News: So much to do and so much opportunity, February 2013

We’re keen to encourage young Australians into agricultural science, and more so, young scientists into international agricultural research. Read a recent report from one of our conference scholars which highlights the passion that can be generated by knowing more about food security issues.

To this end, we assist with volunteer placements through the Australian Youth Ambassadors program, offer some free places to students to attend our annual conferences, and we have funded young Australians from around the country to attend our last three conferences. This recent report is from one of the 2012 conference scholars, Kaylia Cameron, from the University of Tasmania.Scholar-Cameron_small_WR

“Attending the Crawford Fund Annual Parliamentary Conference was an  eye-opening experience. Prior to going, I was very unaware of the  necessity, opportunities, and activity in agricultural research and  development overseas. Having grown up in the north west of Tasmania and  never travelled internationally, my worldview was, and I think to some  degree still is, very limited by low exposure to the issues facing  developing countries.

We hear a lot on the news and in the media about the need to  introduce healthcare and education into poorly developed countries, and I think that less is known about the challenges in agriculture because we know there is some industry, all-be-it poorly managed and educated in  some respects. The conference opened my eyes to the gross inefficiencies and continuing challenges in many countries.

The conference theme was food security and natural resources. A  recurring topic was the need to address inefficiencies in fertiliser  use, both excessive application and reduced income in India, and the low availability and unaffordability of nutrients in most of Africa. Lack  of fertiliser is limiting production in Africa more than any other  factor, and there is a great need to develop agronomic skills to  maximise efficiency. We also need to do more research on soil science  and nutrient cycling in many areas.

TAS Scholars Mr Gavin Livingston (left), Mr Michael Tarbath (3rd from left), Ms Kaylia Cameron (right) with TAS Coordinator, Dr Neville Mendham (middle)

TAS Scholars Mr Gavin Livingston (left), Mr Michael Tarbath (3rd from left), Ms Kaylia Cameron (right) with TAS Coordinator, Dr Neville Mendham (middle)

Another topic was the great need to merge agriculture and  environmental conservation as a single approach, not treat the issues  and challenges separately. Agriculture needs to find a way to increase  production while reducing its environmental footprint, which is a  challenge to the sector in both well-developed and poorly developed  countries. I think this is a gigantic challenge and requires a bottom-up approach by making local changes to reduce and prevent future  environmental damage.

Another observation is that young agriculturalists need to be more  conscious of the political decisions around the world that impact how  people farm. This includes policy formation in our own country which  will influence what opportunity we, as a generation of researchers,  agronomists, business people and policy-makers, are able to have on the  poor, hungry and malnourished one billion we share this planet with.

I am so grateful to the Crawford Fund for supporting myself and the  other young scholars; they have provided a fantastic opportunity to be  enlightened on international agriculture and to develop contacts with  other people interested in the field. I would strongly encourage young  agricultural people to consider applying for a scholarship to get as  much exposure to what is happening overseas in your undergraduate as  possible. There is so much to do and so much opportunity!”