“I still think of it as a pivotal moment in my career and thinking” – Crawford Fund Scholarships: kick-starting rewarding further study and careers

April 18, 2024

The Crawford Fund has launched its conference scholarships – a fantastic opportunity for people under 35 who are passionate about food and nutrition security or agricultural research and development.

Applications close COB Friday, 24 May 2024.

Our past scholars come from a diverse range of disciplines, including outside agriculture, but all had a strong interest in food and nutrition security. They have been all overwhelmingly positive about their conference scholarship experiences, seeing it as an invaluable mentoring, networking and motivational experience.

Celebrating 14 years of conference scholarship opportunities, we recently reached out to our past scholars, all 403 of them, to ask them what they were doing now, and what impact the scholar program had on their career pathway.

From university degrees across various disciplines, our former scholars are working or studying further in areas including teaching, the soil carbon sector, digital agriculture, journalism, climate change, agriculture development, crop breeding, herbicide research and development, renewable energy transition, farm business, beef production and even growing plants in space!

Here are just some of pathways our scholar alumni have travelled into international agriculture for development following their conference scholarship experience.

Elena Martin Avila, and David Gale worked in international agriculture for development following their experience as a Crawford Fund scholar.

“I ended up spending 18 months in Vietnam as part of my post-graduate studies. I undertook a range of field and lab work looking at the amelioration of acid sulphate soils with compost. I was the recipient of an Endeavour Scholarship which meant that I focused a bit more on the ‘soft diplomacy’ than I might have otherwise.”

David Gale, 2012 Scholar
Plant Biosecurity at NSW Department of Primary Industries

“Once I finished my PhD, I spent five years working in South Asia with CIMMYT, as a project leader of ACIAR, on Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation projects and also projects funded through USAID.”

Brendan Brown, 2014 Scholar
Research Scientist at CSIRO, working on climate change adaptation across the global Excellence in Agronomy 2030 program, as well as adoption work across Asia and domestic risk and decision making with GRDC

“I work on several international agriculture projects (Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Timor Leste) and also take students on study tours (Cambodia, Timor Leste). I also supervise international Higher Degree Research students.”

Jen Bond, 2015 Scholar
Senior Lecturer in Human Geography, Charles Sturt University

“My career now focuses on agriculture development! All because of the conference I attended and the scholars’ days! I joined the Australian Volunteers Program in Samoa working as an advisor to the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries in 2017.”

Elena Martin Avila, 2015 Scholar
Assistant Director at DFAT, working in Agricultural Development (and about to head to a posting in Jakarta)

Rebecca Cotton, Joseph Vile and Matt Champness offered valuable advice to university students and early career researchers about leaping into the world of international agricultural for development.

Some of our past scholars offered advice on breaking into the rewarding field of international agriculture research including casting a wide net in seeking out formal employment opportunities, volunteering, strategic further studies, establishing partnerships and staying connected.

“My number 1 recommendation is the ACIAR graduate program. The exposure and contacts you make as part of this program will open up a myriad of opportunities.  Also, stay linked with RAID, The Crawford Fund, ACIAR and AgriFutures Australia plus general research happenings etc. You never know what opportunities will emerge. Don’t rule out work in the Australian context. There are numerous synergies to research and work here in Australia that can be applied internationally. You never know what opportunities will open up in the international space.”

Rebecca Cotton, 2016 Scholar
PhD Candidate and contracting to the Agribusiness Program at ACIAR and working on the Crawford Fund Master Class program

“I still think of my conference scholarship as a pivotal moment in my career and thinking. My target delivery area for my lab based research is still smallholder farmers – we are still ‘upstream’ from in-field works although will be progressing our plant material to field testing in West Africa and Southeast Asia in the coming project phase. We have worked with partner research organisations in both regions to establish the relationships and knowledge (eg of farmer-preferred varieties) needed to set this up for success. Having a clear vision of the destination and target market for your research outputs can help anticipate and navigate the Ag4Development potential, challenges and knowledge development needed to aid in delivery.”

Kathy Dibley, 2017 Scholar
Crop disease resistance researcher with a focus on smallholder cereal crops at CSIRO

“Through enrolling in a Masters of Environmental Management & Development part time at the ANU, I was provided an opportunity to travel to China’s Yunnan Province for a field school on agritourism development. I have also put my hand up to assist Vietnamese water management delegations to Australia. I have stayed connected to the Crawford Fund and RAID through participation in webinars and online attendance at conferences.”

Joseph Vile, 2018 Scholar
Murray-Darling Basin Authority

“Initially out of university, I took an opportunity with Australian Volunteers Programs in Laos to get more hands-on experience in international agriculture for development, and this was supported by Crawford Fund mentoring and financial project support. I realised to continue in international agriculture for development I needed post grad studies to ‘tick the box’. My advice is to find an international development project to focus your PhD on. It is particularly challenging to get a job in this space if you’re direct supervisors / university are not involved. Opportunities come from word of mouth, so you need to put yourself out there and get in touch with ACIAR managers, university staff running projects, contacts in UN agencies etc.”

Matt Champness, 2018 Scholar
Part time Senior Ag Advisor with Local Land Services, NSW and consultant to World Bank, FAO, ACIAR on various international agricultural research and development projects

Amy Bates and Sang Le are both scholars from the last two years who have already travelled and worked overseas to explore career pathways in international agriculture for development.

Even our most recent scholars have leapt into the world of international agriculture for development with gusto.

“I received a Crawford Student Award to travel to Fiji and assist with data collection in a small ruminant project. I also attended the Crawford Fund Conference in 2023, and have now taken on the post-doc role with an ACIAR funded component.”

Amy Bates, 2022 Scholar

“I have been a part of some project meetings with ACIAR on projects in the Solomon Islands and been involved with agricultural practices in the Solomon Islands.”

Isabelle Thomas, 2022 Scholar

“I have been working under the ACIAR project entitled “Goat Production Systems and Marketing in Lao PDR and Vietnam”. My contribution to the project was the identification of genetic diversity and the level of genetic inbreeding for Lao native goats. The paper regarding this topic has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Animal Breeding and Genetics.”

Sang Le, 2023 Scholar

About the program

These conference scholarships are an integral part of suite of NextGen activities to encourage young people in their study, careers and volunteering in international agricultural research and showcase for them the diversity of pathways available to explore.

The scholars are involved in two ½ days of activities in addition to the conference. They engage with the speakers, experienced Australian agricultural researchers and educators, and other passionate young people who have experience overseas in developing countries as researchers, volunteers or mentors.

The scholarships are awarded through our State and Territory programs, with conference registration fees and reasonable transport, food and accommodation costs covered by the award. Please note: applications are open Australia-wide (except Queensland as they have already arranged their recipients).

This year the conference scholar program will run from midday on Monday 12 August until 12pm on Wednesday 14 August, around our annual conference.

Full details on eligibility and the application process are here

Any questions can be directed to the Crawford Fund Coordinator for your State/Territory.

The application process is simple with a short online application form.

We are really appreciative of the assistance we get in running the scholar activities by members of the Researchers in Agriculture for International Development (RAID Network).

You can read about the experiences of our most recent scholars here.

Our 2024 conference

We will announce all the details of our conference soon, but the title is Food and Nutrition Security: Transformative Partnerships, Local Leadership and Co-Design. Just how we work in true partnerships to develop, design, and implement new projects, build capacity, and have on the ground impact overseas and in Australia is a critical challenge.

Our 2024 conference will consider how high-quality research partnerships can be built; how these should deal with delivering high impact outcomes in a range of challenging operating environments; and what the mutual capacity building needs are to facilitate these goals.