News: Our Conference Scholar Reflections Kick-Off With… Western Australia, September, 2018

The Crawford Fund has a number of programs to encourage the next generation in international agriculture for development – in their studies, careers and in volunteering.

There’s our opportunities in volunteering for projects overseas through the Australian Volunteers Program;  our work with Researchers in Agriculture for International Development (RAID), and our special international student awards to enable students to be involved in overseas projects as part of university study.

Our conference scholarship program started in 2010 in the hope that by experiencing the Crawford Fund conference and network, our special program of activities around the conference and being mentored by inspirational experienced researchers, young researchers would be inspired and energised to be more involved.

Our competitive Conference Scholarships are offered to young people with a genuine interest in international agricultural research and development to attend the conference and a special set of activities that we have developed since the program commenced in 2010. Our conference scholar alumni now stands at almost 270.

One of the requirements of the scholarship is that each scholar provides us with a reflection on their experience and we will be providing those reflections over the coming weeks, grouped by State.

Once again, we would like to thank our wonderful mentors who volunteer their time and offer valuable guidance, support and insights to the scholars throughout the conference. Our scholars’ mentors are listed with each scholar’s report.

Three West Australian scholars attended the 2018 Crawford Fund conference – two supported by our WA Committee and one by Emeritus Professor Malcolm Nairn AM.

WA Committee Sponsored Scholars

James Bidstrup, University of Western Australia

“I found it truly inspiring to be able to get to spend time with some of the brightest minds in agriculture and found hearing about their contributions to the international community very motivating. I am very excited about being able to utilise this knowledge and share it with the greater community whilst continuing to have discussions with members of the agricultural community regarding the global agriculture challenges we face and the roles we can play.”

Alicea Garcia, University of Western Australia

“The Scholar Program offered a supportive environment that encouraged young scholars to move forward in the field and gave valuable insight on how to do so. I highly recommend the program for anyone looking to further their career and activism in international agricultural research.”

Silke Jacques, CSIRO

“The best thing about this whole experience was the people. Meeting so many like-minded people covering such a wide range of different subjects and projects all trying to make a positive difference just blew my mind.”

WA COMMITTEE

James Bidstrup, University of Western Australia

Mentor: Sam Coggins, ACIAR

As a recent Agricultural Science graduate the chance to attend the 2018 Crawford Conference was a truly spectacular opportunity which has without a doubt helped to improve my knowledge of the international agriculture industry. The theme of this year’s conference was based around the nutrition aspect of our global food production systems and in particular reshaping agriculture to improve the nexus between agriculture, food and health.

In the decades post green revolution agriculture has achieved many incredible feats and yet now with our global society facing new challenges we must collectively set new goals that will help improve the health of our population whilst still ensuring food security. One of the largest problems we now face is the triple burden of undernourishment, over nourishment and micro nutrient deficiency which is causing a worldwide health epidemic that is in desperate need of the leadership of the next generation of agricultural and health scientists. Listening to the projects being run by members of the Crawford Fund it became obvious that in addition to the work Australia currently undertakes, our nation will play a crucial role in leading the way to improving diet standards and reshaping agriculture not only for a healthier, but also, a sustainable future.

Another important issue discussed at this year’s conference was how best the behaviours of our global society can change to incorporate more foods into a healthier diet without compromising convenience, cost or palatability. It is important to analyse ways in which agricultural producers can not only improve the health of the under nourished but also adapt to the needs of the growing population of those who are over nourished due to the consumption of cheaper, highly processed and high calorie food. A personal highlight was the discussion around the potential advantages and disadvantages of integrating genetic modification into our agriculture systems, which featured many differences of opinions and ideas around implementation but always contained facts and stayed entirely respectful.

The quality of all speakers at this event was superb and whilst everyone spoke with great concern surrounding the imminent need to adapt our production systems the atmosphere remained upbeat thanks to the positivity and enthusiasm displayed by both my peers and the speakers. Furthermore, having a mentor to help guide me through the conference was an invaluable resource as they can offer a wealth of knowledge and were perfectly tailored to our fields of interest and future aspirations. I also found it truly inspiring to be able to get to spend time with some of the brightest minds in agriculture and found hearing about their contributions to the international community very motivating.

I am very excited about being able to utilise this knowledge and share it with the greater community whilst continuing to have discussions with members of the agricultural community regarding the global agriculture challenges we face and the roles we can play. I am extremely grateful to have been able to attend this year’s Crawford Fund conference and would highly recommend attending RAID and Crawford Fund events to anyone who shows an interest in developing global agriculture.

Alicea Garcia, University of Western Australia

Mentor: Lynette Abbott, Crawford Fund WA Committee

The Crawford Fund 2018 Annual Conference and Scholar Program provided a wonderful opportunity for hearing from leading scholars and practitioners in the field of international agriculture. It also provided a unique platform for networking amongst my peers and the elected mentors. I must extend my gratitude to the Crawford Fund for selecting me as a scholar this year. As an early-career researcher it was a valuable and welcome opportunity, and I strongly encourage other young scholars to apply in the future.

Increasingly the world is becoming aware of the mounting crises malnutrition presents to our health as a global society. This year’s Conference theme ‘Reshaping agriculture for better nutrition – the agriculture, food, nutrition, health nexus’ brought the complexity of this issue to light. The sobering and incredibly informative presentations given by Dr Alessandro Demaio and Dr Jessica Fanzo at the beginning of the Conference at Parliament House introduced attendees to the multilayered nature of poor nutrition across the globe. This was followed by a day of ardent presentations outlining current projects and initiatives in international health and agriculture aiming to address the array of issues relating to poor nutrition in more specific contexts. From the perspective of a young researcher, it was interesting to hear from various actors working within intersecting but variant academic and corporate spaces. Further to this, the panel discussions following each session allowed for attendees and speakers alike to critically engage with one another. This encouraged an open and enriching conference environment in which questions were welcomed and productive debate could ensue.

The Scholar Program which commenced in the days before and after the conference accommodated a diverse range of young people working and studying in international agricultural research. I was fascinated with the range of research interests and pleased to meet a mix of hard science and soft science scholars. I feel this is important for bridging the gap between these fields and forming productive multi-disciplinary collaborations. I enjoyed spending time with my mentor, Emeritus Professor Lynette Abbott, who was both supportive and active in helping me to network and make connections with other attendees and scholars. As someone who works within the gender and agriculture scholarship, I was also pleased to find that gendered issues in agricultural research were addressed throughout both the Scholar program and the Conference. In particular, Professor Robyn Alders eloquently offered an experienced perspective on these issues.

Overall, the Conference and Scholar Program helped me to build my knowledge on the broader field of agriculture and nutrition that relates to my own research. The Scholar Program offered a supportive environment that encouraged young scholars to move forward in the field and gave valuable insight on how to do so. I highly recommend the program for anyone looking to further their career and activism in international agricultural research.

Silke Jacques, CSIRO

Mentor: TJ Higgins, CSIRO

The Crawford Fund scholar program to attend the conference “Reshaping Agriculture for Better Nutrition – The Agriculture, Food, Nutrition, Health Nexus” was a life-changing and unforgettable experience. Meeting so many extraordinary people doing amazing work that makes such a big impact is truly inspirational. I loved that we were teamed up with a mentor who is an established value in the field of international agriculture and who takes the time to get to know you and introduce you to other experienced gurus working in the international field. In my case, I was extremely honoured to be paired up with TJ Higgins, who is not only one of the most remarkable scientists, but also a very passionate and warm character who made me realise even more that this is the direction I want to move forward in.

The best thing about this whole experience was the people. Meeting so many like-minded people covering such a wide range of different subjects and projects all trying to make a positive difference just blew my mind. I was also very happy there was more than one scholar from WA and it was lovely to get in touch with them beforehand and have a bonding dinner on Sunday before the scholar program even kicked off, I will make sure to stay in touch with them!

The location of the conference was perfect, it was my first time in the parliament and it felt like you were part of where all the action is happening. The conference itself was an interesting mix of speakers and as a scientist, I particularly enjoyed the wide range of backgrounds, both in the room and taking the stage. I think it is very important we realize as scientists that doing the science alone in our little field of expertise, won`t be enough anymore. We need to engage and interact with scientists from completely different fields, convince policy makers of the necessity of our work and fight for change and most importantly listen to and involve the local communities.

I thought the first two speakers were great to frame and introduce the broader context of the problem and I enjoyed hearing about the new sustainable development goals. I must admit, I also only thought of malnutrition as one equation, the undernutrition, and never really considered it might be time to also act on the other part of the balance, the obesity problem. The conference was food for thought and there were so many questions in my head I previously hadn`t even considered and, in my opinion, those are the best sort of conferences, the ones that make you stop for a moment and reconsider your actions and views.

There were also many people in the room that I had previously reached out to but never had a reply from, so now was the perfect time to actually go and introduce myself. The networking was extraordinary and even if nothing comes out of it in the short term, it was an absolute bliss to have met so many great people. A big shout-out to the Crawford Fund for giving me this opportunity and for the RAIDers who are truly a unique bunch of people.