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JUNE AUGUST 2011 PARTNERS
THE SEEDS OF
Providing postgraduate opportunities to people
living outside Australia has seen research knowledge
spread and thrive across the developing world.
knowledge and skills within their institute or
n The majority (93%) of institute directors and
fellows agreed that the skills and knowledge
acquired during postgraduate studies were
highly relevant to their current positions.
n The majority (81%) of fellows have been
promoted since returning to their home
country, with directors (78%) and fellows
(85%) agreeing that the promotion was
directly attributed to successful completion
of postgraduate qualifications.
n Almost all (95%) fellows indicated that
the fellowship was a positive experience,
with both fellows and directors identifying
research and writing skills, increased flexibility
and openness to new ideas, and the network
of professional contacts as major benefits
resulting from participation in the scheme.
Dr Sotheary is representative of all these
findings. "Most of the knowledge and skills
I gained from my postgraduate degree in
Australia are now regularly applied in my work
at CARDI," she says. "For example, I've developed
a research project on the adoption and impact
of CARDI's released rice varieties 'Phka Rumduol'
and 'Sen Pidao' ."
The project has been funded by the
Cambodian Agricultural Research Fund and aims
to understand why some of CARDI's released rice
varieties are well known among some farmers
but unfamiliar to others. "Although CARDI has
released 32 rice varieties to suit rainfed lowland
and dry-season conditions, not all of them are
well adopted," Dr Sotheary says. "So, in order
to understand the current level of adoption of
both rice varieties and how the adoption can
be increased in the future, I am using a research
tool that I used in my PhD."
Dr Sotheary is also involved in two ACIAR
research projects. One is seeking to enhance the
nACIAR has a strong commitment to helping
partner countries build their R&D capacity.
nImproved capacity ensures ongoing services
to farmers seeking to innovate production,
marketing and retail systems.
nIn addition to running farmer field and
business schools, ACIAR offers training within
Australia through the John Dillon and John
nStrong diplomatic bonds have been forged as
a result of relationships built through ACIAR's
BY PENNY FANNIN
A lthough born into a middle-
class family and raised in the
Cambodian capital of Phnom
Penh, Dr El Sotheary is acutely
aware of the challenges facing
many of the country's farmers.
As the deputy head of the Cambodian
Agricultural Research and Development
Institute's (CARDI) socioeconomics division,
Dr Sotheary seeks to understand the social and
economic circumstances that prevent farmers
from adopting improved technologies and
Her position has other responsibilities,
but they all come down to making life
better for the 8.3 million Cambodians the
World Bank estimates rely on agriculture for
Dr Sotheary joined CARDI in 2000. She had
a background in business administration and
embraced the move into the agricultural sector.
"Living in a country where agriculture is
the leading sector of the country's economy,
I have always been enthusiastic to work as an
agricultural socioeconomist with the ultimate
goal of helping to improve the living conditions
of Cambodian farmers who have suffered in
poverty for decades," Dr Sotheary says.
In the early 2000s Dr Sotheary, keen to
move into a senior position at CARDI, applied
to ACIAR for a John Allwright Fellowship (JAF).
The fellowship took her to the University
of Queensland (UQ) where, in 2009, she
completed a PhD through the School of
Natural and Rural Systems Management
(now the School of Integrative Systems).
Dr Sotheary says she regularly applies the
knowledge and skills she gained to her
work at CARDI.
This is largely why, in 1986, ACIAR
established the JAF scheme. Through the
scheme ACIAR is building the capacity of
agricultural research institutions in partner
The program benefits research capacity
in ACIAR's partner-country institutions,
linking their scientists to Australian scientists.
This approach has been proven to ensure
development and research outcomes are more
ACIAR, with co-funding from AusAID,
provided 138 John Allwright Fellowships in
2010--11 to allow researchers from partner
countries who are actively involved in ACIAR
projects to undertake postgraduate studies at
Australian universities. 154 people had obtained
Masters or PhD qualifications.
A survey in 2008 of JAF alumni showed the
aims of the fellowship scheme were being met.
Major findings were:
n A high (74%) return rate of fellows to their
home country following completion of
studies, maximising the opportunities for
capacity building to occur within alumni
n Almost all (99%) fellows indicated that
they were facilitating the transfer of
ACIAR John Allwright Fellow Dr Bhagirath Singh Chauhan (left),
pictured with colleagues from the International Rice Research
Institute, is investigating the effect of flooding depth and duration
on rice and weed emergence and growth.
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