Vale Dr Kep Coughlan

May 2, 2024

Dr Kep Coughlan (far right), then Queensland Crawford Fund Coordinator, photographed in 2013 with (L to R) then Crawford Fund CEO Denis Blight, Committee Member Professor Kaye Basford, and then Queensland Chair and Crawford Fund Board Member Ms Sallyanne Atkinson.

Members of the Crawford Fund community were deeply saddened by the recent sudden death of Dr Kep Coughlan while holidaying overseas. A specialist in soil science, sustainability of farming systems, natural resource management and climate risk analysis, Kep was a longtime friend and supporter of the Crawford Fund and its goal of promoting food and nutrition security.  He was a member of the Queensland Crawford Committee for more than a decade until December 2018, and the Queensland Coordinator for five years until June 2014.

Kep undertook his tertiary education at the University of Queensland, graduating BAgrSc in 1964, MAgrSc in 1967, and PhD in 1974. Kep’s early career was with the Queensland Department of Primary Industries, culminating in his role as Director of Land Management Research in the early 1990s.

It was during his time with QDPI that Kep’s passion for international agricultural research for development was kindled. He led the QDPI-ICRISAT Collaborative agreement aimed at options for management of sandy soils and also played an active role in setting up the International Board for Soil Research and Management (IBSRAM) Vertisol Network in Africa and the IBSRAM PACIFICLAND Network in the South Pacific.

After leaving QDPI in 1991, Kep went on to forge an illustrious career in international agricultural research, with extensive experience in numerous countries in Asia, Africa and Oceanea. Key roles in later years included:

  • ACIAR Research Program Manager, Land and Water Resources (May 1996 – Aug 1999)
  • Team Leader, AusAID Cambodia Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) Assistance Project (Jan 2004-Aug 2006), and
  • Agricultural Research Policy and Strategy Specialist with the AusAID Collaborative Project for Agriculture and Rural Development (CARD) in Viet Nam (Nov 2006-Apr 2007).

Kep also undertook numerous consultancies in Australia and overseas for national and international agencies like ACIAR, International Board for Soil Research and Management (IBSRAM), ICRISAT, and private companies like GRM International Pty Ltd and PDP Australia Pty Ltd.

Speaking in tribute to Kep’s passion and contribution to the Crawford Fund at the 30 April 2024 Queensland Committee meeting, the Queensland chair Professor Kaye Basford said that one of Kep’s lasting achievements for the Crawford Fund was his lead role in 2010 in launching the Queensland Committee’s postgraduate scholarships for agricultural science students to attend the Crawford Fund annual parliamentary conference. His initiative was rapidly embraced by other state committees and subsequently transformed into the Crawford Fund’s Conference Scholar Program.

Crawford Fund CEO Professor Stephen Bartos said that Kep Coughlan’s work with the Queensland Committee exemplified the important contribution that numerous volunteers make through the Fund’s state committees. “One my goals is to make sure there is greater recognition of the importance of state/territory committees to the Fund’s work” Prof Bartos said. “Although I did not have the privilege of meeting Kep in person, it is clear he has left a lasting legacy and will be sadly missed”.

Kaye Basford