Vic Committee Sponsored Scholars
Click on the links below to view scholar bios and conference reports.
Jen Bond is a rural social researcher, focusing on agricultural extension, political ecology and climate adaptation. Jen holds a MSc. Agricultural Development and a PhD. Rural Development, both from the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, although her fieldwork was undertaken in Malaysian Borneo, India and Kenya. In 2013-2014, Jen spent 11 months as a volunteer with Hue University of Agriculture and Forestry in Vietnam. Now back in Australia, Jen is currently a Program Manager with Mallee Sustainable Farming in Mildura in addition to lecturing with Marcus Oldham College. Jen is looking forward to connecting with other Australians interested in the agricultural development space.
The recent Crawford Conference entitled ‘The Business of Food Security’ was a fantastic opportunity to meet others working in the international agricultural research or agricultural development space within Australia. The focus on the role of the private sector in contributing to food security is timely and highlighted the role already being played by the private sector in international development. Mr. Pratt, in his address to the conference, stated (paraphrased) that “the best social program is a good, paying job” and highlighted the links between Visy operations and small-holders in developing countries, particularly India. Mr. Chris Brett (Olam International) also spoke of the involvement of tens of thousands of small-holders involved in Olam operations, highlighting the scale of activity that large, multi-national companies are able to reach and the benefits of such reach. Interestingly, Mr. Brett reiterated the role that Olam plays in institutional strengthening in the countries in which Olam operates. As a social scientist, the socio-political aspects of agricultural development is at the forefront of my mind.
While the conference maintained a strong focus on the role of technical developments and innovation in agricultural production, I was pleased to hear about, and discuss with presenters, the role of rural development and the social aspects of agriculture and development in contributing to food security. Particularly, Dr. Marco Ferroni and I discussed the role of rural development in promoting food security as education, health care and other factors of human wellbeing are imperative for small-holders to build resilient and sustainable farming systems, contributing to their own food security and that of society more broadly. These aspects of rural development go beyond discussions of infrastructure and physical development such as roads and irrigation to produce food and physically access markets. Matt Wilson’s presentation also contributed to this discussion emphasizing the key roles of land tenure security, good governance, social inclusion of vulnerable peoples and sustainable markets (in multiple senses) in promoting robust development.
I appreciated Gerda Verburg’s presentation and the facilitated Q&A session in the afternoon where the Sustainable Development Goals were brought into the discussion which furthers this more holistic view of development and IAR as more than technological innovation. With good reason, the buzz words of the conference were Public Private Partnerships and ‘nutrition-sensitive agriculture’ and these discussions brought into clear perspective the major challenges that will continue into the future – those of genuine interdisciplinary work where we move away from ‘silos’ and the question of whose responsibility it is to take the lead. Dr. Lee’s referral to the term ‘NATO’ – No Action Talk Only – embodied some of this issues rather well.
While the conference put the role of the private sector in contributing to food security squarely in the spotlight, the focus was largely on multinational companies. Alison Eskesen did state that its critical to engage with local private companies not just multinationals but I felt that the conference was dominated by discussions of multinationals, which are able to ‘scale up’ in degrees that go far beyond country borders. I understand the significant advantage of this scaling but I felt that the conference overlooked or underplayed the balance between grass-roots, small-scale development and large scale development. I would also have appreciated some case studies highlighting some of the problems/issues/disadvantages with undertaking this large-scale development to balance the narrative. The best part of the conference for me was to be there, listen to the very interesting presentations and discuss some of the ideas with the other conference delegates and I really appreciate that I was given the opportunity by the Crawford Fund to be there. The Crawford Conference will definitely be a regular on my calendar into the future!
After growing up in Darwin, I completed my veterinary degree at Murdoch University in 2008. I then worked in mixed practice for three years, before I started working with the Mackinnon Project. I have a real passion for livestock preventative medicine and herd/flock health and joined the Mackinnon Project as a veterinary consultant to pursue that field. In my role as a veterinary consultant, I work to maximise whole farm profitability by managing the production and welfare limiting diseases of livestock. My PhD is focused on evaluating a winter scours (diarrhoea) syndrome that affects a large proportion of Merino lambs in the high rainfall region of south eastern Australia.
I’m really looking forward to meeting, with the hope of developing a network of, like-minded colleagues that share my passion for livestock production and agriculture. A more global perspective on the current and future prospects for our agricultural industries will be great.
I am approaching the final stages of my PhD and coming into the conference I had been giving serious thought to what my career direction will be following completion. Colleagues that had previously attended the Crawford Fund conference strongly encouraged me to apply and I cannot stress enough how much I have taken away from it.
One of the key messages I took from the conference was how much difference one person can actually make, and taking bite size pieces of the overarching problem is the best way to achieve a goal. A highlight of the conference was listening to and meeting Dr. Cary Fowler – a truly humble and remarkable man. I came away from the conference with a renewed appreciation for the importance of agriculture and also the role in which I hope to play in its sustainability.
As a veterinarian I have focused on improving animal health, welfare and productivity to make domestic livestock systems as efficient as they can be, with limited thought to how this may contribute to the sustainability of agriculture globally. When Dr. Fowler outlined the primary ways to help decrease the food shortage (i.e minimise waste, reduce protein requirement), it occurred to me that with a small shift in focus and some key discussions with clients, I could contribute to positive change immediately. In my field, wastage associated with death and disease, feed conversion efficiency and finding alternate feed sources for livestock are the avenues we can and should focus on. Encouraging our producers to quantify production wastage by focusing on decreasing mortalities and proactively managing animals to prevent malnutrition and disease, will help to increase economic returns and production outputs in the short term.
Internationally, the key messages from the conference were that collaboration and upscaling are fundamental for sustainable agriculture for the future. From where I stand, it appears that partnerships between government and non-government organisations are actively being sought and headway is being made, but upscaling will take time. Enhancing the shareholders social conscious will be important to generate necessary funds from the private sector.
On both a domestic and international level, social, cultural and economic differences can be significant barriers to change and upscaling enterprises will take time and patience. Education, knowledge extension and further research will continue to play a pivotal role in agriculture in developing countries and this is the field I want to pursue.
During the conference, I had the opportunity to meet some brilliant people outside of my primary field, both within the conference scholar and the delegate cohort. People in attendance were incredibly passionate about agriculture and there was a general feeling of excitement about the prospects of change going forward.
I left the conference mentally exhausted and with more questions than answers, but in my opinion, that is the sign of an incredible conference. I feel privileged to have attended and, through contacts I made at the conference, I am currently exploring avenues for involvement in international extension projects. I can’t thank the committee and sponsors enough for the scholarship, it is the most intense and thought provoking two days I have had in a long time.
A final year B. Agricultural Sciences/ B. International Development student studying at La Trobe University, I have a keen interest in improving food security within the Asian region. Through knowledge sharing, partnerships and international co-operation, I think Australia can play a significant role in providing a hand up to these nations and their respective communities, more so than a hand out. The 2015 Crawford Fund Conference will be of significance in highlighting the ways in which we can achieve this and promote agricultural sustainability domestically and internationally.
On the home stretch of my degrees I have been tirelessly applying for graduate programs and equally as tirelessly, panicking about what comes after graduation. I have been taking very immediate, short-term actions, hoping they would help me achieve my long-term goals. Attending the Crawford Fund Conference helped me see how very wrong I was in doing so.
The diversity and collective expertise and encouragement of speakers at the conference enabled me to understand and appreciate the need for co-operative, well-thought-through, long-term solutions if we are to achieve global food security. This goes without saying that given the urgency of the issue – there is no time for delay.
The Parliamentary portion of the conference really highlighted for me, the problems in the chain of ‘food security’ and governance, emphasizing the importance of functioning relationships between governments, the public and private sectors. More so, that profitability is not the enemy when talking about sustainable agriculture and food security, a concept I have grappled with during the course of my studies to date. This was particularly helpful as it is seemingly a common misconception and one of the roadblocks between scholars of agricultural and developmental streams in achieving food security and social development. This portion of the conference laid all the pieces on the table, openly and bluntly, which was very refreshing. However, it was Wednesday’s Scholar’s day that I found most encouraging, given my current position.
As only an undergraduate, I questioned my role or ability to ameliorate all the issues being brought up. The exposure the Crawford Fund Conference provided me to industry leaders and fellow scholars, all of them sincere and encouraging, made it all the more easy to understand where I fit in, in the broader scheme of things. It helped me acknowledge not only my abilities but also the opportunities in front of me, of which I must be assertive to as I broach the end of my undergraduate years. The Crawford Fund Conference has cemented my determination and given me the confidence to apply and strive for more than what I previously thought I was capable of.
The most frequent question I was asked during the duration of the conference was ‘what are you passionate about?’ As a long-term agricultural generalist with interests in every stream, the conference cemented yet again, my passion for global food security and ambition to achieve it. In saying this, I have shifted my focus from graduate programs to honors and post-graduate study, with a desire to focus on the area of soil-plant science, in respect to climate change.
There was an expanse of knowledge and wisdom given to the scholars over the course of the conference and one which has resonated with me was Dr. Lim Jung Lee’s advice – ‘if the door slams in your face, just keep knocking’.
It is with this that I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to The Crawford Fund for granting me the opportunity to attend The Crawford Fund Annual Conference 2015.
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