PAIR researchers update on progress in South Sulawesi

The research teams for the Australia-Indonesia Centre’s biggest projects have met again to share progress and look at how they can further work together.

This time it was the turn of the commodities team who were able to report that they had started placing junior researchers into the field who were now developing relationships with the local people.

“The research officers are onsite. They are fully vaccinated and carry out the research according to the relevant covid protocols,” said associate fellow Dr Alexandria Langford.

The junior research team will build an extensive knowledge network within the study areas, with the formal qualitative data collection to begin next year.

Their work will build on the first phase of the study into seaweed production. This pilot project used high resolution, high frequency satellite data to create a more accurate picture of an economically critical industry.

From now into 2022 the next phase of the research (Strategic Integrated Project) will examine four key areas in improving the productivity and sustainability of seaweed farming:  the seasonality of seaweed farming, the environmental determinants of growth rates and carrageenan production; the effect of seaweed farming on local biodiversity; and the contribution of seaweed farming to environmental micro- and nano- plastics.

“We will use satellite data to map production around the province of South Sulawesi and conduct a quantitative and qualitative livelihood analysis to develop a detailed understanding of seaweed livelihoods through ethnographic research, surveys, semi-structured interviews, and interactive tasks completed in an online forum.” said Dr Langford.

The overall aim of the commodities SIP is to upgrade the SulSel seaweed industry in a way that generates benefits for farming households and is socially and environmentally sustainable, while also improving outcomes for the regional economy within a COVID-19 context.

The commodities research group joined with Jasuda (a local organisation in South Sulawesi to develop sustainable seaweed) and went through a competitive selection process for the locally based junior research officers.

The commodities research group consists of researchers from the University of Queensland, the Institut Pertanian Bogor University, Universitas Hasanuddin, and Universitas Airlangga, and it has conducted field research in two case study locations in South Sulawesi; Laikang (Takalar) and Pitu Sunggu (Pangkep).

Improved research interaction

The meetings of the associate and senior fellows are held monthly by video-conference, generating a greater understanding of the work being done in the different areas of commodities, transport, young people and health.  Prior to the travel restrictions imposed by the pandemic, the researchers met in-person, once in Melbourne and twice in Makassar.

The more regular catch-ups have generated more understanding of possible collaboration. As an example, the young people and health research team contributed questions to a household survey being conducted by the commodities group.

The research focus is on the province of South Sulawesi. This region is experiencing economic growth and is at a moment in its development where policymakers could benefit from more evidence-based research.

The presentation from the commodities research group was then followed by a discussion with the PAIR program management team and members of the other research teams within the PAIR program.

PAIR monitoring, evaluation, and learning (MEL)

PAIR launched the MEL survey to regularly track, review and update the program’s performance. This  also aims to systematically assess what is and is not working, and to capture learnings for continuous program improvements. The program management team collected responses from researchers in July 2021 and presented the results in the monthly meeting to provide transparency and accountability.

“The survey, which is one of the program MEL activities, was a good opportunity for all of us to know the pulse of the research team: that is, to understand what your overall experience in the program is, and also which aspects of the program are working and which ones need improvement.”, said Dr Leonardo Pegoraro, PAIR’s program manager.

Overall, PAIR received a positive response with a majority of respondents (60 percent) indicating they had either a “very good” or “good” experience with PAIR.


this graph shows respondents answers to questions about the PAIR program
PAIR researchers overall experience with PAIR program 2020-2021. Source: PAIR MEL Survey 2021

Although 30 percent of respondents gave a rating of “average” and a slight number said “poor” it is expected this will improve as PAIR continues to make suitable adjustments for the life of the program

PAIR also received a number of suggestions from the research team for improving PAIR.

“The next meetings will be a good venue to tackle any issues together,” said Dr Pegoraro.

The PAIR program group is looking forward to the next update of the research team meeting in November.


Editor: Helen Brown