Volunteering highlight – engaging with local farmers

June 1, 2020

It seems we’ve been posting a lot this year for our NextGen program from the mentors and volunteers in our Laos program, as they’ve all returned due to COVID-19. But wait – there’s more! GenerationAg recently posted their podcast with volunteer Matt Champness, after his year in Laos. Matt’s interview focuses on smallholder farming in food security and is well worth a listen.

Our mentor Dr Deirdre Lemerle filmed an interview with another volunteer Stephen Lang when she was in Laos earlier in the year, and before they both returned due to coronavirus. We’d like to thank The Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation for putting this video together from Deirdre’s footage in the greenhouse.

Spending the best part of a year in Lao PDR has shown Matt and Stephen that working in international agriculture is where they want to be – a terrific outcome for our NextGen program.

Until COVID-19, Stephen was working as a soils agronomist in Savannakhet in Laos under the guidance of Deirdre and Dr Jason Condon, both from The Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation as part of a Crawford Fund mentoring and volunteer program.

Stephen explains he worked with the local agriculture office to recognise the soil constraints within the local region and work out ways to overcome them to improve yields and livelihoods.

Like other volunteers we have had in this 10+ year program, you’ll hear that for Stephen a highlight was engaging with local farmers.

The program is a collaboration between Lao farmers and collaborators; Lao Provincial Agricultural and Forestry Office; Lao district agricultural and forestry offices; the Crawford Fund, and The Australian Volunteers Program.

And despite the current difficulties due to COVID-19, we are keen to have more volunteers once it is safe to travel. You can get more information from Deirdre.