Capacity building | UniSC | University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

Accessibility links

Capacity building

Pacific Island Handicrafts
Tree planing workshop in the field
Nittya Simard

ACPIR’s work in developing sustainable livelihoods involves collaborating with Pacific partners in capacity building initiatives to empower the region’s producers, researchers and policy makers to help themselves and achieve stronger economic independence.

Research projects

Group of people smiling for the camera

The Pacific Agriculture Scholarships, Support and Climate Resilience Program (PASS-CR)

2021 - 2024

ACPIR partnered with the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) to continue ACIAR’s capacity building work for students from Pacific Island countries undertaking postgraduate studies in agricultural fields.
The PASS-CR program is a multi-university capacity building program providing scholarships and support to postgraduate students and academics at the University of the South Pacific (USP) and Fiji National University (FNU). Scholarships are offered in the Pacific, to Pacific Islanders, enabling scholars to research agricultural problems within the context that the solutions need to work, to build professional networks which will be relevant post-study and to remain close to family and culture.
ACPIR provides additional academic support to PASS-CR scholars and academic staff including professional development, access to the UniSC library, peer-to-peer learning, research collaboration, and higher degree research supervision training. Student work placements and career development are included under PASS-CR to build ongoing industry connections.

The PASS-CR Program aims to strengthen the Pacific agricultural innovation system through building on the strengths of Pacific universities and their regional partners.
The PASS-CR Climate Resilience program fosters these innovations by offering post-graduate students and supervisors the opportunity to link their research with leading researchers in Australian and Pacific centres of excellence in climate change resilience research.

Project team:
Prof Steven Underhill, Dr Linda Wess, Dr Daniela Medina Hidalgo, Dr Richard Markham, Dr Bree Wilson, Dr Seeseei Molimau-Samasoni, Dr Salesh Kumar, Ms Shivani Singh, Ms Gail Wilkins, Dr Libby Swanepoel, and Prof Phil Brown

ACIAR A$3,276,075


PASS-CR Program
Australian Centre for International Agriculture Research PASS-CR

Team Agritourism Vanuatu

Pacific Agribusiness Research for Development Initiative Phase 2 (PARDI 2)

2017 - 2023

A flourishing agribusiness sector is vital for sustainable economic growth in the Pacific Island countries (PICs). It is central to reducing poverty, especially in rural communities, and delivering an improved trade balance, both of which are key goals of Pacific Island governments and their development partners.

Within the broader goal of economic and enterprise development, this project aims to improve Pacific livelihoods, through helping smallholder farmers transition to more sustainable, market-oriented and diversified systems that focus on value-adding and agribusiness opportunities, inclusive of recognition of the role of women in agriculture.

The project undertook case studies and value chain reviews of 12 agricultural products in Fiji and Vanuatu. A range of technical resource material was produced and business mentoring, capacity building and technical training to local stakeholders provided. From these studies and activities, PARDI 2 identified the agritourism, beekeeping and tilapia fish industries as having the potential for positive impact on community livelihoods, and concentrated long-term investment in mentoring, capacity building in farmer organisations and training support to develop agribusinesses and influence local policy and strategies.
Read more 

Project team: Prof Steven Underhill (Project Lead), Dr Inez Mahony, Prof Paul Southgate, Marita Manley, Salote Waqairatu, Patricia Bibi, Dr Cooper Schouten, Theo Simos, Dr Monal Lal and Manoj Kumar.

Funding: ACIAR A$2,700,000


PARDI 2 - Supporting Fiji's small-scale farmers

Bula Coffee: An Agritourism Success Story  

Growing agritourism in the Pacific 

Local champion inspires budding aquaculture farmers 

Sweet success in farm tourism and beekeeping 

Indigenous knowledge pioneers regenerative agritourism in Vanuatu


Improving technical and institutional capacity to support development of mariculture based livelihoods and industry in New Ireland, Papua New Guinea


This project provides a sustainable basis for the development of a marine aquaculture or mariculture sector in PNG, focusing on high-priority commodities with mariculture potential, such as sea cucumbers (sandfish) and marine ornamental species, such as clownfishes, corals and giant clams. Research will build capacity, support sector development, improve local livelihoods and local awareness of mariculture potential, with potential to increase export earnings. Research also contributes to improving long-term government, non-government and local-community mariculture capacity.

Areas of research cover: development of sea cucumber culture techniques appropriate for community uptake in PNG; building sustainability into the existing aquarium trade; and determining whether profitable rock oyster culture can be developed in PNG.

Project team: Prof Paul Southgate (Project Leader), Dr Thane Militz, Dr Simon Foale, Dr Cathy Hair, National Fisheries Authority, PNG, Secretariat of the Pacific Community.

Funding: ACIAR $1,741,605


Developing pearl industry based livelihoods in the western Pacific

2015 - 2021

This project aims to maximise engagement of remote coastal communities in capacity building activities that generate livelihood-supporting and income-generating opportunities for individuals, families and community groups in Fiji, Tonga and PNG. Education and training activities cover technical aspects such as how to collect juvenile oysters (‘spat’) for sale to pearl farms or for local utilisation, mabè pearl production, and using mabé pearls and pearl shell to produce retail-quality jewellery and handicrafts, as well as improved business skilling, enterprise development and sustainable sector development. This work is enabling Pacific communities to develop and grow all facets of their business; and provides coastal villages with important socio-economic advantages, with particular benefit to women and youth.

Project Team: Prof Paul Southgate (Project Leader), Dr Pranesh Kishore, Dr Thane Militz, Ms De'arne Kershler, Ms Nittya Simard, Mr Theo Simos, Mr Bill Johnston, Ministry of Fisheries and Forests - Fiji, Ministry of Fisheries -Tonga, National Fisheries Authority – PNG, Secretariat of the Pacific Community.

Funding: ACIAR - $2,264,620.

Workshop In Shed
Improving regional institutions' capacity on postharvest management

2019 - 2020

Commercial postharvest handling of vegetable crops in the Pacific Islands substantially results in wastage and reduction in marketable product available to commercial supply chains. This is primarily due to poor on farm practices that often lead to spoilage and microbiological contamination, posing food safety risks. Government institutions dealing with postharvest management lack capacity in technical skills and major resources to improve the development of evidence-based food security policy and reduce food and nutritional insecurity in the Pacific Region.

This project worked to improve the capacity of relevant institutions through training workshops in Tonga and the Solomon Islands on safe handling practices and the development of training materials compiled into a regional postharvest management manual. Participatory research was conducted with value chain actors in the horticultural chain to identify areas and opportunities for improvement. This method not only provided for accurate analysis to inform the development of postharvest management resources but was an effective mechanism for communicating the research results to participants.

Project leader: Prof Steven Underhill

Funding: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) A$47,384

For more information on related projects, visit Other Capacity building projects