2012 Parliamentary Conference

The 2012 Annual Conference “The Scramble for Natural Resources: More Food, Less Land?” highlighted a range of issues related to the competition for natural resources and impacts on food security.

There has been heightened awareness in Australia of the issues surrounding ownership of our natural resources and farming land.While the competition for our natural resources and rural land has raised a set of issues for Australian landowners, developers and governments, the issues for the developing world are far more pressing and complex, given that landownership and food security for so many means the daily battle of subsistence farming. What are the real issues for developing countries and Australia and how can agricultural research, development and policy change help ensure that the array of competitors for the globe’s natural resources all get the fair go they and the planet deserve?
The Hon John Kerin – Chair

The Crawford Fund’s 2012 annual development conference focuses on the dynamic interactions between a range of competing uses for land and natural resources, while addressing the need to feed the world’s growing population in the face of the constraints and challenges of climate change.

The conference, which has been held every year for over two decades, is a key event in Australia’s international development calendar. It attracts 300 development professionals, decision-makers, researchers, agribusiness people, farmers, conservationists, educators, students and other stakeholders.

In 2012, the event included a one day Parliamentary Conference, and the Sir John Crawford Memorial dinner and address on Tuesday, 9 October, and the Parliamentary Breakfast on 10 October. We believe that this year’s event was another in our series of highly successful, well attended and nationally reported conferences.


Steep rises and associated volatility in commodity prices have driven a renewed focus on agriculture and food security in international development circles. In Australia the domestic debate has recently focussed on how this country’s role as a major food exporter is affected by changing patterns of land use and the availability of water resources against the uncertainties of a changing climate. The global dimensions of the problems are underlined by United Nation projections indicating that the global population will reach about nine billion in the year 2050.

In order to feed this burgeoning population, the world’s farmers will have to increase food production by 70%. Meat production over the same period will have to increase 85% to meet increases in demand driven by rising incomes, particularly in Asia. To avoid famine and provide affordable food to the world’s poor, these massive increases in production will have to be achieved against a background of increasing competition for natural resources.

The 2012 Conference drew together expert speakers from around the world to address these problems focusing on the dynamic interactions between a range of competing uses for land and other natural resources.

Conference speakers considered topics such as:

  • The global dimensions of the future population growth – food security nexus as affected by land availability for food production, food losses, energy and climate change
  • The dynamics of global land use and cover change affecting food production, greenhouse gas emissions and water resources
  • Impacts of land clearing for agriculture in tropical areas on biodiversity and ecotourism
  • Changing patterns of foreign investment in land in Australia and in developing countries – the land grab?
  • Mining and agriculture – competitive or compatible uses of land?
  • Urban encroachment on good agricultural land as people flock to the cities
  • Environmental services of land in relation to agricultural uses
  • Effects of land degradation on potential food production, biodiversity and greenhouse gas emissions
  • Land availability and management to expand food production in Africa
  • Facing the Malthusian challenge – how can food production be increased to meet future demand?

Confirmed Speakers

It is a special year for us in that it is our 25th anniversary. Senator the Hon Bob Carr, Minister for Foreign Affairs opened the event on 9 October and the stellar group of speakers included:

  • Professor Jonathan Foley, Director of the Institute on the Environment at the University of the Minnesota, where he is also a professor and McKnight Presidential Chair in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behaviour;
  • Sir John Beddington; Government Chief Scientific Adviser (UK)
  • Dr Frank Rijsberman, new CEO of the CGIAR Consortium and formerly of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the philanthropic arm of Google
  • Dr Derek Byerlee, former senior advisor, World Bank
  • Dr Shenggen Fan, Director General of the International Food Policy Research Institute, Washington;
  • Dr Nteranya Sanginga, Director General, International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, Nigeria
  • Dr Chris Moran, Director, Sustainable Minerals Institute and Member of the Management Board of the International Mining for Development Centre

Related materials

Conference documents

Crawford Fund Young Scholars
The Crawford Fund is keen to increase young Australian agricultural  students’ and scientists’ involvement in international agricultural  development. To this end, in addition to offering some free places to  students to attend our annual conference, we funded seventeen young  Australians to attend our 2012 conference.