Vital role for agricultural research in proposed new International Development Policy

February 25, 2020

As part of our mission to encourage Australian support for and involvement in agriculture for development, the Crawford Fund is pleased to provide a copy of our submission as part of the process to guide a new Australian development policy. 

The Government has reported that the policy is “to drive the Government’s international development efforts in support of security, stability, prosperity and resilience in the Indo-Pacific.” We felt strongly that it was important to ensure that the pivotal role of agricultural research in these areas was highlighted for the expert panel which will advise Ministers and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade on the development of the new policy.

In the submission (now available online), we argue that getting agriculture, food and nutrition ‘right’ in Australia’s overseas development aid provides the underpinning foundations for improving the livelihoods of the poor, environmental sustainability, public health and national economic benefits. Our chairman, The Hon John Anderson, has had national media coverage to argue the case with an interview on Radio National Breakfast and a national report in ACM papers and online.

He provided evidence that validates this while indicating some critical risks to food security in neighbouring countries and emphasising how bolstering international agricultural development also benefits Australian farms and our economy and could provide global leadership in the fight against the impacts of climate change.

We conclude that:

  • Continued investment in agricultural development aid not only significantly boosts Australia’s international reputation, but also significantly contributes to recipient nutrition and health outcomes, helps us prepare for threats arising from pests and diseases and climate change impacts.
  • Funding of international agricultural development makes a high return on investment: the work undertaken by ACIAR and complemented by the Crawford Fund has demonstrated both positive returns on investment and a wide range of benefits relating to access for Australia to new plant varieties developed by the CGIAR (Consortium for International Agricultural Research), soft diplomacy, trade and biosecurity partnerships.
  • Involvement in international agricultural R&D accelerates the creation of new knowledge and methods which we can use in Australia to improve productivity, profitability, nutrition and sustainability in an ever-changing world.
  • Australia has much to contribute globally with respect to agriculture and carbon sequestration and this can be done via existing linkages between ACIAR and the CGIAR.
  • It would be highly remiss of the government to diminish overseas development aid to agriculture in the face of an emerging perfect storm in which climate change and population growth are combining to impact global food security, which are likely to grow the number of climate refugees.

In addition to our submission, we are aware of a number of people in the Crawford Fund family who also made submissions including our ACT Coordinator, Dr Tony Fischer; NSW Coordinator, Dr Helen Scott-Orr, former Director of Training at the Fund, Dr Eric Craswell, and a joint submission by Drs Brian Keating, Peter Carberry and John Dixon, who each have extensive and eminent careers in the Australian and international agricultural research and development fields. They have agreed to have us provide copies of their submissions here too. Also now available on the public listing of submissions is the submission by the Commission for International Agricultural Research.