Background: Funding pearl research in the Pacific has been a priority of the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) over the last decade. Two current ACIAR projects (FIS/2014/060 and FIS/2016/126) are further developing the pearl culture industry in Fiji and Tonga.
In 2018, Sustineo was engaged to monitor and evaluate the socio-economic impacts of pearl-based livelihood development activities associated with these two ACIAR-funded projects. Expected project benefits have been emerging from these two projects but assessments of livelihood, social and gender benefits had not been examined in detail to date. Sustineo’s research objectives were to:
- Monitor and assess socio-economic and livelihood benefits for men, women, and youth
- Examine the involvement of youth in pearl-related livelihood activities in Tonga and Fiji
- Build capacity for participatory monitoring and evaluation among partners
The key thematic areas are social and economic impact evaluation, aquaculture, women’s economic empowerment, and rural livelihoods with a focus on youth and women’s development.
Approach: Sustineo’s approach was designed to provide insights into the immediate and intermediate impacts stemming from ACIAR’s current projects, and in doing so, compliment and extend ACIAR’s research in pearl-based livelihoods. Sustineo used a mixed-methods approach to capture a range of data across a diverse range of individual farmers and community groups involved with the project. This approach began with a comprehensive literature review, supplemented with scoping interviews with key project informants to provide contextual information. The methodology was then based around two frameworks: M&E and Social Impact Assessment. Data collection instruments included in-depth qualitative interviews with communities and individuals, participatory exercises with communities, and individual surveys which captured quantitative and qualitative data.
The project covered five sites in Fiji (Ba, Raviravi, Ravita, Taveuni, and Qaemea) and two sites in Tonga (Ha’apai and Vava’u). As of August 2019, three in-country trips have been completed, with a fourth trip planned. The iterative nature of these visits has enabled in-depth monitoring of project outputs, as well as opportunities for Sustineo to build networks with key project stakeholders.
Central to Sustineo’s approach has been an emphasis on participatory dialogue and inclusiveness. Sustineo has collaborated with the University of Sunshine Coast, QLD; University of South Pacific Fiji and Ministries of Fisheries in Fiji and Tonga. This engagement with local agencies and researchers, ensured that Sustineo’s approach was culturally sensitive and rigorous, while meeting our client’s demands. Throughout the project Sustineo has maintained regular communications and progress reporting with key stakeholders which has facilitated adaptive project management and real time feedback to ACIAR research teams.
Outcome: To date, Sustineo has delivered a detailed evaluation planning document, an annual progress report and two presentations to ACIAR and project teams. Among these outputs was Sustineo’s Annual Report, which received positive feedback from the client for providing a balanced assessment of the social and economic impacts observed. Continuing this positive start, Sustineo will deliver a comprehensive Final Report to the client in June 2020, along with academic publications to increase the dissemination of project findings.