much of the project activity since the inception workshop has focused on establishing research resources and recruiting junior project staff to commence project operations. The research methodology has been developed through pilot testing with smallholder households in East Coast Santo and training of staff in the use of mobile data acquisition platforms which will be used for data collection and collation in this project. A forage evaluation experiment has been established on VARTC with first biomass harvests planned for August and September 2016 and a farmer field day to be held prior to the commencement of the 2016/2017 wet season.
The project has generated good public awareness over the first six months through newsletters, newspaper articles and television interviews. The project has established linkages with the Livestock Industry Working Group and the SANMA Cattle Farmers Association in Vanuatu and is in contact with other funding agencies regarding their proposed programs for the Vanuatu cattle sector.