Back to business as usual?

February 28, 2023

Foreword to our Year In Review
From Our Chair and CEO

At last, as we write this in the final quarter of 2022, the Crawford Fund is operating again with a semblance of normality after over two years of Covid disruption. We are keeping our fingers crossed that ongoing vaccination and the build-up of community immunity keep it this way, but we do have to be prepared for new outbreaks.

2022 was special for both the Crawford Fund and ACIAR in that we had 35th and 40th anniversaries respectively. These anniversaries were celebrated at our annual conference held in Parliament House in August 2022, Celebrating Agriculture for Development: Outcomes, Impacts and the Way Ahead. In reality, we actually have held two conferences in less than 12 months as we ran the postponed August 2021 conference in December 2021 – Food & Nutrition Security – The Biosecurity, Health, Trade Nexus. Both events attracted good attendance as hybrid in-person/webcast events.

The focus for our 2021 event highlighted the criticality of interactions between human health, agriculture and the environment. Clearly, as population pressure increases the chances of new pandemics crossing from animals to human are more probable. Similarly, the impacts of agriculture on the environment in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, land clearing and soil and water degradation are also going to require an increasing policy and management focus everywhere.

Our second 2022 conference will fall in next year’s reporting period, but the take home message was that public investment in international agricultural research and development has paid off handsomely and enabled food production to keep up with a rising global population. However, at the same time the increased resources used have exacerbated environmental problems including soil and water degradation, greenhouse gas emissions and pollution.

When the issues of our two conferences are coupled with increasing geopolitical uncertainty, particularly in the Pacific and war in the Ukraine, it is clear that there is no room for complacency. Maintaining focus on international agricultural research is vital if we are to meet the challenges of the next 20 years which will include increasing food production, improving the environmental sustainability of agriculture and reducing greenhouse gas emissions from all aspects of food production.

However, the proportion of government spending devoted to both international and national agricultural research has been declining globally over the last twenty plus years. In Australia international agricultural research spending is only 2.5% of our overseas assistance budget, which itself has declined significantly in recent years. In Sub-Saharan Africa national governments’ investment in agricultural R&D had dropped from 0.6% to 0.4% of budgets over the last 40 years! We are gearing up for our 2022-2023 activities to bring more attention to this in our planned “Doing Well by Doing Good” campaign, to be launched in late 2022.

The Crawford Fund depends on its people! We would like to thank all our staff, coordinators and State and Territory committee members, our Board and the RAID network team for their dedication and hard work that has ensured we have kept active over the last 12 months. Highlights in this year-in-review show how we have managed to remain active through the most difficult time of COVID, with delivery of new Master Classes on-line, an e-mentoring program, the NextGen program for high schools and RAID’s building of networks with Vietnam and our well attended annual conference.

We also want to voice our gratitude to Mr Alex Campbell AM, who resigned from the Board in August 2021 and welcome Dr Mark Sweetingham PSM, who replaced him on the board and as WA Chair.

The Hon John Anderson AC

Chair, Crawford Fund

Dr Colin Chartres

CEO, Crawford Fund