Home' Partners : Partners: Australian research leaders Contents FOOD FOR THOUGHT
BY DR ROD LEFROY
Former regional research leader for the International
Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) in Asia
T o some degree, you would expect the
involvement of Australians in the various
modes of working internationally to
be related to history, to the status of
Australia in the organisations and to the level of
Australian financial contributions.
In fact, Australia is one of 10 countries
contributing the most research staff, which puts
it ahead of several larger donors. In addition,
Australia has had good representation in
management of the 15 Consultative Group
on International Agricultural Research
The same holds for representation of the
United Nations' global and regional organisations
for disaster relief and development, and of
development agencies such as the World Bank
and the Asian Development Bank.
There are multifaceted reasons for the
disproportionate nature of Australians' influence and
engagement. The success of ACIAR and the Crawford
Fund* as gateways to international roles is part of
the reason. Both are important vehicles for linking
Australian researchers, many for the first time, to
challenges in international agricultural development.
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Additionally, Australians historically appear to
have greater appreciation for the importance of
agriculture in poverty alleviation. For instance,
Australia directs above-average funds towards
agriculture, and an above-average proportion of
those funds are directed to CGIAR.
Then there is the biophysical and technical
nature of Australia and Australians.
The harsh biophysical resources of Australia---
combined with the large distances to both internal
and external markets---have imposed pressures on
agricultural systems, often at an earlier stage in their
development than in other countries.
This has resulted in the development of
relatively low-input, low-cost agricultural
production systems with efficiencies in labour, and
nutrient and water use.
The same forces that fashioned, and continue
to fashion, Australian agriculture and agricultural
research are similar to the problems that plague
many farmers in developing countries, especially
those on more marginal lands.
These forces further conspired to forge strong
links between pure research, applied research and
practical application by farmers---a hallmark of
Australian agricultural research.
When coupled with a strong education sector,
there is a potential for innovative and productive
IT IS THE QUALITY---NOT
THAT MAKES THE
Dr Rod Lefroy, CIAT Asia regional
coordinator, at the first national Conference
on Crop Sciences in Hanoi, Vietnam, in
research, with direct impact and critical capacity-
building potential. However, it is the quality---not
specific outputs---of Australian research that
makes the greatest contribution to developing-
It is about high-quality training and a research
tradition forged through industry funding, close
collaboration with farmers and farmer groups,
and experience with the Landcare approach. In
Australia, there is a balance between science,
practical application, and the critical social and
economic components of agriculture.
In the same way that Australians abroad
have provided a new view for developing-world
agriculture, their experience abroad provides a new
and challenging perspective to Australian agriculture,
in biophysical, economic and social terms.
Given the success of Australia's contribution
to world agricultural development, there remains
a place for Australian agronomists abroad, now
more than ever. n
* The Crawford Fund is a non-pro t non-government
organisation that works to raise awareness of the
bene ts to Australia and developing countries from
international agricultural research, commissions studies
on research policy and practice, and arranges specialist
training activities for developing country scientists.
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