Hands-on approach to all things rice in the Philippines

June 2, 2020

As part of our concerted efforts to support and encourage the next generation of Australians in study, careers and volunteering in international agricultural research, the Crawford Fund State Committees proudly support our Student Awards

Our 2020 Student Awards are currently open! They are available for university students from every State and Territory so check out the backgrounder and apply online before 26 June 2020.

These awards allow university students from around Australia to include an international component to their studies, to travel to their host countries to research and explore their chosen topic areas and gain international agricultural research experience and expertise.

Throughout 2019, we have enjoyed sharing the journey of our 2018 recipients of these Awards and their experiences have been diverse and overwhelmingly positive. They are available here.

We now proudly present to you reports from our 2019 cohort as they complete their travels and research. A sample of reports from each State include Jori Bremer from the University of New England; Nadeem Akmal from the University of Canberra;  Daniel Waterhouse from Murdoch University; Cassandra Davitt from the University of Melbourne; and, most recently Oliver Gales from the University of Tasmania and Rebekah Ash from the University of Queensland.

Sam Coggins, a PhD student at the Australian National University and a recent ACIAR Graduate Research Officer, travelled to the Philippines to participate in the International Rice Research Institute’s Rice Research to Production course after receiving a Student Award from the Crawford Fund’s ACT Committee. This is his experience.

“The course enabled me to realise three desired outcomes. Firstly, it enabled me to develop knowledge critical to the development of the digital fertilizer advisory tool I’m co-developing for rice farmers in Myanmar. This critical knowledge includes rice agronomy, gender research and digital extension,” said Sam.

“Secondly, the course enabled me to interact face-to-face with the scientists I’m collaborating with for the digital fertilizer advisory tool. I had not met any of them face-to-face before, so the multiple in-depth interactions were invaluable for developing relationships and a mutual understanding with them,” he said.

“Finally, the course enabled me to connect with fellow agriculture for development enthusiasts, both IRRI employees and course participants. I am confident these valuable networks will be sustained for a very long time,” said Sam.

The course featured lectures and practical activities across a diverse range of disciplines applied to rice science including entomology, plant pathology, drone technology, plant physiology, breeding, gender research, videography, digital extension and weed science. Eighteen people participated in the course from 10 countries.

Sam in action out in the field

“I was concerned the course was going to go into excessive technical depth, but this did not happen at all. The researchers that presented were very focused on ensuring the knowledge they delivered was practical and accessible,” said Sam.

The IRRI course participants travelled to the Philippines from 10 countries

“The course was fantastic in so many ways. The course coordinators, Amelia Henry and particularly Josh Cobb, invested so much time, passion and energy into improving the course based on participant feedback. The course provided an excellent cross-section of practical knowledge surrounding rice research for development – genuinely research to production,” said Sam.

“The course was very hands on with plenty of opportunities to get out of the lecture room and into the field, and the course participants were from highly diverse backgrounds and this created rich opportunities for networking and cross-cultural understanding,” said Sam.

“I am deeply grateful to the ACT Crawford Fund Committee for creating this opportunity. It accelerated the development of my capacity as well as the digital fertilizer advisory tool we are developing for rice growers in Myanmar. Thank you,” concluded Sam.

Sam (left) from the ACT with NSW participant Nancy Saji (right)

The Crawford Fund’s NSW and ACT Committees have partnered with IRRI since 2009 to support a dozen scholarships for the next generation of university students to gain a deeper understanding of all facets of rice research and production as part of this short-course held annually and involving attendees from all over the world. We are also proud to have our Queensland Committee chair, Dr Kaye Basford, on the IRRI Board.