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Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade
22/02/2016
Development partnerships in agriculture in the Indo-Pacific region

ARMSTRONG, Dr Tristan, Sector Specialist, Agricultural Productivity and Food Security Section, Agriculture and Food Branch, Office of Trade Negotiations, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

BOWMAN, Dr Chakriya, Director, Pacific Economic Growth Section, Pacific Regional Branch, Pacific Division, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

BROWN, Mr Justin, Acting Deputy Secretary, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

DELFORCE, Dr Julie, Senior Sector Specialist, Agricultural Development and Food Security, Agricultural Productivity and Food Security Section, Agriculture and Food Branch, Office of Trade Negotiations, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

HOWARD, Mr Marcus, Acting Assistant Secretary, Health and Water Branch, Development Policy Division, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

KAMATH, Ms Gita, Assistant Secretary, Agriculture and Food Branch, Office of Trade Negotiations, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Subcommittee met at 17:12

CHAIR ( Dr Stone ): I declare open this public meeting of the Foreign Affairs and Aid Subcommittee of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade. Our inquiry is into development partnerships in agriculture and agribusiness in promoting prosperity, reducing poverty and enhancing stability in the Indo-Pacific region. I welcome witnesses from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Thank you for making yourselves available. You have given us a very comprehensive submission. We thank you for that. It has got some excellent data in it. In giving evidence to the subcommittee you are protected by parliamentary privilege. That means that witnesses are protected from any legal action for statements made in the course of their evidence. In addition, please be aware that a public hearing is a formal proceeding of parliament. Everything said should be factual and honest, and it can be considered a serious matter to attempt to mislead a committee. These are public proceedings. As you can see, we are broadcasting, although the subcommittee will consider requests to have evidence heard in camera if that is your wish. If a witness objects to answering a question, you can state the grounds for that objection and we will then work from there about what we need to do. I invite you, Mr Brown, or numbers of you to make a brief opening statement.

Mr Brown : First of all, thank you very much for the opportunity to appear before you. As you can see, we have turned up in force so that we can answer all of your questions. We are very pleased that you have received our submission. It highlights how our aid partnerships in the agriculture and fisheries sectors with business, civil society, the research and academic community, industry bodies and government support Australia's development objectives and our overarching national interests.

The government, as I am sure you are aware, has identified agriculture, fisheries and water as one of the six priority areas for Australian aid. That particular sector—agriculture, fisheries and water—accounts for a little over seven per cent of our total ODA. The agriculture and fisheries sectors are obviously key sources of employment and incomes and exports in our region. They will continue to have an important role in generating economic growth and poverty reduction across the region. Currently, 80 per cent of our total aid spending in the agriculture and fisheries sectors is in the Indo-Pacific region.

A projected 60 per cent increase in global food demand by 2050 will create challenges for agriculture in our region and also generate significant economic and business opportunities. The government's agricultural development objectives and priorities were released in February 2015 in the form of a public document. That had three core objectives: to increase contributions to national economic output; to increase the incomes of the poor; and to enhance food, nutrition and water security. The priorities identified in that document were: to strengthen markets, to promote innovation for the purposes of generating increased productivity and sustainability objectives, and to promote good policy and strengthen governance systems.

The department takes an integrated approach to its international aid and trade work in the agriculture sector as part of the government's broader economic diplomacy agenda. As I am sure you are aware, Chair, the international evidence highlights that open and efficient markets are central to the long-term productivity of the agricultural sector. Yet, at the same time, it has been of acute concern to Australian governments for many years that agriculture remains one of the most distorted areas of world trade, representing a huge lost opportunity for many developing countries, as well as Australia of course.

The department's trade policy and advocacy efforts therefore strengthen and complement our aid investments in this area. A good example of the intersection between the two is Australia's continuing leadership of the Cairns Group of agricultural fair exporting nations, which is an active grouping in the WTO. The overwhelming majority of Cairns Group members are developing countries. I think that demonstrates the common cause we have with developing countries in the trade policy space.

Translating future challenges and opportunities into the best possible development outcomes without compromising sustainability will require major advances in productivity, market systems, resource management and governance. Our aid partners are central to our efforts, so we draw heavily on Australian and international scientific, business and policy collaborators to deliver solutions to development constraints. Working in partnership is also fundamental to maximising the effectiveness, value for money, sustainability, relevance and impact of our aid investments.

Finally, going forward, we intend to continue efforts to expand the scale of our work in the agriculture and fisheries sectors by leveraging, to the extent possible, new sources of development finance, working further with the private sector and other partners to deliver pro-development outcomes. Thank you, very much.

CHAIR: I presume you are speaking on behalf of your team.

Mr Brown : Yes.

CHAIR: At our last public hearing we had a number of international academics and experts, who were attending a conference here at the ANU looking and agribusiness and nutrition development in the region. The Indian gentleman, that particular academic—whose name escapes me—made the point that as income rises in a number of these neighbouring countries consumption of calories increases but nutritional value of those calories often goes down. You can have almost a perverse outcome where people have more disposable income and, hence, there is a lot of obesity in our region, leading to a whole range of non-communicable diseases. Yet we still have stunting—say, in Timor-Leste and PNG—at the same time we have those other outcomes.

You said that we need to have major advances in productivity of agribusiness output. On the other hand, how do we as Australia assist countries to make choices? For example, we do not want to replace highly nutritious crops—which a village might before have had to sustain it—with a cash crop like palm oil or even betel nut or some other cash crop while, at the same time, they are bombarded with advertising and marketing which suggests one-minute noodles, deep fried turkey necks or mutton flaps are very good for you. You have this nutritional problem emerging at the time when you could argue from another position that they now have greater financial independence. What sort of work are we doing in that space? From DFAT's perspective, what has worked in making sure a balance continues with that nutritional element at the same time as we are looking at cash return for the farmer?

Mr Brown : Nutritional security is certainly an important question that we grapple with. I am looking at my colleagues to see who would like to volunteer to go ahead.

Dr Bowman : This is, as you note, a particular issue in the Pacific. There are a number of factors at play beyond the switch between cash crops and nutritional crops. The first thing to observe in the Pacific is it is not really an either-or. Most cash crops grow with traditional crops. They do complementary cropping. Tree crops will grow with root crops and so on, so it is not really a switch between: do we grow taro or do we grow coffee? It is more: as our incomes increase, what do we chose to consume and why do we choose to consume it? We see a switch from high-starch products, such as taro, to equivalent high-starch products such as rice or noodles.

Part of it is also a story about urbanisation and storage. It is very hard to store taro when you are in a city area. You actually need quite a large amount of storage space to properly store taro. And transporting taro into those urban areas damages a lot of it. It is hard to do, particularly with the poor state of roads and so on. So, in the urban areas, we see a switch out of those types of products because of the storage issues and because of the easy availability of the other products. Underlying it all is a bit of a perception about these being high-status products and these being things that we would prefer to eat, or maybe these being more fun to eat.

As you observed, the advertising is quite pervasive. I remember the first time I went to the Pacific being somewhat horrified by it. It is a complicated story. What we do know is that as wealth increases in rural areas the impact on nutrition is far less than wealth increasing in the urban areas, which points to it being about issues around storage and availability rather than necessarily about a switch between crops in the rural areas.

CHAIR: Are you aware of any funding of any programs or projects that have really homed in on the switch from the traditional little fishing village relying on locally caught fish to one buying convenience foods, for example. For example, we lived in Fiji—which has possibly blown down now—and there was a program we were funding for a while where women were being taught about the cooking of different types of vegetables that they might be seeing as a frozen product in their stores. It was trying to guide them through this transition from subsistence agriculture to convenience foods and help them learning about the nutritional value. We were helping to fund that. Have you got any other examples of what different NGOs or Australia's aid is doing?

Dr Bowman : Absolutely. We work on this through a number of ways. One of our major programs, PHAMA, the Pacific Horticultural and Agricultural Market Access Program, works primarily with producers. It also works on crop diversification and moving into domestic value chains. That is one of the major programs by which we are increasing the amount of local produce, particularly in the domestic value chain, which is often forgotten about, and that includes things like helping producers get taro to market in good condition and in a way that attracts the purchasers away from some of those other products.

We have programs like our food fortification program in Solomon Islands—

CHAIR: Food fortification?

Dr Bowman : Fortification—it is fortifying rice and noodles in order to provide additional nutrients. That is not the same thing—

CHAIR: Is this adding folate or iodine to salt or something like that?

Dr Bowman : I would have to get back to you with the precise fortification. Again, it is not as good as getting people into eating better produce but it certainly helps to improve the nutritional quality of some of those staples that they are otherwise switching into.

We have a number of value-chain-management programs. We have the Market Development Facility in Fiji which, again, is looking at getting produce—particularly market-garden-style produce—back into the urban marketplaces. We have a version of that starting up in Papua New Guinea at the moment.

So there are a number of ways that we are addressing it. I think there is also the potential to do more in the information space. We are exploring work with Robert Oliver, who is a well-known chef from New Zealand. He has worked extensively through the Pacific. He has a beautiful cookbook called Me'a Kai: the food and flavours of the South Pacific. We are looking at partnering with him to help increase awareness about beautiful traditional Pacific foods and to bring some status back to them so that people want to cook and enjoy cooking those types of foods.

CHAIR: You have reminded me that the New Zealand chef has put in a submission, so that is—

Dr Bowman : Oh, good! Excellent.

Ms Kamath : We are just about to start implementing our first nutrition-sensitive agriculture investment program in our portfolio. It is in East Timor. Dr Delforce is here, so she might want to comment on that.

CHAIR: Very good. It is still the area with the highest rate of stunting in children in the world, I think?

Dr Delforce : Yes. There are certainly some severe malnutrition issues there still. The program is called TOMAK, which is an acronym from the Tetum language—so I will not try it! But the English translation is 'Farming for Prosperity'.

It is an innovative program which is trying to bring together both the nutrition and women's economic empowerment elements of an agricultural program as well as production for market opportunities. One component is about helping farmers to access different new markets which they have not accessed to date. But also incorporated into that is the question, 'What are the nutrition implications of those new production opportunities?' A separate component under the one umbrella specifically addresses nutrition issues.

We found—and I am sure that the broader nutrition programs from our health area would also attest to this—that nutrition really is a multisectoral issue. Agriculture is one part of the picture and health interventions are clearly another part. And education is another part—certainly, in a case such as East Timor, part of the issue is people's understanding of nutrition—

CHAIR: Of non-traditional foods, or even traditional foods as well, I guess, is it?

Dr Delforce : Indeed. There are traditions, for example, about infant feeding which, from a nutritional perspective, might not be ideal. But it is obviously going to be a slow process to inform and educate people and to get communities on board with different nutritional messages. We have a number of programs in Timor-Leste that are doing that—approaching it from a number of different angles.

CHAIR: So it is really from a cultural perspective as well as pure productivity and so on?

Dr Delforce : Yes. It requires a number of approaches, and that is certainly the way that our Timor programs are progressing.

CHAIR: I presume you have an NGO partnership there that you are working with? Which ones?

Dr Delforce : There are a number of NGOs that are very active in the country. Certainly, World Vision is there, and CARE and Caritas. There are a number of others—Mercy Corps. I believe there are a number of large NGOs on the ground—the international NGOs—as well and there would be local groups.

CHAIR: Perhaps Timor-Leste is not the best example for me to ask about for this question, but part of our inquiry is also looking at local, from-home NGOs or groups which we could partner with. The churches in PNG are the obvious ones to think about. Our terms of reference include:

The current and potential role of the private sector, including small developing-country entrepreneurs and larger Australian and international businesses, in driving inclusive and sustainable development in Indo-Pacific agriculture and food value chains; …

Have you been able to identify any Timor-Leste-equivalent home-grown NGOs—I will call them that—to work with, or is it very much that we are coming in and trying to help—

Dr Delforce : There are certainly local community groups and women's groups that are being assisted and supported to develop. My expertise on NGOs in Timor-Leste is relatively recent. I imagine there are others with perhaps more examples from other countries who might want to jump in but, certainly, yes, in our programs in a number of countries we work with local NGOs. Sometimes international NGOs are the partnership and they are the links that we might have to some of the local groups. It differs depending on the country.

CHAIR: From country to country.

Dr Armstrong : I am agreeing with what Julie was saying. Most of our programs, at some level, engage NGOs either as direct implementers all as partners in implementation. We certainly work with grassroots organisations across our programs to ensure that we are addressing the needs of the poor and the groups that we are seeking to assist. Obviously, NGOs are there, they are on the ground and they have that fine-grained knowledge that is helpful when we are designing our programs, so they are often the first place we go to for advice.

Ms GAMBARO: Mr Brown, you were talking earlier about associations like The Cairns Group, the World Trade Organisation and some of the other international bodies that you work with. I noticed in your paper that you work with the World Bank and partner with them. Do you do any work with the Asian Development Bank in some of these areas, or is it straight infrastructure that they are concentrating on? Do they get involved in agricultural type projects.

Ms Kamath : The World Bank has a sort of agribusiness arm.

Ms GAMBARO: They have a large agribusiness arm?

Ms Kamath : That is right.

Ms GAMBARO: And does the Asian Development Bank do any of this stuff?

Ms Kamath : Yes. One of our multilateral investments, if you like, is with a World Bank managed trust fund called the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program—GAFSP. Australia has contributed over $100 million to the public sector window. But, most recently, last year, we also contributed in the order of $8 million to the private sector window of this fund—

CHAIR: Sorry, which fund?

Ms Kamath : The global agriculture and food security fund—to specifically earmark that money for our region and to work on private sector projects with the Asian Development Bank. At the moment, all of that private sector funding is through the International Finance Corporation of the World Bank Group, so it is directly for the IFC to work in partnership with the Asian Development Bank.

Ms GAMBARO: They were here last week, as you are aware, and we met with them. I want to ask you a question about your paper where it identified that there would be an extra billion people to feed by 2050 and that you needed an integrated systems approach. Where are the areas of greatest population growth? I notice on page 34 that some of the highest areas of obesity are in Samoa and Tonga. What are the reasons for their obesity levels being so much higher than other countries in the table? Sorry; I have asked you a few questions. The questions are: what are the greatest population growth areas? And which countries are the extra billion to feed predominantly coming? Here's a brave soul!

Dr Armstrong : I can answer the first one: the greatest population growth is definitely coming from sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia—those are the two hotspots. It is to a lesser extent in our region, although in the Pacific there are obviously fairly high levels of growth in some of our nearest neighbours, notably Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, but most of the extra billion will be from Africa.

Ms GAMBARO: So that will be the largest source?

Ms Kamath : And the largest number of food insecure are in our region in South Asia.

Ms GAMBARO: The largest amount of food insecurity?

Ms Kamath : Yes.

CHAIR: Can you say which countries you are referring to in South Asia?

Ms Kamath : We are talking about India, Pakistan—

CHAIR: Bangladesh—

Ms Kamath : Bangladesh—because of the larger populations.

CHAIR: Including Laos, Cambodia.

Ms Kamath : Yes, but the populations are relatively small compared to those huge populations—

Ms GAMBARO: Going back to the Pacific, we have a few countries here like Samoa and Tonga. Why are their BMIs up in the 50 to 60 range? What is happening there, in terms of their food nutrition, that they have such high BMIs?

Dr Bowman : I think that a number of factors come into play. First of all, there is a genetic predisposition towards gaining weight in those Polynesian countries that is not the same in the Melanesian countries. They are quite physically different peoples, and that is reflected in the ability to gain weight very quickly in some of those areas. You have a more consolidated population in the main islands. They also have a higher standard of living. As a result, you have more people in more sedentary jobs, they are eating a more Western-style diet and they have a little bit more wealth. Then traditional preferences come into play. People in the Pacific like fatty foods as they are high-status foods, so there is an element of that. I guess a thing that influences their diet is the fact that in the past, particularly single island-based communities like Samoa and much of Tonga, they had a very limited selection of foods to choose from and their diets were really very basic in the crops they were eating. They have far more choices now, and this is a very positive thing, but it also means that there are some interesting decisions being made about food.

A number of things have been tried in those countries to address, particularly, the high-status preference for some of those fatty foods. There are things like turkey tails, which are part of ceremonial occasions—if there is a wedding everybody needs to buy up turkey tails. They have tried a few ways to address it, including some import bans. However, people prefer those types of foods, so they will switch to another, similar type of fatty food; they will not suddenly go into a lean meat. Again, there are factors of education, consumer preference, wealth and urbanisation at play.

CHAIR: And a lack of mobility compared to traditional life. They are a less active people.

Dr Bowman : That is right. If you are not in a rural community and you are not subsistence farming—if you are in an office job, as much of the urban population is—then you have the same challenges that we face in making sure that we get to the gym to keep our exercise levels up as well.

Senator McEWEN: I have a question on this topic of unhealthy foods being popular in the region. I notice in your report you talk about business and industry bodies that the government, through DFAT, is engaging with to get private sector investment. A couple of those companies are Nestle and Unilever, which manufacture exactly the kinds of foods that we know cause obesity. How do you reconcile dealing with those sorts of companies? They do not go into the area out of the goodness of their hearts; they go in there to make money. How do you reconcile working with them while dealing with these problems of obesity?

Dr Armstrong : I think you are pointing out something which is obviously complex and multi-faceted. I do not think there is an easy answer. I would say that these are major players in the offtake markets from many of these countries. They are buying a lot of commodities from some of the economies that we are working in. They are obviously a source of wealth and a source of income for those communities and those people, so they have something to offer. They are not the only people we are working with, but they are part of the solution. Obviously, some of the products that they are producing are not healthy, but these companies that you mentioned—Unilever and Nestle—have very diversified value chains. They are in almost everything that is in the supermarket.

Senator McEWEN: Most of which is not good for you!

Dr Armstrong : Indeed.

CHAIR: Including infant formula, if is replacing breast milk.

Dr Armstrong : But if they can provide an income stream for a poor family through buying their produce, they are obviously a valuable partner—or they can be.

Senator McEWEN: You talk about the rules of engagement, if you like, throughout your document with both NGOs and the private sector. What are the rules of engagement with regard to the private sector, from the Australian government's point of view?

Dr Armstrong : I do not know if anyone else wants to jump in here.

Ms Kamath : I am happy to. There are some very basic principles in terms of engaging with the private sector. I might just restate them. You have probably heard some of this in the earlier inquiry into the private sector.

One of them is about additionality: the public funds not being used to finance activities that a business would already have financed without intervention. It really has to add something extra there. Another principle is the one of neutrality: not favouring or giving unfair advantage to one business over, say, its competitors. And a very important one is the notion of sustainability—that engaging with the private sector is to have some sort of social impact and development impact or some sort of pro-poor impact.

One way of seeking to mitigate that when we work with the private sector, particularly some of these large multinational off take providers, is doing so in a kind of multi-stakeholder way with other partners such as, for instance, NGOs who have links into the community and can monitor what is going on on the ground when they are working with smallholder farmers. Often that is through incorporating NGOs as part of the steering committees or the donor committees of some of these investments.

Senator McEWEN: In our region, you were talking about how the Pacific in particular is prone to natural disasters. We have seen one over the weekend in Fiji. We have seen it in Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands et cetera. And we know that, when those cyclones or other events occur, agricultural production is one of the things that come to an abrupt halt, usually. How do you take that into account when you are planning the DFAT spend, if you like, and can you elaborate on how the private sector deal with those instances? Do they hang around for the 12 months that it takes the bananas to grow again, or do they take off and take their money somewhere else?

Dr Armstrong : The approach, obviously, to disasters like this recent cyclone in Fiji initially is a humanitarian response. We look at what the need is and what we can provide. In the longer term, what we aim to do in our agriculture program is to build the capacity in those economies to have the resilience to overcome short-term issues like cyclones or floods and build up the market and the market operators to such a degree that people are not left for long periods without those systems operating well.

An example in Fiji is that under the MDF program, the Market Development Facility, we have built up significant capacity in horticulture and the ability to grow seedlings to sell and off-sell to the farming sector for exactly this sort of thing. What we had in Vanuatu was similar, where essentially there were no pawpaws for a number of months following Cyclone Pam because the entire crop was wiped out and no-one had seed stock and seedling stock ready to go. It is those kinds of interventions that build up the capacity of people within the community to respond and to have the resilience there when bad luck hits.

Senator McEWEN: What about the stickability of the private sector in these instances?

Dr Armstrong : The private sector I would see in a broad sense as being—for example, a lot of the organisations that implement our programs essentially are private sector actors. They are there to make sure that they can deliver on the results that we expect of them, so they do not run away. I do not know whether anyone else has anything to add in terms of the response of the private sector.

Senator McEWEN: Do they have any get-out clauses in the contractual arrangements that you have with them?

Dr Armstrong : Certainly not.

CHAIR: So the fact that the banana crop has blown away and the contract was to assist them to be at the market within 12 months or something—it obviously has some fail-safe clauses in it which say 'subject to seasonal climatic disasters' or something?

Dr Bowman : On the whole, in the region, we would not have that type of direct relationship with the private sector. Normally what we are doing when we are working with the private sector is helping to provide some technical assistance or something that catalyses further investment and further growth in the business. We would not be providing specific funding or giving them price guarantees or something like that.

A good example is that we work with Terry Adlington, who is the head of Tanna Coffee in Vanuatu. We work with him on a range of issues. None of it involves the direct transfer of money, but we have worked with him and with another corporate partner, Carnival, on things like getting Tanna Coffee on board the Carnival ships and helping to promote it through Pacific Islands Trade & Invest, who we fund. When the cyclone went through in Vanuatu, it wiped out a lot of Terry's coffee plants. They need to be replanted and maybe take five years to grow. This was the livelihood for his farmers, the farming community, who provide him with the coffee. He went through and helped them transition into faster growing crops—things like squash—that they could turn around both for cash and to feed their families. They are edible crops for subsistence.

That is a really good example of where the private sector who are in it for the long haul in the region actually care and get in there and help. The companies that we are working with in the region are those sorts of companies on the whole. They often work directly with communities who run the cropping organisations. A lot of things like the vanilla farms or the coffee farms are actually community based organisations, and they are running with cooperatives to do that trade. So it really is hard to disaggregate yourself from community when you are trying to do business in the Pacific in this way.

CHAIR: Thanks, they are some good examples.

Senator SINGH: You note in this report some of your aid investment in agriculture achievements. You talked about the Market Development Facility in Fiji and the Cambodia Agricultural Value Chain Program, and there are a couple of others that relate, I think, to Cambodia and somewhere else in the Pacific. But you were mentioning before how the population is going to increase in South Asia. I am interested to know whether DFAT is actually focusing on South Asia when we are talking about agriculture and agribusiness, knowing the fact that its population is going to continue to increase and therefore there is going to be a continuing greater need in that part of the region—and all the other issues that they obviously face with climate change, pollution and the means and activities of doing agriculture in that region as well.

Mr Brown : Do you want to take that, Tristan?

Dr Armstrong : Yes. Clearly the focus of our discussion today is the Pacific a little bit more, but MDF, for example, is also active in Pakistan, and I know that there are a number of other agriculture focused activities in the subcontinent. I just make that point. In terms of a broader comment about our longer term engagement and the patterns of it globally, I do not know whether anyone else wants to say anything.

Dr Delforce : Yes, there is certainly a regional program in South Asia also. It is not only about agriculture; it is basically about transboundary resource management across particular watersheds. It is basically around the link between water, energy and agriculture as well—that nexus of issues. Again, Marcus might want to add more to that, given the water angle.

Senator SINGH: I have to go into the chamber, sorry. This inquiry is obviously about the Indo-Pacific, so, if you could take on notice to provide the committee with some of those specific programs in South Asia, that would be great.

Dr Delforce : Examples? Certainly. We have a number in Pakistan and other countries.

Ms PARKE: I was fortunate to visit Timor-Leste in August 2013. I was speaking with the President, and he was very engaged at the time on the issue of malnutrition in children and wanting to change cultural attitudes—in particular where the head of the family, for example, will eat before the children, and that is one of the contributing factors to the children being malnourished. There was another program—I am not sure if that was an ACIAR one. Certainly I was being told while I was there that there was a program to have chickens grown so that children would then be eating eggs, as that would be a wonderful food source for them and a very healthy one. There was some issue with the chickens, and they were not healthy. It was about how to make the chickens healthy so that they would then produce eggs. I want to know: what is the progress on those particular aims, and are there any Australian partners involved in those programs?

Mr Brown : Julie was in Timor-Leste recently.

Dr Delforce : Certainly there is a number of programs being run in Timor-Leste with Australian assistance—both DFAT funded and ACIAR funded and a combination of the two. In terms of specific detail on progress in the programs to do with Newcastle disease, we would have to take that on notice. But there are a number of initiatives at the moment that are coming at the nutrition issues in East Timor through a whole range of different approaches.

There is a new nutrition-sensitive agriculture program that will be kicking off within the next few months. One event I went to last week was the launch of the President's Nutrition Prize, which Australia is also supporting. We heard from the winner of the prize last year, who was basically running a women's group. She was saying that she used to have very little understanding of nutrition—in common with a lot of other mothers in the community she had understood that the correct food for infants is basically something that will fill up their tummies. It might be cassava or rice or something along those lines—white food is considered to be appropriate for infants. But during the course of this prize and the education that went with it, she and her group have come to understand much more of what nutrition is about. They are now growing a much wider range of vegetables, and she and her group are even talking about maybe setting up a mini-restaurant in her area so that other people can come and sample the interesting foods that they are growing.

That prize is an annual prize. The First Lady is involved in it as well and, as a sort of presidential award, it is very high profile and it is helping to get the messages out there. That is just one element of a broader picture.

Ms PARKE: I do apologise for having come in late and not having heard your presentation earlier. Do some of these programs deal with the intrafamilial cultural aspects as well?

Dr Delforce : I think awareness of the cultural aspects is clearly underpinning a lot of the approaches. I guess you have to be sensitive to the culture while also trying to get the messages out there through a range of mechanisms, and that is basically how we are approaching it.

CHAIR: There are a lot of food taboos around girls who are menstruating and pregnant—in fact, the nutritional options at that point are often so poor when, in fact, their nutritional intake should be being boosted.

Ms GAMBARO: Looking at page 33, it mentioned that in the Solomons 33 per cent of children are stunted and 39 per cent of the women are obese; and that in Indonesia 39 per cent of children under the age of five are stunted and 12 per cent of children under the age of five are overweight. Do you have many countries where you have both the stunting of children and the overweight factor of children? I am trying to get my head around how you have the greatest disparities between stunting and overweight in the same country. Is it in rural areas or is it more in the city areas that you find this, or is this inconsistency found throughout the country? I look at those charts and I see all the stunting and then I see some countries having the overweight factor with the children. I understand it in the adults, but—

Mr Howard : As indicated before, you have got the whole issue that with wealth comes greater availability of starchy foods like rice, and tinned fish in the Pacific, as opposed to the traditional foods. It is definitely linked to wealth: the wealthier the families, the more access there is to the wrong foods and the wrong choices. That is why we essentially see a lot of nutrition as a health response. Part of our health for development strategy stresses that nutrition, water and sanitation, which are linked, are clearly factors in the causes of undernutrition. Equally, we are recognising that in many developed countries, that is Indonesia and the Pacific, we also have to address education of parents and children and issues of breastfeeding. Another thing is staying with some of those practices. It is a long-term behaviour change to be able to make good choices which essentially we see as a health issue.

Ms GAMBARO: When you are dealing with it country by country—I understand the stunting aspect of it—you have got pockets of different results and the report in a country itself. It would be a very challenging thing to try and address both issues, of overweight and stunting in children under five. I guess I need more information as to how you deal with those issues, because you cannot just bring an overall approach. How do you get into those sectoral areas? I guess that is what I am trying to ask you.

Mr Howard : Possibly somewhere like Samoa which is geographically limited is, perhaps, easy. But when you get Indonesia, which is so spread out, and you get the main islands of Java—but then at the extreme end you have Papua where there are much higher levels of poverty and other issues. In that we would definitely do some geographic targeting. We would look at where the issues were as well as understanding within a country where the issues are focused. It is actually also where we can link health and nutrition as well as the agriculture practices, and school programs of education. We would look at where we could actually focus some of those programs where you have high instances of malnutrition, but even overnutrition.

Ms GAMBARO: How getting health data going for you? Is it very difficult to work up these programs with the limited amount of health data that is available?

CHAIR: Given our joint venture in that health data—

Ms GAMBARO: We are doing some stuff in that, I think.

CHAIR: When you have new aid initiatives.

Ms GAMBARO: Bloomberg.

Mr Howard : I am not across the specifics of the health data, but, as you pointed out, we are working with a lot of governments. One of the basic approaches on the health side is strengthening health systems, which includes data collection on issues like nutrition and other related issues. It is very hard to plan unless you have got the data. There are a number of NGOs out there that are using mobile phones to collect data so that you get direct transmission. One of the areas of innovation that we are looking at is trying to improve our knowledge.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Is the position of people in the Pacific islands, particularly, better or worse now than it was 50 years ago? Samoans have always been big, but what has the last 50 years of Australian aid done? Has it been beneficial to those people? Are they living longer or are they healthier?

CHAIR: I think life expectancy is actually shrinking. It is coming down.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Is it?

CHAIR: It is one of the only countries in the world where life expectancy is reducing in some of our closest Pacific nations.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Do you agree with that?

Mr Howard : I have not got the statistics in front of me. I think I would have to get the specific details but earlier on we dealt with one of those issues. Clearly you have had a shift from traditional lifestyles to more sedentary situations and greater availability of food. Just in general, from an access point of view for food and lifestyle, there has certainly been a change just like, I think, there has been here in Australia.

CHAIR: We have taken evidence, you might remember, that Vanuatu has the highest rate of amputations per capita in the world associated with diabetes, and life expectancy is coming down in some of these countries. How many places in the world are there where average life expectancy is reducing, associated with non-communicable diseases?

Senator IAN MACDONALD: So should we not have been providing any aid for the last 50 years? Would they be better off?

CHAIR: Perhaps those issues would have been worse if we had not provided support.

Dr Bowman : I think we have to look at it like this. They started from a low base where life expectancies were very short. Over time, we have grown those life expectancies, but now we are hitting some of those lifestyle diseases, and they are starting to come back down again. That is something that we are seeing in Australia as well. I know that there are reports that my generation will probably not live as long as my parents' generation, because of our hedonistic lifestyles. I think it is a factor of the wealth and the increasing urbanisation. There are definitely some very strong negatives, but we have higher infant survival rates than we had in the past. We have generally healthier populations in some areas, but they are coupled with this burden that we are seeing in increasing quantities in the NCDs and stunting.

CHAIR: We are probably going to have to leave it there. We have another group. I thank you for your participation in the hearing. We have asked Dr Delforce to provide some more information about your Timor-Leste and South Asia projects. Was there anything else we had a commitment to? I am advised that there are a couple of things, but they will come out on the transcript. You will get your transcript in about 10 days. Have a good check of it and make sure we have got it all accurate. Thank you very much for coming today. We appreciate your time. Sorry about the little wait at the start. We certainly appreciate the details you have given us. I know we can come back to you if we need to tease out some more issues. Thank you very much.