Food & Nutrition Security – The Biosecurity, Health, Trade Nexus

13-14 December 2021, Canberra


Dr Jay Anderson

Senior Research Fellow at Southern Cross University and former Crawford Fund scholar, volunteer and mentor

Dr Jay Anderson is a Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Organics Research at Southern Cross University. She is a plant pathologist focused on integrated disease management of tropical and subtropical horticultural crops. Jay has worked in government, university, private enterprise and in an industry representative body, and in all these roles, her work focused on practical solutions for farmers. Jay volunteered through the Australian Volunteer Program with the Crawford Fund’s long-term program in Lao PDR where she was able to use her pathology skills to work with colleagues studying banana leaf diseases in the south of the country. She considers it a career highlight to meet small-holder farmers and share her knowledge with Lao colleagues, and learning so much from them and her Australian counterparts. A short video interview on this experience is here.

From field to the lab


Dr Jay Anderson, Senior Research Fellow at Southern Cross University, former Crawford Fund Scholar, AVP Volunteer in Lao PDR, and current Crawford Mentor

The Crawford Fund has supported a long-running program providing plant pathology and entomology support for small-holder farmers and provincial and district staff in southern Lao PDR. The program has involved over 32 volunteers, mentors and students covering 55 cash crops involved in poverty alleviation. The program has been focussed on identifying the key pests and diseases while working directly with the farmers to develop appropriate management practices. We endeavour to empower government advisors to work with farmers to alleviate poverty, for example, through the production of high value horticulture crops. Activities have included workshops, establishment of small diagnostic laboratories and the development of pest and disease checklists and extension materials. Benefits also flow to Australia with volunteers and mentors gaining exposure to pests and diseases not present in Australia, and the opportunity to build professional networks.

In this case study Dr Jay Anderson will describe the ‘field to lab’ approach which has characterised this program and made it successful. Dr Anderson visited Savannakhet and Champasak provinces in February and March 2019 as a volunteer with the Australian Volunteer Program. She worked with local government advisors to visit smaller holder farmers and survey the leaf diseases which affect bananas in southern Lao PDR. In-field training for identification of banana leaf diseases was undertaken. Samples were taken to the laboratory for preliminary identification providing the opportunity for training in specific techniques for working with banana leaf pathogens. Samples were sent to colleagues in internationally recognised laboratories for formal identification making use of the specialised resources not present in Lao PDR. During COVID, ongoing support for the identification of pest and diseases and their management has been through the use of social media such as WhatsApp which link the network of past volunteers, mentors and Lao counterparts.