2013 Young Scholars: Rhys Pirie

Rhys Pirie
Rhys Pirie


…Australian agriculture grows enough food to feed approximately 40 million people and the results of Australian agricultural research contributed to the diets of several hundred million"

From my perspective being selected as one of the 2013 Crawford young scholars is a definite highlight of my tertiary education. The opportunity to attend the joint conference of The Crawford Fund and the Australia Africa Research Forum “Mining, Agriculture and Development: Bread from stones” was fantastic and one for which I am extremely grateful to The Crawford Fund. Having been raised on a mixed grain/cattle property in SW-NSW it is easy to be caught thinking of agricultural production and research in terms of broad scale agriculture in a developed economy. Attending the conference allowed me to not only learn more about Africa and the challenges it faces but also highlighted the importance of agricultural research globally, with particular focus on developing countries.

Personally one of the most telling statistics presented at the conference regarding the importance of Australian agricultural research and production was that Australian agriculture grows enough food to feed approximately 40 million people and the results of Australian agricultural research contributed to the diets of several hundred million. Discussing the synergy between mining, agriculture and development proved to be an emotive topic which brought out a range of viewpoints as to who held what rights and responsibilities in the extraction of mineral resources. Particular examples of models to couple mining and agriculture in order to facilitate development via the extraction of mineral resources, which are ultimately owned by the whole population of a country, were also discussed. Once again it was very interesting to catalogue the varying degrees of scepticism and enthusiasm from attendees, often closely linked to their personal backgrounds or the organisation which they represented. In particular I admired the frankness of a number of speakers and a willingness to speak openly about the challenges that faced the African continent. This was accompanied by a sense of hope that Africa can meet these challenges and make the most of the opportunities that Africa’s natural resources (both mineral and agricultural) present.

Another highlight of the conference was the opportunity to connect with members of the Crawford Fund, other Young Crawford Scholars and a diverse range of people involved in agricultural research, mining and development projects in a multitude of countries. Meeting some of the highly esteemed attendees at the conference provided a great opportunity to explore areas of interest to my career. Attending the conference has given me a real drive to pursue opportunities in the developmental field, with a specific focus on agriculture and Africa. The Crawford Young Scholars group are a fantastic bunch of people and it will be interesting to follow everyone’s development now that we have made that connection.

During the first day’s presentations it was made clear that Africa is a continent that faces many difficult and complex challenges. As such it was refreshing during the research symposium to see some of the research which is being undertaken to address particular facets of challenges facing agricultural production (in both developed and developing contexts). I thought it was a great to frame solutions to global food, environment and social issues as the sum of a great number of smaller projects rather than a smaller number of “silver bullet” approaches.

Once again I would like to thank The Crawford Fund for sponsoring me and their efforts in organising the conference. To anyone who is thinking about applying getting involved with the Crawford Fund in the future I cannot recommend the experience highly enough. Get involved!