Happy news-y year!

December 22, 2020

Raising awareness of the benefits to Australia and developing countries from international agricultural research through traditional media was challenging in 2020. Understandably, column inches filled with news of the pandemic as it spread across the globe in the first half of the year. However, we made sure that the impact of the pandemic on food and nutrition security got some attention. We ploughed on and finished the year with a healthy collection of media coverage. Like many individuals and organisations, we were grateful for the greater engagement achieved through our social media channels.

The impact of COVID-19 on the world’s poor and hungry means that the work of the Crawford Fund and its national and global partners is more important than ever. Presenting the achievements of Australian researchers, volunteers and students, and our global partners in agricultural research and development across numerous countries, commodities and disciplines is a significant focus of our work, and we are proud of the results achieved.

The many online events we organised or participated in; our policy expertise in international agricultural for development; our NextGen activities and our work helping our stakeholders with engagement activities, provided the main focus this year, when our annual conference was not the usual drawcard for the media.

Like many of our Australian and global partners, the Crawford Fund has made a number of statements related to the impact of COVID-19 on global food and nutrition security. An international effort is underway to bring attention to the need for concerted action to reduce the impact of the current pandemic on food and nutrition security. We received considerable coverage on COVID-related stories including:

A real highlight of our outreach efforts this year involved a strong focus on our boosted NextGen program, and it resulted in a number of our past young scholars, student awardees and RAID members gaining critical media and communication exposure for their research and achievements in agricultural research for development. Hear or read about:

Our NextGen-ers also outdid themselves as we celebrated successful appearances as part of National Science Week activities in the ACT, NSW and Tasmania this year. Young Australian scientists spoke passionately about their diverse and rewarding work in developing countries as part of our “Science for Food Security: Making a Global, Career and Personal Difference” series. Coverage was generated in Grains Central, The Land, Research4Ag mag, ABC Country Hour Tasmania, and ABC Country Hour NSW.

We would like to thank National Science Week, the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), Researchers in Agriculture for International Development (RAID) Network, and the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture (TIA) for their support for our Science Week events.

Other media highlights in 2020 include:

  • The Crawford Fund’s submission to Australia’s new agriculture development policy received coverage on the ABC and the Australian Community Media
  • Tania Paul, our NT Committee Coordinator spoke about a DFAT-funded school gardens program launched in Papua New Guinea in an effort to boost the amount of fresh local produce being grown, and to also provide jobs in the region. Coverage was achieved on ABC’s NT Country Hour and Radio Australia and Devex.
  • Work by International Livestock Research Institute to identify new genetic traits in African cattle that provide heat and drought tolerance, control inflammation and tick infestations, and resistance to devastating livestock diseases including trypanosomiasis was covered extensively throughout Australia’s rural media with Professor Shaun Coffey, the director of capacity building at the Crawford Fund and former chief of CSIRO Division of Livestock Industries, talking about the research and its potential impacts far beyond Africa.

In relation to our social media efforts, we certainly missed the attention we normally get through our Annual Conference, but we still managed a great year in which:

  • Crawford Fund social media platforms reached 2.61 million people
  • Total followers across all platforms have increased by 21% this year to 10,240
  • Twitter followers increased by 16%, and Facebook by 45%
  • Website visits from social media have increased 243% to 8,500 visits
  • Our new NextGen hashtag #NextGenAg4D, adopted since September this year, has reached over 402,000 people

Unfortunately, we were unable to host any journalist visits to developing countries as part of our ‘seeing is believing’ efforts to spread the word about the fantastic work Australia is involved in overseas. We look forward to planning an engaging visit for Natalie Parletta as the winner of our 2019 Food Security Journalism Award and to the return of the award in 2021.

In 2021 we hope to move beyond ‘unprecedented times’, do less ‘pivoting’ and hope that our ‘new normal’ allows us to get back to what we do best – spreading good news stories about agriculture for development and sharing our impact in training, mentoring, volunteering and outreach activities with you.

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