NSW Committee: 2015 Scholars

NSW Committee Sponsored Scholars

“The NSW Committee is proud to have supported eight fine Young Scholars to attend the annual conference this year— from PhD’s to undergraduates, and from various faculties at the University of Sydney, Charles Sturt University Wagga Wagga, and the University of New England—and to have met the busload of students from the University of Western Sydney as well,” says State Coordinator, Hon Associate Professor Helen Scott-Orr.

Click on the links below to view scholar bios and conference reports.

Tom Borowski, The University of Sydney
Manannan Donoghoe, The University of Sydney
Sharna Holman, The University of Sydney
Benjamen Lenehan, The University of Sydney
Anika Molesworth, Charles Sturt University
Bezaye Tessema, University of New England
Muhammad Tufail, Charles Sturt University
Josephine Wright, The University of Sydney
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2015 NSW Committee sponsored scholars
2015 NSW Committee sponsored scholars

Tom Borowski

I am a 4th year student in a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture at USYD. My current thesis is focused on the effects of different applications of pre-emergent herbicides in regards to crop health. I chose a degree in agriculture firstly due to my upbringing on a cattle/cropping property in Northern NSW between Coonamble and Walgett. Secondly, I chose to be part of this sector due to the endless opportunities and challenges that are present both at a domestic and international scale.
Travelling through many developing countries, I have gained an interest towards improving agricultural production systems and local food security. I look to do this through organisations like AVID or similar. I believe that this conference will not only improve my knowledge of international agricultural challenges, but also provide a great opportunity to network with others who have the same interests and goals.

Conference Report
Attending the Crawford Conference as a scholar was an honour and a highly regarded privilege that I believe would rarely arise. To be surrounded by people of various ages, with similar interests and direction, was a new yet pleasing scenario and made the few days in Canberra all the more enjoyable. There were many key features that I will list that made the event outstanding in my view and very much worthwhile.
With the calibre and depth of the speakers, and their content, there was a vast array of knowledge and ideas present on international challenges that would usually not cross my mind. Factual evidence behind the need to increase food production up to 70% more by 2050, shows the need for a direct focus towards not only increasing global agricultural production but also improving sustainability and reducing wastage. The occurrence of wastage was a common topic in the conference with statistics showing wastage as high as 40% in certain areas. It was spoken on wether improving certain countries processing and streamlining of products from producer to consumer could be a solution to such problems.
The topic of improving developing countries local agriculture production was very interesting. The need to reduce the presence of subsistence farmers and to create larger landholders was seen as progressive in the way that it would introduce income not only for the producer, but the local community. Wether this be implemented through the introduction of foreign investment or kept local was discussed. The current innovation from corporations such as OLAM was introduced and was very interesting to learn about, with it employing over 20’000 worldwide while producing a viable product.
The introduction of Mr Carey Fowler was a main highlight of the event for me, as I am sure it was for the majority of people at the conference. The few speeches that he presented were very much engaging and highlighted some crucial factors in regards to the future goals of feeding the world. The matter of plant genetic diversity loss throughout the globe was a growing problem which had never crossed my mind. It was an interesting topic, highlighting the need for preserving previous plant species to give breeders the ability to create plants capable of performing in adverse climates of the future. The creation of the seed vault in Norway was an astonishing event, which surprised me how so many factors could come together to create such a construction. For example the grant and funding of the construction from the Norwegian government, along with the extensive communications between seed vaults internationally. This made a great success story showing a progressive step towards assuring global food security.
These are a few of the many topics that were brought up in the conference that really influenced me. It should also be noted the opportunity to network was more than sufficient, and I met a lot of interesting and knowledgeable people. The conference also provided information on different career paths open to the scholars, the option to do agronomic research overseas was one idea that attracted me. I would like to thank the coordinators of the event and let them know it was very enjoyable, I will be suggesting colleagues to attend next year.

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Manannan Donoghoe

My name is Manann Donoghoe and I am an undergraduate student at the University of Sydney. I’m currently studying a bachelor of resource economics majoring in geography, and a diploma of Indonesian language. I’m interested in natural resource management with a focus on agricultural transition and livelihood diversification. Sustainable agriculture is a concept I’d like to explore more, particularly movements towards lower-input farming as an alternative to ‘sustainable intensification’. Recently I have focused my attention towards the Asia-Pacific region and have developed an interest in Australia’s involvement as an exporter and a development partner in the region. I’m also interested in private-public partnerships and the role the private sector can play in achieving global food security. I want to attend the conference to build a better understanding of current action on food security and to meet people involved in the field.

Conference Report
To turn a phrase from Dr Cary Fowler, ‘a solution is more important than a victory’, those words resonated with me and I can’t help thinking about them now. What Dr Fowler so elegantly expressed was the need for cooperation. A global movement where all people, states, NGO’s and businesses are part of the answer, not of the obstacle. For me, Dr Fowler’s parlance frames the proceedings of the conference.
Strategically titled ‘The business of food security’, the conference had a strong focus on private leadership and market driven solutions to increasing food production. Given the international network of trade, investment and research and development where the capacity of nation-states is limited, it is unsurprising and welcomed that ‘business’ was front of stage. As we were quickly reminded by Mr Anthony Pratt, it is the trans-national corporations that have the resources and reach to spearhead innovation and begin rolling the wheel of change. Expressed by Pratt and later lamented by Dr Marco Ferroni, wrapped up within the business of food security are the jobs, welfare and livelihoods of the international community. It is important to remember that agriculture is a sector of the economy, albeit an important one, operating within the political-economic constraints that any other aspect of the market faces.
Though the market cannot achieve an equitable allocation of resources alone, an international leadership is a necessary accompaniment. It was invigorating to listen to Gerda Verburg’s straight talking, passionate presentation on the international agenda for food security. We need leaders who are ready to listen to facts put aside ambition and take criticism, finding solutions and not victories on food security.
Conveyed by many of the speakers, Ms Alison Eskesen, Mr Chris Brett and Dr Lim Jung Lee among them, the solutions and challenges to food security will play out foremost in the developing world. The parts of our Earth where the population is rapidly growing and the middle class expanding. There was a consensus that the developing world will experience the largest growth in food demand but offer the broadest opportunities to increase yields and build bonds between firms and farmers. Moreover, the developing world is the area most likely to face obstacles to maintaining food security at the household level. It was refreshing to hear Mr Brett talking of Olam’s focus on making food more affordable and accessible for individuals, an important aspect of food security all too often forgotten within the glaring global statistics of future food demand and supply. I am reminded of the words of the prominent welfare economist and philosopher Amartya Sen, “A society can be Pareto optimal and still perfectly disgusting”.
In geography we often talk about scale. Unarguably food insecurity plays out at the international level, with total production volumes and trade flows forming the basis of security. However I would lament that solutions to food insecurity can and should be manifested at each scale. From the individual to the household, community, region and nation. It is the through the aggregation of the multitude of changes we make at these scales that food security can take form on a global scale.

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Sharna Holman

My name is Sharna Holman and I am in my fourth year of a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture at the University of Sydney. I am currently working on an Honours thesis investigating the critical exposure period required for developing tolerance in Helicoverpa moths to Bt toxins in cotton crops.
I developed a passion for international agriculture research as I became interested in food security after noticing an increasing lack of understanding society can have for agriculture; while communities in developing countries can use agriculture to alleviate poverty. I believe the conference presents amazing opportunities to network with like-minded people and, in particular, learn more about how businesses are (and will be in the future) working with NGO’s and other stakeholders to improve food security prospects around the world.

Conference Report
The opportunity to attend the Crawford Fund conference as a Young Scholar was a fantastic experience. It was a great to be able to have access to some of the influential members of the international agricultural community and be able to first hand hear of their stories, experience and knowledge in their respective fields.
I thoroughly enjoyed the Parliamentary Conference as it gave me the chance to hear from businesses and companies on what they are doing currently and planned for the future to contribute to ensuring food security. I loved hearing from Dr Lee and Dr Ferroni from Syngenta speak as I just completed an internship with the company assisting with their Good Growth Plan, so to hear about what the foundation and the Indonesian sector of the company was doing was brilliant. The role that food wastage and the role of smallholders have in food security was really eye opening and made me begin to think more broadly across the entire agricultural supply chain from paddock to plate.
The scholar’s day was a great chance to hear from organisations such as RAID about the volunteer opportunities available and how to get into an international agricultural career. Before the conference I was interested but unsure about volunteering overseas in an agricultural role however talking to RAID members and other students I am extremely excited by the prospect and am something I will definitely look into doing in the future. However one of the best things about the conference was the opportunity to network and build friendships with other young scholars from around Australia. It was great to become friends with other young people who are interested in international agriculture and are extremely passionate about agriculture and food security
I would like to thank the Crawford Fund for the opportunity to attend the conference as a young scholar. I can happily say I am more educated and empowered with the knowledge and encouragement gained from the conference and those attending making me more excited to enter the agricultural industry to try to make a positive contribution to both developing and developed countries.

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Benjamen Lenehan

I grew up on a family farm in Jugiong, NSW. I am currently in my 4th year completing a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture at the University of Sydney. I’m very pleased to have the opportunity to contribute to agriculture at such a critical time. It seems every day you can engage with someone about the future of food and how there are many areas of interest regarding food security. Engaging with many people of different backgrounds about agriculture on an international level was a main reason to apply to attend this conference and I would like to learn a lot more about how much our sustainable options correlate with risk.

Conference Report
I was very fortunate to have had the opportunity to attend the 2015 Crawford Fund Conference (CFC) as a scholar. To be honest I had never heard of the Crawford Fund until a few months prior to the conference. After attending the CFC I felt bad that I was unaware that such an important conference was occurring each year with some very powerful speakers attending from around the globe. Post the conference I felt a great sense of honour that I had been given the opportunity to attend.
Growing up on a mixed farm at Jugiong, NSW I have always been exposed to cattle, sheep and cropping operations and as I have matured I have learned the impact that family farms and their production can have on the world. I didn’t realise just how passionate I was about agriculture until attending the CFC. Hearing talks from Dr Cary Fowler and Her Excellency Gerda Verburg very early on in the conference made me not only inspired but also very proud that I am embarking on a career in agriculture. Throughout the CFC speakers made references to their appreciation that there was a large contingent of students in attendance. I thought these mentions were unnecessary due to the little achievements we as students would have but soon learned that it gives hope to the generation above us to see youth in agriculture and people that want to contribute in any way possible on a domestic and international level in the future.
This year the topic was ‘The Business of Global Food Security” – Profitability, sustainability and risk. There were some really informative speakers from a range of global companies including Visy, Bayer, Syngenta, CIMMYT, Olam International, Grow Asia and many more. My only wish for the conference was that more politicians should attend, as it was evident of the role that government policies and campaigns need to play in global food security.
The memorial address to open the conference was given by Dr Cary Fowler and this was a talk I’ll never forget. Dr Fowlers’ contribution to global agriculture is truly incredible, his hard work and determination to achieve so much on the topic of crop diversity is quite mind-blowing. We were fortunate enough to hear from Dr Fowler on a few occasions and I certainly wouldn’t have a problem hearing from him again. If I learnt one thing from the CFC it may have come from Dr Fowler himself. He has achieved things in life that others wouldn’t dream of completing in their lifetimes but still he was extremely humble and stressed on multiple instances the importance of moving forward and preparing for the future because the future is fast becoming a reality and we must act to ensure agriculture can not only survive but continue to produce food for an ever increasing global population.
I would recommend attending the CFC to anyone involved in agriculture and cant stress how grateful I was to attend.

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Anika Molesworth

My family’s sheep station in the semi-arid inland of far-western NSW cultivated my interest in agriculture from an early age. I developed a deep awareness of the intricacies connecting production, the environment and agrarian communities. My desire was not only to understand the workings of dynamic agricultural industries, but also to improve upon them. Undertaking a Masters of Sustainable Agriculture has given me a holistic and critical perspective of agroecosystems, agribusiness and the humanities. My research in southern Laos has opened my eyes to the global systems in which farmers operate—the challenges they face and the opportunities to be held. The Crawford Fund 2015 Annual Conference offers the opportunity to share ideas and develop strategies on meeting global future food demands in a sustainable manner.

Conference Report
To be in a room with the most brilliant minds in the agricultural field is an intoxicating and humbling experience. This year I was most fortunate to be awarded the title of a Conference Scholar, generously supported by the NSW Crawford Fund Committee. My excitement to attend the conference was evident months in advance, frequently engaging in conversations about the Fund and the importance of international agricultural research and development. On arriving at the conference, I knew instantly that my expectations were going to be greatly surpassed.
Meeting fellow students from across the country and the globe at the Sir John Crawford Memorial Address and Networking Dinner, we each shared a similar excitement for the days ahead. We had come from geographically distant locations, were studying a variety of fields, but each sharing a thirst for knowledge on how we could peruse a career in agricultural and environmental fields. The address held in the Ballroom of Hotel Realm set the scene for the next few days, which promised to be an informative conversation on the business of food security.
The Parliamentary Conference began with a stimulating opening and keynote session. Her Excellency Gerda Verburg was a highlight for me, and a great example of a woman, from a humble farming background, foraging a career spanning continents and disciplines. She was followed by Dr Lim Jung Lee speaking on the opportunity, challenges and stamina of partnerships, and quoted Ernest Hemmingway “the best way to see if you can trust someone is to trust them”.
The afternoon sessions were elating discussions on increasing private sector engagement. The standout speaker for me was Dr Martin Kropff on the topic ‘Integrating public and private sector research goals for sustainable food security’. With his background at Wageningen University, he sought international experience, which took him around the world and many different agricultural industries, before becoming Director General of CIMMYT. Dr Kropff’s advise to ‘expose oneself to diverse thinking’ resonated with me.
An evening networking event was held by the RAID team, where I had the pleasure of meeting more students and Crawford Committee members. It was truly inspiring to hear Helen Scott-Orr’s adventurous travels around the world, and once again have it reinforced to me that no two paths are ever the same in finding a career in international agriculture.
The final day in Canberra was the Scholars Day, held at the impressive Questacon Centre. Activities and presentations were conducted by Crawford Fund members, ACIAR, Scope Global, researchers, students, and Questacon staff. It was a fun filled and fast-paced day. Gathering in small groups with established researchers was a worthwhile experience, to learn more about forging a career in international agriculture, and the determination needed to continue forward even when doors are closed. The take home messages for me were ‘say yes to opportunities’ and ‘surround yourself with smart people with inquiring minds’.
The highlight of the day was once again listening to the incredible Dr Cary Fowler, biodiversity conservationist and former executive director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust. I had been looking forward to watching Seeds of Time, a documentary on the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. The screening was educational, inspiring, and moving. It brought home to me the importance of the work that researchers do in ensuring a better future. It highlighted the realities of the challenges ahead, and the serious and extensive work that needs to be done. It called to me to take action, to step up, and challenge the status quo. The Seeds of Time perfectly encompassed and finalised the reason that we were all here together in Canberra- to address the business of food security and seek a more food secure world.
I felt challenged, inspired, and energised from the 2015 Crawford Conference. It reinforced to me that I want to pursue a meaningful career in international agricultural research and development.
I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to all those involved with making the conference a reality and the generosity of the NSW Committee in providing me with the opportunity to attend.

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Bezaye Tessema

Bezaye Tessema is an Environmentalist by profession and has been doing research on Sustainable Land Management at the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research. She earned her BSc in Plant Science and an MSc in Environmental Sciences. Currently, she is a PhD candidate at the University of New England, with the support from the Australia Awards scholarship which aims to build a new generation of global leaders with strong links to Australia. Her PhD research project is on “Soil Carbon Sequestration”. She is interested and passionate about contributing to the research and development efforts towards food security, sustainable development and climate change adaptation and mitigation through networking, partnerships, innovation, and an active participation of stakeholders (multi-disciplined researchers and communities).

Conference Report
The Crawford fund conference was one of the exciting conference experiences I have had. When I did the application to the conference scholar program I was determined and knew it would give me the great chance to network and learn the national (Australia) and international perspective of food security.
My expectations were met in terms of meeting with a diverse group from all over the states and other countries: young to senior, technical to higher leadership level individuals from relevant organizations. The fact that the conference put the important yet challenging strategy of partnership and international research on board was a well-done job.
Key benefits:

  • The networking
  • The inspirations from the Sir John Crawford memorial address and the speakers life testimony and professional journey: getting the bigger picture in life and being passionate about it
  • Knowing the importance and challenges of partnerships for sustainable, profitable and low risk food security internationally
  • Visioning for global food security
  • The motivation to engage in an international agricultural research
  • The opportunities out there for engagement to draw ideas, outcome and impact internationally

Over all this conference added up hugely to my professional network and gave me great insights. And enlighten my professional journey and future engagement in international agricultural research for impact.

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Muhammad Tufail

After completing a post-graduate certificate and a Master’s in Agronomy, Shoaib is now undertaking a PhD at CSU to develop village-based forage seed enterprises for the smallholder farmers of Pakistan—in collaboration with ACIAR and ICARDA. Shoaib is also working as a Research Assistant for a Meat and Livestock Australia project, which is developing an understanding of the photosensitisation in sheep caused by Biserrula.
Shoaib has worked with the Pakistan Dairy Development Company as Regional Manager (2011), and established model farms at the village level which are used to educate the farming communities. He was prominent in leading a forage “think tank” meeting in Pakistan to establish forage research priorities. He also worked with Uardry Merino stud (2010) and with the farming communities of Australia to develop his skills in precision agriculture, dairy, sheep and beef enterprises. Working with DairyNZ (2009) he learned about management techniques and developing farm management strategies.

Conference Report
Thank you very much to the Crawford fund and the NSW committee for providing this great opportunity of learning and networking. I really like the theme of the conference. I learned a lot about different components of applied research benefiting the smallholder farmers around the world. I am doing similar kind of work in my PhD at Charles Sturt University with smallholder sustainability by developing village-based forage seed enterprises (VBFSEs) through farmers’ participatory research approach. It was a great opportunity to learn and see the scope of my research work in a bigger picture, especially the concept of public-private partnership for making smallholder farms more profitable and sustainable. The concept and practical work of Dr Cary Fowler of saving the world biodiversity through “seed vault” was really set the scene. It gave us the energy to think and work on these lines for saving productive species to utilize and produce more food and thus securing food for the world’s rapidly increasing population. The documentary movie “seeds of time” was very emotional but at the same time inspired us to work harder for saving biodiversity and sustainability of the farming communities through love and sharing of knowledge.
All the talks at the conference were really good and every presenter talking about the exhaustive crops like wheat, maize and rice, which undoubtedly very important and primary source of food and income. However, there is a dire need of incorporated the restorative crops into the cropping system such as forage legumes, which not only provide food for the livestock to produce milk and meat but also restoring nutrients back to soil, and therefore avoid excessive depletion of nutrients from soil by creating a natural balance. Few presenters said that there is not enough research available but with due respect, I disagree with this as lot of research work available in the developed countries like Australia, which can be used for capacity building of the developing world researchers and modified according to the local environments and needs of the farmers. To me the possible solution of the current problems would be combination of strategies based on the needs of the smallholder farmers, not the researchers.
The concept of farm intensification would be good idea to make farms commercially viable but it’s not realistic approach and can lead to unemployment and hunger. Instead of farm intensification, the more optimistic and workable approach would be making these small land holdings into more productive units by increasing yields per acre with minimum cost of production as Dr Cary Fowler said. This not only increase the farmer’s income to improve their livelihoods and help in poverty alleviation, but also encourage small farmers to increase production per unit area with the existing resources. The small-scale business opportunities like VBFSE can be used for food production directly (grain) and indirectly (fodders), plus quality improved seed produced as a result of this can be sell to other farming communities to generate income and disseminate productive germplasm.
It was a great opportunity for networking and I made lots of new contacts including Crawford committee members, young scholars and early career researchers. I also had the opportunity to meet with ACIAR officials and discuss my research work with them and possible future collaboration to develop project for the smallholder farmers of Pakistan in the agriculture and livestock sectors.

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Josephine Wright

I’m a third year International and Global Studies student from Sydney University. I have just spent six months studying Geography and Bahasa Indonesia at the University of Indonesia and am very interested in issues of agriculture and food security in Indonesia. I am looking forward to the Crawford conference as I am hoping it will provide inspiration for my honours thesis which I will begin in Semester 1 next year.

Conference Report
The 2015 Crawford Fund conference made an incredibly strong impression on me. As an undergraduate with limited previous exposure to the agriculture industry, being suddenly plunged into the Crawford network in all its richness proved to be a very inspiring experience. The Crawford Fund conference has been central in prompting a personal revaluation of my future career trajectory in the realisation of the many opportunities that really exist for both local and global agriculture research. While it has been something I have long been interested in, the issues and opportunities discussed at the conference have cemented in my mind the importance of meaningful, professional engagement with the agriculture industry, and the imperative of striving for global food security in a range of different sectors.
The first day of Crawford Fund conference was really eye opening in that it gave me insight into perspectives of and actors in the pursuit of food security that I had not previously considered. As a student of the social sciences, having a range of business and agriculture science oriented perspectives really opened my mind to plurality of levels at which food security issues operate, and conversely can be addressed and solved. The emphasis on the need for multi- sectoral engagement resonated strongly with me as the need for governance from both business, governments, natural scientists and social scientists was emphasised.
The scholars’ day proved to be particularly exciting as we were given insight into the range of volunteer and career opportunities on offer for young people. I found it useful to hear from a number of different people, all at different stages in their career and with different backgrounds, as it allowed me to envisage my own place among the fold of professionals in the pursuit of sustainable agriculture and food security. I really loved talking to the older generation of Crawford members who had great stories and advice to offer from their many years of experience in the field. They were all incredibly welcoming and encouraging.
What I would say was the highlight of the conference for me was the opportunity to hear several talks by Cary Fowler. His speeches were undoubtedly some of the most inspiring I have heard in my life and his unique perspective on the future of our planet’s biodiversity made a lasting impression on me. Not only is he a deeply intelligent scientist, but the way he spoke was so eloquent and moving and his disposition so humble that it was a real pleasure to be in his presence.
I am really grateful to have been given the opportunity to attend the 2015 Crawford Fund Annual Conference. I know that the lessons learned will stick long in my mind and the other scholars I was able to meet will remain contacts that I will most likely meet again in the future. I think the scholar program is a wonderful initiative!

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