USC research makes a mark in Vanuatu

USC Master of Arts student Jimmy Rantes during fieldwork on Malekula Island, Vanuatu.
USC Master of Arts student Jimmy Rantes during fieldwork on Malekula Island, Vanuatu.

A VANUATU Government trade official studying for his Master of Arts has taken the results of his food security research straight to the decision-makers of the South Pacific island nation.

Jimmy Rantes, 41, who is Vanuatu’s Director of Trade, recently discussed his preliminary findings with Minister of Agriculture Matai Seremaiah at a public and industry event at Southwest Bay on Malekula Island.

Mr Rantes has moved to Parrearra in Queensland while studying his MA at USC and will return to his government role on completion of his degree next year.

He conducted fieldwork on the diversity of crops grown in three Vanuatu communities and was pleased to hear the Agriculture Minister’s speech then outline the implications of the research.

“My fieldwork identified an emphasis on growing kava as a cash crop, rather than growing traditional root crops such as yams and taro,” Mr Rantes said.

“This is resulting in the increased dependence of rural people on eating cheaper, imported rice, bought with cash earned from kava sales.”

USC Professor of Geography, Patrick Nunn, is supervising Mr Rantes’ degree and said his findings were significant for that nation’s future food security.

“It illustrates the importance of rural communities not focusing on cash crops to the exclusion of subsistence crops,” Prof Nunn said.

The issue was also raised at a meeting of agriculture ministers from several Pacific Island countries held in Port Vila in October.

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