Enhancing Management and Processing Systems for Value-Adding in Plantation-Grown Whitewood in Vanuatu

Vanuatu is almost completely dependent on imports of wood for construction, principally treated pine from New Zealand. To address this heavy trade imbalance and reliance on imports, The Vanuatu Forest Policy specifies the establishment of a plantation estate with maximum involvement of smallholders. The development of a value-added industry based on whitewood plantations has begun and has the potential to provide significant benefit to the Vanuatu people.

This collaborative project (Southern Cross University, Institute for Rural Futures UNE and Department of Forests Vanuatu) builds on earlier ACIAR-funded research which developed early silvicultural guidelines and resource characterisation of whitewood on Santo Island. The farm gate value of whitewood on Santo alone could easily reach 5 million dollars per annum, based on 5,000 ha planted growing 20m3 per ha per year. Although there are large areas available for plantation establishment and guidelines for establishment, there are many constraints and challenges facing the development of the industry.  A viable industry requires development of optimal silviculture stand management regimes that maximise clear wood, and the development of products that utilise low value wood.

Aims and objectives

  1. Increase scientific knowledge for a range of locally appropriate agroforestry and plantation management systems to maximise returns to commercial growers and smallholder landowners.
  2. Maximise value to growers through product development utilising lower value wood.
  3. Enhance landowner knowledge and participation in the production of wood products for local and export markets.

The methodologies used in this project combine improving silvicultural understanding with targeted research activities to address the identified lack of markets for wood from young trees. The research approach involves a combination of analysis of growth and wood properties, investigation of inexpensive, portable, appropriate methods for processing and preservative treating plantation-grown wood, analysis of spatial information, community-based action research; capacity building and implementation of silvicultural research.

This project will greatly enhance capacity in the forest industry in Vanuatu as well as pave the way for a whitewood plantation and processing industry that will greatly enhance the livelihoods of small landholders.

Due for completion in 2016

Funded by: Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research

Partners: Southern Cross University; Department of Forests Vanuatu

Contact: Geoff Smith