News: More Mentoring Planned, November 2017

The Crawford Fund’s existing long-term mentoring program in Laos, led by Prof Lester Burgess, is being boosted with a new program to begin in Cambodia, with lead mentor Dr Peter Batt.

As explained in the video on our mentoring program, it complements our training program by placing experienced Australians with developing country researchers to help them develop their technical and organisational skills, and expertise. We partner with Australian Government’s volunteer program to place young Australian ag researchers in-country for extended periods to work with the lead mentor and local researchers to develop capacity and skills around a food security issue they have identified.

Prof Lester Burgess, former Dean of Agriculture and now Honorary Professor at the University of Sydney has mentored local people in Vietnam, China, Indonesia, Tunisia, and Laos over the past 25 years. His most recent and current focus in our mentoring program is in Laos, supporting a team of volunteers in trade, crop health, biosecurity and food safety.

And now we are boosting this effort with a further program in Cambodia, with West Australian Dr Peter Batt.

“For any activity of this nature, it’s all about developing enduring long-term relationships,” said Peter, who until 2014 was Professor of Food and Agribusiness Marketing at Curtin University. Since then he has been consulting with international organisations including FAO, the International Finance Corporation, CTA and Australian institutions such as the ASEAN-Australia Council, the Ord River District Co-operative Ltd and AEGIC, covering countries including the Pacific Islands, Cambodia, Brunei Darussalam, Thailand and the Philippines.

“Initially, I will be working to build relationships with the donor, current and past research programs, the Royal Government of Cambodia, research institutes and NGOs with a view towards identifying opportunities for Australian volunteers and short-term training programs to add value to rural development activities.”

“Hopefully the Crawford Fund’s training program in Cambodia will be able to plug some of the gaps identified within existing projects. I also expect that in discussions with government, research institutes and NGOs, they too will have burning issues where short-term funding from Crawford and the placement of Australian volunteers can greatly improve the situation in-country,” he said.

Dr Burgess best explains the experience Peter has ahead of him: “It’s absolutely thrilling to be able to train young people and work with smallholder farmers. It’s scientifically fascinating…. (and) the personal enjoyment of working with smallholder farmers that you know is difficult to express. The volunteers also have a unique professional experience.”

One of the volunteers in our Laos program, Madaline Healey, has explained her experience in the program here.

The Fund is keen to further expand its mentoring program. Would you like to donate funds to help mentors work in developing countries to support smallholder farmers, local agricultural specialists, and extension officers? We’d welcome your support and as a charity, your donations are tax-deductible. Contact Cathy Reade on 0413575934 for more details.

We provide continual reports on our mentoring program on our website.