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challenges developing-world farmers face are
similar to issues that farmers and scientists have
addressed in Australia," Ms Lenneberg says.
"This country has an incredible depth and
breadth of experience in areas like water
scarcity, poor soils, or farming in both tropical
and arid conditions. So being able to draw on
that Australian experience and adapt it for poor
communities is the advantage of partnering
With 70 World Vision offices spread around
the globe---including 27 in Africa, 17 in the
Asia--Pacific region and 14 in Latin America---
the outreach of World Vision is immense.
"What works in one project gets picked up
and socialised into a number of other ADPs,
even those funded by other World Vision
offices, like Japan or Canada," Ms Lenneberg
says. "So World Vision provides a link through
which agricultural research can spread to
PHOTO: PETER BROWN, CSIRO
CONTINUED PAGE 8
vulnerable communities quickly."
So the relationship with ACIAR---forged in
Australia---now stands to benefit poor rural
communities with a truly global reach.
THE TESTING GROUND:
VIETNAM AND THAILAND
World Vision Australia and ACIAR first signed
an agreement to work collaboratively in 2000.
The focus was on six projects embedded in
ADPs primarily in Vietnam and Thailand, where
the beneficiary population is 10,000 to 50,000
The projects involved farming issues such as
rodent control and pest management for rice
farmers, the need for better forage options for
livestock, and the introduction of dryland rice
cultivation to replace transplanted rice in areas
experiencing labour and water shortages.
Typical of the ACIAR innovations adopted
by World Vision is a pest-management system
based on increasing the spacing between rice
plants. It works by allowing more sunlight to
reach the undergrowth, where it deters pests
from breeding. By reducing growth constraints,
it becomes possible to obtain higher yields by
planting less rice.
Catherine Johnston, who manages World
Vision Australia's Asia program, says ACIAR-
linked projects have since been formally
"There were substantially high results in
terms of agricultural production and increased
percentage of farmers adopting the new
technologies," Ms Johnston says. "So from
an evaluation perspective, I think the results
World Vision Australia's Graham Tardif agrees
and says methods such as the rat-control
initiative proved popular and were taken up in
several other areas in Vietnam ... and not just in
World Vision ADPs.
"The method was tested by ACIAR; World
Vision introduced it to farmers more widely.
But the Vietnamese Government subsequently
became very interested in adopting it. It was a
partnership that really went well," Mr Tardif says.
Another benefit identified by World Vision is
ACIAR's skill in brokering relationships between
research organisations. This is further boosted
by ACIAR's involvement in building agricultural
R&D capacity among in-country partners.
"In Thailand, for instance, the World
Vision office and Khon Kaen University have
forged a unique partnership in which they
work incredibly well together and support
each other," Ms Johnston says. "These are
relationships first brokered by ACIAR, but the
organisations now interact even more outside
the project than in it."
STRONGER BONDS BUILD
Looking to the future, World Vision Australia
definitely sees a role for further partnerships
with ACIAR. Both are keen to absorb lessons
learned in Asia to maximise benefits to farmers.
Stephen Collins, who has overall
management for World Vision Australia
programs in Vietnam, Thailand and China, thinks
the potential to finesse the relationship exists.
"One thing we learned in Thailand is that
there can be a grey area between research
and extension-ready outcomes," Mr Collins
says. "Research results sometimes need to be
adapted given different farming conditions
and locations. And that creates an ongoing
innovation and improvement process that
needs to occur within ADPs whenever projects
land halfway between research and extension."
This is an interesting arena given that
over the years World Vision has expanded its
research capacity, especially in food security,
climate change, resource management, and
in project design and evaluation. Ms Johnston
thinks the basis now exists to take the
relationship with ACIAR that little bit further.
"In the past, we would have looked to ACIAR
to provide the much-needed agricultural
research," she says. "But since expanding our
own research capacity considerably, there is
an opportunity to refine our approach and
each other's theory and practice. The idea is
to maximise the learnings from all our on-the-
One such opportunity comes in the form
of better integrating farmer involvement in
setting research priorities within ADPs and
allowing these priorities to culminate in ACIAR
involvement. Currently, ACIAR involvement is
negotiated at the national level.
"A sweet potato project in Papua New
Guinea is the only one so far that was
community-driven," Ms Lenneberg says. "They
wanted to develop drought-tolerant varieties.
We then took it to ACIAR, whose research
managers explored the issue with several of
their research partners."
Substantial gains were made through
farmer-led field trials and World Vision saw
substantial benefits flow from that level
of community engagement. World Vision
now view it as one of the most successful
agricultural research projects they are
"In discussions with ACIAR they are
interested in also adopting that approach and
it is something we would love to do more of
in the future," Ms Lenneberg says. "So looking
ahead, we are quite excited about continuing
to work with ACIAR." n
Participants at an ACIAR training course
set rat traps in a rice field in Ha Nam province,
Red River Delta, Vietnam.
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