ILWS - Charles Sturt University
ILWS - Charles Sturt University

Improving Rural Livelihoods and Environments in Developing Countries

Led by Dr Joanne Millar and Dr Rik Thwaites

The information on these pages is accurate to the end of 2016 when reporting for SRA was completed for the 2015-16 Biennial Report. All reporting for our projects is now found in relevant areas under the four research themes.

The information on these pages is accurate to the end of 2016 when reporting for SRA was completed for the 2015-16 Biennial Report.  All reporting for our projects is now found in relevant areas under the four research themes.

  • About
  • Issues
  • Members
  • Outcomes
  • Projects
  • Publications
  • Linkages
  • Engagement
  • Postgrad Research

Winning team 2016Congratulations to SRA members,  Dr Joanne Millar, Dr Rik Thwaites, Associate Professor Rosemary Black, Dr Richard Culas, Dr Lee Baumgartner and Dr Wayne Robinson, who have been awarded the Office of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research, Development and Industry) Award for 'Excellence in Team Research for the SRA program on Improving Rural Livelihoods in Developing Countries',  2016.

CSU's Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research, Development & Industry) Professor Mary Kelly said the award recognises the team's outstanding contribution to ILWS, the DVC RDI portfolio and the University. Institute Director Professor Max Finlayson said the award was in recognition of both individual and wider research effort.

ILWS Adjunct Senior Researcher Fellow Dr Millar said the award recognised the dedication of the team to improving rural livelihoods and environments in developing countries. They have demonstrated passionate commitment to supervising postgraduate students from least developed nations in Asia and Africa, and are conducting applied research with positive outcomes for rural communities.

"Not many research programs can claim to have reduced poverty through better environmental management, but this award acknowledges that our research program has contributed to international development using multi-disciplinary research and training methods," said Dr Millar.


This SRA undertook interdisciplinary and integrated research with international partners, to deliver effective development programs and policies that improve rural people's livelihoods and environmental management.

Research was aimed at understanding complex social-environmental relationships and influencing outcomes for rural and regional people. A major feature of this SRA was the high level of impact in community engagement, capacity building and governance.

The objectives of current and future research activities were to:

  • Explore the complex relationship between poverty, economic development, resource use, livelihoods, agriculture, ecosystem services, environmental degradation and conservation
  • Research the impacts of policies, institutions and governance on rural livelihoods and environmental management
  • Assist with development of technologies and processes to provide rural people with sustainable livelihood alternatives that protect the environment
  • Strengthen CSU researcher collaboration between disciplines and with recognised experts in international organisations
  • Build capacity of research stakeholders and partners to achieve the above objectives through mentoring, teamwork, co-supervision of postgraduate students and joint publications.

This SRA had 19 members made up of both senior ILWS staff and Institute adjunct researchers from other tertiary institutions, government agencies, and private enterprise. These researchers have expertise in:

  • Agriculture and fisheries
  • Natural Resource Management and Landcare approaches.
  • Community ecotourism
  • Sustainable development
  • Trade policy in Asia, causes of poverty, trade liberalisation, policy and structural reforms
  • Communication and education in Natural Resource Management
  • Community forestry
  • Ethnic and Indigenous business issues
  • Environmental economics
  • Wetlands conservation and livelihoods

Members have research experience in many developing countries including Laos, Indonesia, Bhutan, East Timor, Fiji, Nepal, India, Pakistan, Vietnam, China, Nepal, Vanuatu, Malaysia and Cambodia.

There were a number post-graduate students associated with this SRA including from the developing countries of  Nepal, Bhutan, Pakistan, Indonesia and Zimbabwe, who undertook research on a diverse range of topics from property rights and rangeland management to communication in agricultural development.

Current projects include:

  • Sustainable rangeland management to protect red pandas and herder livelihoods in Bhutan
  • Improving groundwater management to enhance agriculture and farming livelihoods in Pakistan
  • Quantifying improving fisheries productivity at fish rehabilitation sites in Laos
  • Farm Power and Conservation Agriculture for Sustainable Intensification

Completed projects for this SRA include:

  • Socio-economic studies around fish production in Laos and Indonesia
  • Developing agribusiness plans for Cambodian farmers
  • Livestock movement and managing disease in Indonesia and Eastern Australia
  • Improving production and profitability of shrimp farmers in Indonesia
  • Extension approaches for scaling out livestock production in Lao PDR
  • Ecotourism and poverty reduction in Ghana
  • Social and economic impacts of conservation lodges on local communities in Botswana and Rwanda.
  • Balancing conservation and development in protected areas: a case study from Lao PDR


Rural people in developing countries are highly dependent on their natural resources to provide food, shelter, income and cultural needs.

However population pressures and inequitable distribution of wealth create competition for resources, land and water degradation and loss of biodiversity.

Land uses such as agriculture, forestry and fisheries can impact on ecosystem services creating trade offs between food or wood production and provision of quality water, soil and air.

Causes of poverty and erosion of natural capital in developing countries can be geographical remoteness; war and resettlement; rapid urbanisation; unsustainable timber logging, cropping or fishing; climate change causing drought, landslides or flooding; foreign ownership and investment in resources; trade policies; poor governance and lack of education opportunities. The complexity of these issues requires interdisciplinary research to determine social, economic, environmental, agricultural and cultural factors at play, and to develop solutions.




Dr Joanne Millar  Agriculture and Extension
(Laos/Indonesia/ Bhutan)
Dr Rik Thwaites Community ecotourism and Sustainable Development.
(East Timor/Fiji/ Nepal/India/Vietnam/China)
Professor Max Finlayson Wetlands conservation and livelihoods (Asia/Africa)
Professor Manohar PawarSocial Research
Associate Professor Rosemary Black Ecotourism, Sustainable tourism, Communication and Education in Natural Resource Management (Nepal, Vanuatu, Malaysia, Bhutan)
Dr Lee Baumgartner   Fisheries (Lao PDR)
Dr Wayne RobinsonWildlife ecology (Lao PDR)
Dr Richard Culas  Environmental and Agricultural Economics
Associate Professor Catherine AllanAdaptive management, Social learning
Associate Professor  Branka Krivokapic-SkokoAgriculture and social research
Professor John Blackwell Agriculture and extension 
Dr Michael MitchellSocial Research 
Professor Jay Punthakey (Adjunct)Agriculture and extension (Pakistan)
Dr Robert Fisher (Adjunct)
University of Sydney
Community based NRM
Dr Ganga Dahal (Adjunct)
Resource Rights Institute, Bangkok
Natural resource management
Mr Horrie Poussard (Adjunct) Australian International Landcare, Landcare
Dr Popular Gentle, (Adjunct) Care International, Kathmandu, NepalCommunity forestry (Nepal)
Dr Kuenga Namgay, (Adjunct) Ministry of Agriculture and Forests, BhutanPolicy planner at Policy and Planning Division
Dr Mohan Poudel
Ministry of Forests, Nepal
Community forestry
Dr Patrick Cobbinah (Adjunct)Sustainable urban development and ecotourism in Ghana


Key outcomes or examples of how the work of this SRA has made a difference include:

  • Village women and children in Central Java, IndonesiaA project on improving the productivity and profitability of smallholder shrimp aquaculture and related agribusiness in Indonesia has helped build capacity of Indonesian researchers, extension staff and farmers in shrimp biosecurity;  and provided advice to the Indonesian government on pathways for improved shrimp production
  • The recommendations of further extension training and mentoring of district staff from a project on extension approaches for scaling out livestock production in Lao PDR have been taken up by the Livestock Development Project in Laos aimed at reducing poverty for 20,000 upland households.
  • The recommendations  from a project on linking food security and conservation in Lao PDR have been presented to the Nam Theun2 Watershed Protection Management Authority (WMPA). A major recommendation is that, in order to achieve positive local conservation and development action, park authorities must foster more constructive dialogue with villagers in park planning, implementation and evaluation.
  • A project on the socio economic outcomes of community forestry for rural communities in Nepal has provided advice to forestry policy in Nepal regarding social equity and inclusion in community forestry programs.
  • Results from a  three year (2012-2015) socio-economic study of fish harvesting  and use at the Pak Peung wetland in Laos will enable the Lao government to decide whether to invest in fish passages for environmental and community benefits.Children and buffalo in Laos
  • A socio economic study of farmer adoption of tilapia fish production in Aceh, Indonesia, which is part of a larger project examining diversification of smallholder coastal aquaculture in Indonesia, has provided provide advice to the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR)  and the  Indonesian government on suitable alternatives to aquaculture for farmers, and farmer engagement approaches. Seven tilapia nurseries have been established to facilitate fingerlings access. As a result there has been a rapid increase in farmers growing tilapia, from 30 to 100 in 3 years. Information needs identified in the survey have assisted researchers in providing relevant advice to farmers. Farmers have increased incomes and reduced risk of pond harvest failures. The training and mentoring of fisheries scientists in social research has enabled them to carry out surveys and analysis by themselves.



International Linkages

International visitors to ILWS during 2013 -2014 included:

Dr Tashi Samdup, Director of the Council for Research on Renewable Natural Resources, Bhutan and co-supervisor of two ILWS PhD students, Kuenga Namgay and Karma Tenzing. From that linkage, a collaborative research and capacity building plan has been developed which has resulted in delivery of training on social research methods in Bhutan, and a grant application to the Darwin Initiative for a Community Rangeland Care project.

Two international researchers Dr Mardiana Fachry, Senior Lecturer in Socioeconomics of Fisheries from Hasanuddin University, Indonesia, and Dr Malavan Chittavong, Faculty of Agriculture, National University of Laos. Both are working with Dr Joanne Millar on ACIAR funded projects in their respective countries.



Dr Joanne Millar contributes to Fish Conservation Monitoring Workshop in Laos

Dr Joanne Millar attended a workshop in Vientiane from 7-8 November 2016 on the invitation of FISHBIO, a US company that conducts research and development on fisheries. They are developing a guidebook on how to monitor effectiveness of fish conservation zones in the Mekong region. Participants identified suitable indicators (social, ecological and governance) to measure, and methods that would be appropriate for local communities. Dr Millar contributed her expertise with using social and cultural indicators to evaluate fisheries interventions based on her experience with research for development projects in Laos and Indonesia. Amongst the social indicators workgroup, there was unanimous agreement that people's local knowledge, values, beliefs and wellbeing needed to be monitored alongside the more standard socio-economic indicators which can be influenced by other developments. The guidebook will be tested at a few sites in Laos in 2017 and released in 2018. For more information go to

Fish tagging in Laos

Dr Lee Baumgartner and Honours student Bettina Grieve spent a week in Laos in the beginning of June implanting microchips (PIT tags) into Mekong catfish and barbs as part of a collaborative effort between Charles Sturt University, Living Aquatic Resources Research Centre (Laos), National University of Laos and the Research Institute for Aquaculture (Vietnam.)

Breaking new ground in Laos

The Lao fish migration team (Dr Lee Baumgartner, Jarrod McPherson and Dr Wayne Robinson) facilitated the installation of the first ever fish-friendly irrigation gate in the Lower Mekong Basin on June 24, following four years of targeted research and development. The team worked with an Australian company, AWMA Solutions, to come up with a design that helps alleviate fish welfare issues. Field assessments will be performed to ensure fish are passing downstream successfully. The team are co-investigators in a project led by Dr Craig Boys, Fisheries NSW, "Improving the design of irrigation infrastructure to increase fisheries production in the floodplain wetlands of the Lower Mekong and Murray-Darling Basins."

Workshop in Pakistan

A workshop was held, February 3 to 6, at the University of Agriculture, Faisalabad, Pakistan as part of a scoping mission to finalise a proposal for the ACIAR funded project Improving groundwater management to enhance agriculture and farming livelihoods in Pakistan. It provided an opportunity for Dr Richard Culas, Associate Professor Catherine Allan , Dr Michael Mitchell and Professor Jay Punthakey (Adjunct) to meet with the project's in-country partners and the ACIAR support team.


Australian Landcare International AGM

Dr Joanne Millar addressed the AGM of the Australian Landcare International committee in Melbourne on 15th November 2015. She presented examples of her research and development work in Laos, Indonesia and Bhutan.

ATSI Crawford Fund 2015

Delivery of social science training courses in October on evaluation of social impacts of agricultural research and development in West Timor and Timor Leste with assistance from Mataram University, West Timor Agricultural Research Institute, Timor Leste Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and the National University of Timor Leste. Funded by ATSI Crawford Fund ( $25,620)

Protecting red panda habitat and yak herder livelihoods in Bhutan

Dr Joanne Millar and PhD student Karma Tenzing visited the Brokpa community in Bhutan in April to
discuss the problem of yak/cattle numbers which are causing overgrazing,tree lopping and severe gully erosion leading to declining livestock production and loss of biodiversity. A project plan has been developed to fence off gullies, plant native trees and pasture plots, research red panda populations, trial a biogas unit and install fuel efficient stoves. A grant application will be submitted to the Darwin Initiative (a UK funding program focused on biodiversity and poverty alleviation). Partners include the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and WWF Bhutan.

Could Landcare work in West Sumatra?

Dr Joanne Millar,  Victoria Mack from The Secretariat for International Landcare (SILC) and Malachy Turpey from Australian Landcare International (ALI) went a scoping trip to West Sumatra in March to investigate land degradation, farming and community issues there. The visit was hosted by an NGO called Green Indonesia. Three sites were visited to see if the landcare approach could potentially
be applied and what research might be needed.

Human Development and Sustainability

The ILWS partially sponsored an international seminar on Human Development and Sustainability:
Challenges and Strategies for the Asian Century, organised by the Asia-Pacific Branch of the International Consortium for Social Development (ICSDAP) and hosted by the Department of Social Work, Visva-Bharati, Sriniketan, West Bengal, India, January 16-18, 2015. The seminar was co-lead by Professor Manohar Pawar, member of the ILWS and President of the ICSDAP.


SRA leader, Dr Joanne Millar and Mr Horrie Poussard from Australia Landcare International gave a presentation to Yea Wetland Group and Upper Goulburn Landcare Network on the fish passage project in Laos. The Yea group provided funding for planting of 500 trees and grasses on World Environment Day 2014 to stabilise the banks of the new Fish Passage at Pak Peung wetland near the Mekong River.

Associate Professor Rosemary Black provided technical assistance to Birdlife Botswana on environmental education and avitourism. Dr Black also presented a public lecture at the University of Botswana on the role of the tour guide in creating a sustainable tourism industry. The lecture was attended by government policy makers, tour guides, tour operators and the general public.

Postgrad Research

Current Students

Research Topic

Mei Mei MeilaniCommunity Eco-tourism in Indonesia
Vu Vi An (An) 
Australia Award Scholarship
Fish migration in the Mekong Delta
Supervised by Dr Lee Baumgartner, Dr Wayne Robinson, Dr Martin Mallen-Cooper (Fishway Consulting Services) and Professor Ian Cowx (University of Hull, UK) 

PhD and Masters student completions

Naveed Aslam Development of quality control protocols for implementation of smallholder dairy farmers.
Dr Chaka Chirozva Power relations in multi-stakeholder engagement for governance of transfrontier conservation areas: the case study of Greater Limpopo Park, Zimbabwe. (2016)
Dr Patrick Brandful CobbinahTowards poverty reduction in developing countries: An analysis of ecotourism implementation in the Kakum Conservation Area, Ghana. (2014)
Dr Oyunbadam Davaakhwa Development Strategies and Structural Change: An analysis of Trade Orientation and Foreign Direct Investment in Mongolia. (2013)
Dr Binod Devkota Socio-economic outcomes from community forestry in Nepal. (2012)
Dr Popular GentleEquipping poor people for climate change: Can community forestry be a proper adaptation for rural communities in Nepal. (2014)
Dr Sosheel Godfrey Traditional milk marketing domestic supply chains and dairy policy environment in Pakistan. (2016)
Dr Yinru Lei (Ruby)Human Migration Decision-making in Response to Climate Change-A case study in Shangnan County, China (2015)
Dr Syed Muhammad Khair

The Efficacy of Groundwater Markets on Agricultural Productivity and Resource Use Sustainability: Evidence from the Upland  Balochistan Region of Pakistan.(2014)

Vijay Kuttapan Rural to urban migration of tank irrigation communities in South India.  (Masters 2015)
David McGill Breeding dairy animals in Pakistan: Modifying selection and analysis for a more profitable future.
Dr Yustina Murdiningrum The capacity of non-government organisations to be catalysts for community forestry in Indonesia. (2015)
Dr Umar Musa Mustapha

Impact of Climate Change and Bio-Fuel Production on Agricultural Commodity Price Variability in Nigeria and Niger and Possible Alternative Strategies for Food Production, Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development. (2014)

Dr Kuenga NamgayTranshumant agropastoralists in Bhutan. Do they have a place in the 21st century? (2014)
Dr Eak Rana REDD+ and ecosystem services trade-offs and synergies in community forests of central Himalaya, Nepal  
Dr Mohan Poudel Integrating Climate Change into Community Forestry: assessing and modelling potential livelihood implications of REDD+ in Nepal. (2015)
Sahibzada Shaffiulah Khan The development of a simulation model to analyse the productivity and financial viability of dairy farms.
Muhammad Shoaib Tufail Development of Village-based forage seed production system for the sustainability of smallholder farmers of Pakistan.
Michelle Smith Linking food security and conservation. Capacity and sustainability of enclave villages within Nakai Nam Theun National Protected Area in Lao PDR. (Masters 2014)
Bugi Sumirat"Social capital of forest farmer groups in Indonesia."  (Masters 2015)
Dr Karma Tenzing The role of property rights in high altitude rangeland management in Bhutan 
Dr Kristiana Tri Wahyudiyati Forest Community Development: Enhancing corporate social responsibility in Indonesia's forestry sector.(2014)
Dr Wes Ward Communication in agricultural development in South East Asia: pathways, problems and possibilities. (2016)
Dr Lukas Wibowo Optimising the policy and institutional settings for community-based forestry in Indonesia. (2012)