Tas 2016 Conference Scholars

The Crawford Fund’s Tasmania State Committee is proud to have sponsored three scholars to attend the 2016 annual conference on ‘Waste Not, Want Not: The Circular Economy to Food Security’. Click on the links below to view the scholar’s reports, which summarise their overall impressions of the conference.

Tas Committee Sponsored Scholars
John Otto, University of Tasmania
Suresh Panta, University of Tasmania
Elya Richardson, University of Tasmania

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2016 Tas Committee sponsored scholars
2016 Tas Committee sponsored scholars

John Otto

The Crawford Fund’s 2016 food security conference focused on food loss and waste along the supply chain – in production, in getting product to market, and in the management and reuse of waste. Prior to attending the Waste Not, Want Not: The Circular Economy to Food Security conference, I thought we, the human race, were not making any palpable efforts to deal with the scourge of food security issues affecting peoples in developing countries. However, the experience and knowledge gained from this year’s conference have given me confidence that the issue of food security can be solved by the selfless effort of the many working in the field. By attending this conference I was fortunate to meet passionate eminent scientists from around the world who are doing their utmost to solve the issue of food security. This, combined with my own personal experience, has strongly encouraged me to become proactive.

I was born in Sudan, but due to political circumstances, spent most of my childhood in a refugee camp where I experienced first-hand the devastating consequences lack of food security can bring. For instance, during this period of my life, I witnessed many of my peers suffering agonising deaths in their young age, while some ended up with mental health issues, and others suffered from stunted growth syndrome. These experiences left an enduring effect on me and have driven me to pursue a career in agricultural science. However, upon successfully completing my PhD studies in agricultural science I was not sure where and how to get involved in international agriculture. Therefore, the opportunity to attend the Crawford Fund conference this year was timely.

Recognition is increasingly given to the need of improving agricultural production and efficiency to meet growing global food demand. The use of innovative technologies as demonstrated clearly by Professor Louise Fresco is one solution. Professor Louise Fresco defined that global food insecurity poses an imminent threat to the livelihood of humanity and priority should be placed on this matter. Professor Louise Fresco’s insights, along with discussion and networking, provided me with a practical feeling for international agriculture and widened my scope of understanding of global food security issues. Through these meetings I discovered international agriculture is a benign tool that can be used to deliver inputs arising from agricultural research and development to relieve rural poverty in developing countries through increased productivity. Moreover, I discovered international research and development in agriculture is an engine for economic progress in developing countries whose communities are dependent on local food production, and resource management for their food security. I also learnt that agricultural research is a significant, benign and essential tool in addressing food security and natural resource management globally and therefore my agricultural science skills would be vital in supporting this progress.

To me, the highlight of the conference was fostered by listening to the distinguished speakers who challenged me as a young scientist not to sit on my laurels, but to become proactive about food security. This was clearly demonstrated by the talk given by Simon Costa., demonstrating that if you want a problem solved you go to the problem, find the source and solve it. I was particularly impressed by the presentations of Dr. Washington Otieno and Salesh Kumar whose work in Kenya and Fiji, respectively, demonstrate that innovative ideas using scientific methods can be utilised to solve simple food security issues at the ground level. However, a caution was highlighted by Professor Louise Fresco who indicated that not only is there a need for more food production, but the type of foods and the nutritional contents are to be considered.

My interest in international agriculture was consolidated through attending this year’s conference organised by the Crawford Fund. However, one recommendation is that I would like to see people with a similar background to me invited to speak on social and political issues affecting food security in their countries. I believe this will raise social/political awareness among the young scholars and the audience attending, and give a different perspective to the scientists.

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Suresh Panta

The conference that I attended was “Waste Not, Want Not: The Circular Economy to Food Security’, which was organised by the Crawford Fund. At this conference I had an opportunity to listen to very high quality talks presented by experienced researchers and professionals. However, I most enjoyed the talks presented by Prof. Louise Fresco, Prof. Ashok Gulati, Dr. Karen Brooks and Mr. Simon Costa. If I had to select one presenter out of four, I would go with Mr. Simon Costa. I was very impressed with him for his commitment to address global food security and the work he is doing to reduce food waste by improving/ modifying storage facilities. I am sure that he is an amazingly dynamic person and he has valuable information to share. In his presentation, he pointed out the amount of food being wasted in the value chain, especially in storage, and the urgent need of technology suitable and affordable to poor farmers around the world. Certainly there was a wealth of data in his presentation and I believe it should be good enough to inform the relevant authorities to act upon the food security problem.

Although the conference had several strengths, it also had weaknesses—i.e. some issues such as climate change and global land degradation problems that have direct impact on food security were not being seriously discussed. Also, the concepts and strategies shared throughout the seminar related to food waste may not be applicable globally. However, by attending this conference I am aware and I have learned so many new techniques to minimize food waste. Overall, the conference was far from wasted days, so I strongly encourage people to participate in this type of conference in future.

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Elya Richardson

In 2015 I completed my Bachelor of Agricultural Science at UTAS and also had the great privilege of undertaking my honours project in NW Vietnam. It was one of the most challenging yet rewarding experiences ever! Travelling to the villages and meeting the different people involved gave me the motivation and enthusiasm to continue when the going got tough, and it also helped me to keep my research culturally appropriate and easily applicable.

This experience fuelled my interest in international agriculture and I was delighted to receive a scholarship to the 2016 Crawford Conference—Waste Not, Want Not: The Circular Economy to Food Security. It was so motivating to be at a conference dedicated to discussing international agricultural issues. It was so inspiring to be able to network with people from around the world and who work across a broad spectrum of agricultural disciplines.

Professor Louise Fresco presented the Sir John Crawford Memorial Address this year titled ‘The Future of Our Food’ and it was an excellent, engaging presentation. Two other excellent presentations that stood out to me were Simon Costa’s “Towards Eradicating a Major Cause of Food Unavailability: On-Farm Losses” and Madaline Healey’s presentation on Crop Health Capacity Building in Least Developed Countries—A Unique Approach. Both speakers were passionate about their work and had an enthusiasm for improving agricultural practices and enabling change that was inspiring and encouraging.

The entire conference had a strong emphasis on networking, and everyone was friendly and happy to chat and network with and it was great to hear other people’s experiences and their journeys of how they got to where they were. This was especially encouraging for me, since I had just received confirmation of my application for a PhD through UTAS, where I will be working in Vietnam as part of the ACIAR Beef Cattle Project. However, this time my research will have a social research focus—a challenge that I am looking forward to. I especially enjoyed the scholars’ day where we got to meet and chat with a mentor we had been assigned and also the session where we heard presentations from a volunteer, a trainer, a researcher and an ACIAR graduate.

I would like to thank the Crawford Fund, especially Cathy Reade for organising all the conference scholars and presenting such an excellent conference, the RAID network for setting up an ongoing mentoring program, ACIAR, where my International Ag Research journey began—for their support in my honours project and their ongoing support for my PhD project, and finally to the many lovely people I met and were encouraged by, thank you for so generously sharing your time, your experiences and your wisdom with me. I hope we meet again soon.

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