Adding ‘international’ to agriculture for the NextGen

June 30, 2020

For over a decade, The Crawford Fund has been working to encourage the next generation in ag for development, highlighting the rewarding career pathways available.

Our initiatives in this arena include hosting, partnering and training with the Researchers in Agriculture for International Development (RAID) Network; public events with a ‘nextgen’ focus; our conference scholar program; the State and Territory committees’ annual student awards, and providing volunteering opportunities in our mentoring program.

Our activities were given an added boost in 2019 with funding from ACIAR to support additional ‘nextgen’ work. And we’ve had the good news that the funding (and related activities) will continue in 2020/2021.

In the June issue of The Journal of Agricultural Science, available to members of the Ag Institute of Australia, the Crawford Fund’s Director of Outreach, Cathy Reade features the Crawford Fund’s niche involving the next generation of researchers and volunteers, and highlights the benefits young Australians have received being involved.

For more information about our ‘nextgen’ activities, please contact Cathy, who manages the Fund’s NextGen activities [email protected] or 0413 575 934.

The article has been reproduced with permission below.

It’s been heartening to read reports of the growing interest in study related to agriculture over recent years. This is thanks, no doubt, to the many players who have been involved for many years encouraging young Australians to do so, including the Australian Council of Deans of Agriculture, the Primary Industry Education Foundation of Australia, the Future Farmers Network, the Young Farming Champions program and, of course, the Ag Institute.

The Crawford Fund has offered a growing set of ‘NextGen’ programs over 10 years to encourage the next generation – passionate students, researchers and farmers – in their studies and careers and into volunteering opportunities in agriculture for development.

We want to improve awareness of the varied, meaningful and beneficial outcomes for Australian students, Australian agriculture and for food and nutrition security in developing countries by being involved in international agricultural research and management. And we want to highlight the broad range of pathways to career opportunities in international agriculture including science, social sciences, environmental sciences, health and nutrition, economics and business studies.

We’ve had regular public events and offered annual conference scholarships and student awards, as well as volunteering opportunities in our mentoring program.

“If I didn’t know a career in agricultural science was right for me until the Crawford Fund 2019 Conference, I certainly do now. Attending this conference reinvigorated my drive for fighting the current and impending climate crisis in any way I can.” Amy Mackenzie, CSIRO Ag & Food, Crawford Fund Conference Scholarship recipient.

The Crawford Fund ‘family’ with 2019 Conference Scholars.

We also have the major advantage of hosting and partnering with the Researchers in Agriculture for International Development Network. RAID is an Australia-based network  founded by a group of motivated young Australian researchers – most with connections through the Fund’s conference scholarships and awards and graduate placements at the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR). The Crawford Fund and ACIAR readily encouraged and supported the group.

We have now been able to enhance these efforts with a new set of activities supported by ACIAR to connect with the myriad of organisations and influencers encouraging young Australians into agriculture, such as those mentioned above.

“My work’s really important here because I’ve got a couple of really good skills in entomology and agricultural development and I can pass these on to the people I work with, and they can pass them on to farmers…and [they can grow] 50 cabbages instead of 20.” Madaline Healey of her volunteer experience with us in Laos. She’s now a mentor, RAID Executive member and Crawford Fund State Committee member.

Madaline Healey in a workshop for Laos farmers on weeds and the safe use of pesticides.

In our NextGen project’s first six months, we have had a terrific response from those already active with young Australians and agriculture. They have had us present nine NextGen events around the country; young and ‘older’ researchers have produced a series of blogs and opinion pieces; a set of videos have focused on volunteering opportunities with the Fund; there has been a webinar hosted; a podcast has been produced, more videos filmed and our social media channels have been getting lots of NextGen interest. We are also working on developing some food security curriculum materials for high school teachers and hope to be further highlighting career pathways in the year ahead.

COVID-19 has put some of our plans for 2020 on hold but NextGen panels and talks at ag shows, ag career expos, university open days, and high school professional teacher association events will again be pursued.

In the meantime, the Ag Institute has plenty of members who have international ag development experience and we would welcome approaches on your advice for the NextGen!

Members who are involved overseas may also be able to mentor or provide a placement for some of our funded awardees. Our awards are now open and provide young ag researchers with an opportunity to add an international element to their studies. Check our website for details of how to apply.

“There is nothing that can replace personal experience and I am so grateful that the Crawford Fund appreciate this and enable overseas hands-on experiences, through this Award.” Samantha Nowland, University of the Sunshine Coast, Crawford Fund Student Award recipient – now RAID State Rep.

Samantha Nowland during a research visit to the Pacific.

Members of the Institute with an interest are encouraged to sign up for news from the Fund or connect through our social media channels. We also encourage early career members to join RAID, and State Divisions are encouraged to contact RAID’s State representatives to work together and share opportunities.

And hopefully, in the post-COVID-19 world, the Institute will host a Crawford Fund NextGen panel and you can hear their passion and commitment as well as the personal and professional benefit to them while they’re having a real impact for global food and nutrition security.