December 21, 2023
The Crawford Fund’s Annual Conference was held in September in Canberra and online.
As well as bringing together the world’s leading experts in agricultural science, research, policy, development and industry, the Crawford Fund encourages the next generation in international agriculture for development to the event via scholarships awarded through our State and Territory committees and scholar supporters.
Our competitive 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. The results have been fantastic, with a great mix of youth and experience at our flagship event each year and a growing and enthusiastic conference scholar alumni approaching 450.
Our other activities to encourage university students and early career researcher include highlighting opportunities in volunteering for projects overseas; 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 their university study.
One of the requirements of the scholarship is that each scholar provides us with a reflection on their experience. We have been providing these reflections over the past weeks, grouped by State.
We would like to thank our wonderful mentors, mentioned alongside the scholar they supported, who volunteer their time and offer valuable guidance, support and insights to the scholars throughout the conference.
Two scholars from the Northern Territory attended the 2023 Crawford Fund conference supported by our NT Committee. Highlights of their experiences have been captured below:
Patrick (Binyin) Di, Northern Territory Farmers Association
“The Crawford Fund has given me tremendous opportunities to listen to and understand the invaluable experiences of a handful of dedicated and talented people leading agricultural and food security research in the Global South. Their presence provided not only guidance to young scholars but also an honour and tribute to the accomplishments and legacies of those who have gone before.”
Leif Emberg, Southern Cross University
“This conference…illuminated the challenges and potential solutions in the quest for global food security, with diversification taking centre stage. It was evident that building personal networks and collaborating across disciplines are essential components of the journey toward more resilient food systems.”
Read on for the full reflections of each scholar:
Patrick (Binyin) Di, Northern Territory Farmers Association
Mentor: Megan Williams
I was deeply honoured to be part of the 2023 Crawford Fund Annual Conference and NextGen Scholar Programme in September. In many parts of the world, September means a time to harvest. From the Northern Territory’s perspective, mature mangoes are soon ready to be served on plates. It is also a time to reflect on global food security, since alarmingly, around 9.2 percent of the world population, ranging between 691 and 783 million, faced hunger in 2022, according to The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2023.
The current crisis in global food security has been exacerbated by the rising prices of food, agricultural inputs, and energy. Furthermore, the ongoing war in Ukraine has amplified these challenges. The recovery of jobs and incomes amongst the most vulnerable people has been hindered, impeding progress towards reducing hunger. Living in a first-world country like Australia, we so easily take our food for granted. We so easily forget the huge effort to produce our food to be displayed on shelves. As this conference entitled Global Food Security in a Riskier World: Diversification for Resilient Food and Nutrition Systems, a good understanding of both on- and off-farm risk mitigation strategies plays a significant role for researchers, policymakers and industry stakeholders in the realms of agricultural research for international development.
This conference once again emphasised that it is essential to invest more in agricultural research and development in developing countries in light of the current global challenges posed by the 3Cs: the COVID-19 pandemic, Climate Change, and Conflicts.
Throughout the conference, the speakers discussed both on-farm and off-farm solutions aimed at addressing the impediments and uncertainties around global food security. The conference revealed numerous examples and concepts to solve this complex issue from various angles: from sustainable intensification by adopting technologies in Africa attributed by Prof Jamie Pittock to the success of the circular economy in insect farming – Black Soldier Flies (BSL), mentioned by Dr Fathiya Mbarak Khamis. Moreover, the importance of Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) was highlighted by Dr Roya Khalil’s research in biofertilisers and enhanced efficiency fertilisers, Dr Warren T K Lee’s immense knowledge of on-farm agri-food system transformation and Professor Kadambot Siddique’s future smart crop proposal by promoting neglected and underutilised crops. Other focuses, such as supply chain resilience, diversification and policy options were also featured.
Australia is blessed by its geographic location and bountiful natural resources; it was therefore described as “The Lucky Country” by Donald Horne in 1964. Nevertheless, Australia is one of the few countries in the world that invests in agriculture research for international development space. By celebrating and reflecting on the 41-year journey of ACIAR and the 10th anniversary of the RAID Network, it is clear there is still a need to achieve more endeavours by doing more with less.
The Crawford Fund has given me tremendous opportunities to listen to and understand the invaluable experiences of a handful of dedicated and talented people leading agricultural and food security research in the Global South. Their presence provided not only guidance to young scholars but also an honour and tribute to the accomplishments and legacies of those who have gone before. This made the Crawford Fund Conference truly a pilgrimage for many researchers to salute in the future.
Leif Ember, Southern Cross University
Mentor: Michael Scobie
As a recent graduate in environmental and marine science from Southern Cross University, my participation in the Crawford Fund 2023 Program for Scholars was a tremendous privilege. These three insightful days not only deepened my understanding of global food security but also illuminated the interconnectedness of agriculture, nutrition, and sustainability.
The program included two days of engaging scholar activities and guest presentations, which provided a platform for scholars from diverse backgrounds to come together with a shared commitment to addressing the multifaceted challenges in the realm of food security. These interactions underscored the importance of networking within the research community. The connections made during these sessions were invaluable, demonstrating that collaboration and the exchange of ideas are vital tools for advancing our collective knowledge and finding innovative solutions to complex problems.
The highlight of the program was the main conference, titled Global Food Security in a Riskier World: Diversification for Resilient Food and Nutrition Systems. This conference, a congregation of experts, policymakers, and practitioners, illuminated the challenges and potential solutions in the quest for global food security, with diversification taking centre stage. It was evident that building personal networks and collaborating across disciplines are essential components of the journey toward more resilient food systems.
Dr. Éliane Ubalijoro, CEO of the Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and World Agroforestry (ICRAF), delivered an impressive presentation that left a lasting impact. Her ability to persevere in the face of adversity and her commitment to tackling poverty and embracing sustainable food systems were truly inspiring. Her words served as a powerful reminder that passion and determination can drive meaningful change, even in the face of formidable challenges.
However, one personal drawback that stood out was the lack of recognition towards the aquaculture and fisheries sectors, areas I have studied and currently work in. These sectors possess untapped potential to contribute significantly to resilient food and nutrition systems. While their absence from the discussions was notable, it underscores the importance of advocating for the inclusion of these critical sectors in future conversations about global food security.
My three days at the Crawford Fund 2023 Program for Scholars were transformative. I left with two main takeaways that will shape my future endeavours: the importance of building a personal network within the research community and the ability to adapt and pivot within a professional career in research. These insights, coupled with the inspiration drawn from several of the presentations and exceptional guidance from mentor Michael Scobie, have enriched my perspective and fuelled my commitment to contributing positively to the challenges of global food security and sustainability.