26 June 2018
A researcher working in the Northern Territory is collecting pearls of wisdom to help develop coastal community livelihoods in a lucrative aquaculture industry for people in the western Pacific.
University of the Sunshine Coast PhD student Samantha Nowland has received up to $3,000 from the Crawford Fund for her study into pearl industry-based livelihoods that could help locals make a living.
The project is funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research and run by USC’s Tropical Aquaculture Research team.
“In northern Australia we are well-placed to work with neighbouring countries in the Pacific to promote international agricultural research and to assist in the alleviation of poverty,” Samantha said.
She said pearl farming is the Pacific region’s most valuable and highest-priority aquaculture activity.
“Coastal communities can increase their income by collecting young oysters for sale to round pearl farms, or use them for half-pearl and pearl-shell handicraft production,” she said.
“My project will foster the transfer of social and technical knowledge between aquaculture development programs to assist with rural and regional development across Fiji, Tonga and Australia’s Top End.”
“It is clear that there is also much for us to learn from our neighbours that can be applied to our own rural development programs.”
Samantha is supervised by Professor Paul Southgate of USC’s Australian Centre for Pacific Islands Research who is leading three ACIAR projects concerning pearl-based livelihoods in the Pacific Islands.
“In Fiji we work with 27 communities who generate considerable income from half-pearl and pearl handicraft production,” said Professor Southgate, who specialises in pearl culture.
“Pearl culture and the products that result are empowering Pacific communities because it is compatible with traditional lifestyles and is a low-cost activity requiring minimal time and infrastructure.”
He said a key aspect was to help communities develop a solid business grounding and then consider whether the models developed in the Pacific could also be applied in tropical Australia.
- Janelle Kirkland