Craig Hooper, Otago University

Craig’s Research Topic: “Masta Liu; The Struggle for Identity of Solomon Islands Youth”

“My research addresses the construction of identity of youth in Honiara, Solomon Islands. I intended to give Solomon Islands youth an opportunity to share their experiences of living and growing up in Honiara amongst developmental challenges and social marginalisation.

I had planned to travel to Honiara in mid 2020, but like many others my plans were crushed by Covid-19. As I knew MFAT provides a fantastic scholarship program for Pacific Island students, there would likely be Solomon Islanders studying right here in New Zealand. Thankfully I was able to keep my research focus the same, and instead of traveling to Honiara for research I was able to find the diaspora community of Solomon Islanders here in New Zealand, who were all more than willing to help out. This included a week long research trip to Hamilton in October, 2020. This was a fantastic experience and reminded me of all the things I miss about living in Solomon Islands.”

Craig Hooper, Master of Arts, Geography
February, 2021

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Cristine Werle, Massey University

Cristine’s Research Topic: “The gift of health: Cuban medical cooperation in Kiribati

“I spent a month in Tarawa talking to the community and the incredibly resilient Cuban-trained doctors featured in the picture. My main interest was to investigate how the public health driven medicine practised by Cuba is translated by these doctors in the Pacific context, where a lot of disease is preventable. With insufficient workers and high demand for specialised care, Kiribati’s health system is largely curative, meaning that Cuban-trained doctors struggle to make the transition and that their knowledge about prevention is under-explored”

Cristine Werle, Master’s in Development Studies
September 2019

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Randel Esnard, Lincoln University

Image shows researcher with participants in Myeik in June 2019
Randel with research participants in Myeik in June 2019. Randel and his in-country research assistant are in the back row, third and second from the left.

Randel’s Research Topic: “Strengthening the capacity of producer groups to participate in agri-food chains in Myiek and Palaw districts of Myanmar through action research”

“Conducting fieldwork is one of the most fascinating aspects of action research. This is where the researcher gets the opportunity to interact directly with research participants to collectively identify actions to bring about meaningful change that benefit them. This collaborative element typically requires interpersonal relationships with the participants. Thankfully, these relationships were already developed before the Covid-19 Pandemic halted international travel restrictions. My prior experience in the field and pre-existing rapport with the research participants made it feasible to continue the field research remotely through an in-country research assistant, who also had prior work experience in the target areas.

I am very appreciative of the support from the TRRILD Project staff, the in-country research assistant, and all the participants for making this Field Research Award a success despite the challenges of the Pandemic.”

Randel Esnard, PhD Agribusiness and International Rural Development, February 2021

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Tessa Bardsley, Victoria University of Wellington

Tessa’s Research Topic: “Understanding the impact of a Menstrual Health Management programme on the Thai-Myanmar border”

“I recently returned from Thailand, where I was researching the impact of an NGO programme that provides reusable menstrual pads and menstrual health education to women and girls in the conflict-affected areas on the border between Thailand and Myanmar. This photo shows young medic students – both guys and girls – really getting into their training of teaching the menstrual and sexual health content. Research shows that men’s involvement in menstrual health education reduces stigma which is the root cause of many of the problems within menstrual health. Stigma-free access to menstrual products and corresponding education equals better mobility, school attendance and agency for women and girls.”

Tessa Bardsley, Master of Development Studies
September 2019

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Erin Thomas, University of Auckland

Erin’s Research Topic: “Gender-based Violence in Niue: Challenges and Opportunities in Assessing GBV in Small Pacific Island”

“I had the honour and privilege of spending four weeks in Niue as a part of my master’s fieldwork on gender-based violence. My previous work from 2017 was some of the first research done in Niue on the topic. This project was able to expand on that initial work and get more depth on the issue. I did 41 interviews including 14 family tree mapping interviews focused on making space for women’s narratives of GBV incidents that occur in their families. I am grateful to the Department of Community Affairs, where I was based, as well as the members of the community who opened up to me. Personally, I will cherish this taoga forever and know that many others in the community and the government will appreciate their insights being shared. Oue tulou. Fakaaue lahi atu ki a mutolu oti.”

Erin Thomas, Master’s in Development Studies
November 2019

New Zealand Postgraduate Development Research Awards

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Bridget Payne, Victoria University of Wellington

Bridget’s Research Topic: ” How do communities exercise agency in forest carbon? A case study of the Loru project in Vanuatu”

“The highlight of my fieldwork was the time spent living in Khole village – home to the traditional landowners of the Loru forest carbon project. I worked closely with the project’s partner, Live & Learn Vanuatu, and surveyed over 40 community members to monitor the project’s social impact. I spent my days storian (yarning) with the community, bushwalking through the conservation area, and drinking countless fresh coconuts! I planted several young trees which will generate carbon offset credits and ultimately fund community infrastructure. It was humbling to feel so welcomed and live alongside the community I have been studying from my desk in Wellington all year – waking up to roosters and frequent earthquakes, enjoying local produce and attending community events such as dinners and church services. Tankyio tumus long Khole mo MFAT!”

Bridget Payne – Master of Development Studies
September, 2019

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Michelle Greene, Massey University

Michelle’s Research Topic: “Physical Education (PE) as a Pathway for Gender Empowerment: Rarotonga, Cook Islands”

“Physical Education (PE) in a tropical climate presents unique challenges. My fieldwork in Rarotonga coincided with the end of the cyclone season; it was common for there to be sudden torrential downpours. School A’s field was low-lying, which meant that it sat underneath a pool of water consistently during fieldwork. The alternate venue for PE was the tennis courts, seen below. It was very hot and humid, and students struggled to run around in bare feet on the hot surface. Some students can be seen playing in jandals, which are not robust enough for PE and often broke. The PE uniform singlets that students are required to wear are practical in the heat, but they excluded some students who felt self-conscious wearing them in front of their peers. Despite these challenges, keen students persevered. Environmental challenges to delivering PE were present in varying forms at each of the schools visited.”

Michelle Greene – PhD Candidate
September, 2019

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Ivor Kaisami, Massey University

Ivor’s Research Topic: Traditional Climate-Smart Agriculture in Tokelau

“First, allow me to thank you for the privilege to travel to Tokelau: this was indeed special as well as a personal challenge, not least the 36 hour boat trip from Apia to Tokelau. My research examined whether ‘traditional climate-smart agriculture’ can help to provide food security to Tokelau. During my time in Tokelau I found that, even under the threat of climate change impacts such as pockets of inland areas inundated with saltwater, there are at present substantial sources of traditional food. These could definitely help to sustain the local population (est. 500), but these are not always favoured foods and there are plenty of imported foods which offer alternatives. In the words of one interviewee: “We can easily survive on our traditional food source like breadfruit, pulaka, tamu and plenty fish from the sea, as our people have done in the past, without any help from overseas. You can see for yourself – the plantation, but this is a ‘generation of rice’. People prefer rice because it is easy to cook. But if there is no rice, then they will have to eat the pulaka and breadfruit and the sea birds”.Another challenge is that elders hold on to knowledge, so young people are not learning about traditional agriculture.”

Ivor Kaisami, Master of International Development
September, 2019

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Neill Ballantyne, Victoria University of Wellington

Neill’s Research Topic: “Finding a Fale: a Participatory Action Research (PAR) project exploring the causes and solutions to housing insecurity for Tongan Leiti”

“Malo e lelei, greetings from Tonga where I have sat down for one-on-one interviews with ‘participants’ and have recorded their stories using a mixed-methods approach. I have, however, spent much more time building relationships, attending social gatherings, exploring, and conversing informally through the PAR (Participatory Action Research) process. Building these intentional friendships has been invaluable to the success of the data collection and ensuring the project fulfils the aims which were co-designed with the co-researchers: The Tongan Leiti Association (see photo from co-design session)These friendships and connections through the community have built trust and led to the ‘participants’ sharing stories and reflections with me that they have never told friends or family. They were stories of violence, discrimination, bullying and isolation. They were stories of resilience, success, hope and overcoming great challenges.”

Neill Ballantyne, Master of International Development
November, 2019

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Jojo Woodham, Victoria University of Wellington

Jojo’s Research Topic: “From Dumpsite to Landfill: navigating social inclusion within solid waste management in Dili, Timor-Leste”

“Flying into Dili, Timor-Leste’s capital, you might see smoke rising from the west. This is Tibar dumpsite, Timor-Leste’s official waste disposal site. I took this picture on my first site-visit, but the smoke is a daily occurrence. The people in the photo are burning rubbish to expose scrap-metal, which is then stockpiled and sold to a dealer. In a way, these waste-workers provide a public service; reducing the volume of waste and facilitating recycling. Dumpsites like Tibar are not uncommon in developing countries, yet they pose severe environmental and public health risks – this was very much evident from my site-visits to Tibar. You can feel the smoke in your eyes.The Timorese government is currently looking to upgrade Tibar to a controlled landfill. Elsewhere, waste-workers are excluded from this process, governments typically prohibit waste-workers’ access to their livelihoods. Guided by environmental justice, my research looks at balancing social inclusion with improved environmental outcomes in Dili’s dumpsite-to-landfill transition.”

Jojo Woodham, Master’s in Environmental Studies
October 2019

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