University of Tasmania

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New Product Development for Papua New Guinea Balsa to Improve Smallholder Livelihoods

posted on 2023-05-26, 14:55 authored by Nathan KotlarewskiNathan Kotlarewski

The Papua New Guinea [PNG] balsa wood industry currently has an over-supply of balsa due to an under-demand in global commercial markets. The effect this has on smallholders is a reduction in financial returns and a loss of invested time and money. Since global industries are not using balsa, large processing companies are therefore not buying from smallholder plantations. Smallholders rely on large processors to purchase their balsa for financial return to support their livelihoods, family and community. Unlike common commercial timber plantations, where harvesting occurs when the market is strong, balsa must be harvested between five to seven years due to its fast growth and rapid deterioration after seven years.

New commercial applications have been developed during the process of this doctoral research project to develop and promote the positive attributes of PNG balsa in order to generate international demand. These applications have the potential to mitigate the expected hardship to smallholder’s livelihoods. A research-led industrial design practice process was used to generate design solutions in order to demonstrate innovative ways of utilising balsa in new and existing industries to rectify the current over-supply and under-demand. An artefact was developed through the process of this doctoral research which acts as an exemplar product that embeds and communicates new knowledge to the field of industrial design. The artefact also promotes a commercially viable product that could be used to diversify PNG balsa markets and increase consumer demand for the resource.





School of Architecture and Design


Swinburne University of Technology

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