Crawford Fund Conference Scholars: Next Generation of Changemakers

In August the AgriEducate team had the privilege of attending the annual Crawford Fund Conference and meeting the inspiring next generation of development agriculture researchers, policy experts and change makers. Known as the Crawford Fund Scholars, these young people had a full three days of learning from leaders in the agricultural development space including Dr Lindiwe Sibanda, Dr Andrew Campbell and John Anderson AO.

We were fortunate enough to speak with many of the Scholars informally throughout the day and did interviews with Sam and Fynn. See their responses below and how they see the future of international development agriculture and what they will change in the world. See some of their reflections on the event here (cover photo source):

Sam

  • Tell us a little about your background in agriculture?

Dad runs Angus cattle in the NSW Central Tablelands and Mum is the proud manager of a veggie patch in our suburban backyard. I have willingly (and sometimes unwillingly) provided free labour to both of these enterprises. However, I never really got into agriculture until I started my agricultural science degree at the University of Sydney. During my time at uni, I have worked on a salmon farm in Tasmania, researched soil microbiology in Canberra, interned at the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines and studied for a semester at the University of Peradeniya in Sri Lanka.

  • In what ways can you apply that background to the agricultural sector, and development agriculture globally?

My ultimate goal is to support smallholder farmers in developing countries. I believe I can do this through the private sector or scientific research. However, I recognise that I have lifetime of work to do to make a genuine contribution.

  • What makes you interested in agriculture/agricultural development? Would you consider this as a career?

Like you, I believe in food security, poverty alleviation and environmental conservation. Agricultural development excites me because it is a vehicle to contribute to all of those things.

  • If during your career, you could change one thing in the world what would it be?

I would destroy the three widespread myths about careers in agriculture:

  • Myth 1: you must be farmer to work in agriculture.
  • Myth 2: you must live in rural area to work in agriculture.
  • Myth 3: you must have a background in agriculture to work in agriculture.

These misconceptions are as far-reaching as they are untrue. We must debunk them because they are deterring talented young people from agriculture-related careers and degrees. Careers in agriculture are soaked with opportunity, variety and meaning. Enabling talented young people to realise this will in turn enable us to sustainably nourish 9 billion people in 2050.

  • From your experiences, what is either your ‘best story’ or ‘favourite fact’ about agricultural development and global food security?

Dr TJ Higgins is an absolute hero. More than 200 million people in Africa (and millions of others in Asia) rely on the crop cowpea for their staple food. Devastatingly, a hungry type of moth (the cowpea pod-borer) commonly ravages cowpea crops. Smallholder farmers in developing countries can rarely afford the insecticides required to protect their crops. For this reason, Dr Higgins played a leading role in the development of Bt-Cowpea – a type of cowpea genetically modified to have inbuilt insect resistance. Dr Higgins invested more than 10 years of his life helping develop the technology and navigate the regulatory processes required to safely get it the farmers that desperately need it. Excitingly, Bt-cowpea is now on the verge of release in Nigeria, Ghana, Burkina Faso and Malawi. Dr Higgins inspires me because he found a way to support the poorest of the poor using agricultural science. Find out more here.

 

Fynn

  •  In what ways can you apply that background to the agricultural sector, and development agriculture globally

I want to be able to ideally increase food security in developing nations and help figure out how to feed everyone sustainably. But I feel that’s not something I can graduate from and do, it’s a long process and I need to keep learning. I’m in a position, where not many people study agriculture and international relations, so hopefully I’m in a position to give an international perspective.

  • What makes you interested in agricultural development? Would you consider this as a career?

Absolutely, yeah, that is the career I want to have. It’s such an amazing sector of the world, it is an area where you can study, and apply it to make a difference and help people in a lot of ways. It’s not an area where you study agricultural science and do one job, there’s so many ways you can apply it, the industry is always changing, it’s an opportunity for a unique and varied career.

  • If during your career, you could change one thing in the world what would it be?

Increase the efficiency of food systems – its not just about increasing production, it’s about making the entire system more efficient. It’s crazy how many different issues there are, they’re all convoluted, you can’t just go in and fix one issue, it’s all dynamic.

  • From your experiences, what is either your ‘best story’ or ‘favourite fact’ about agricultural development and global food security?

Story – Vanuatu – I went to lots of villages in Santo and interviewed farmers and in government – head of dept of livestock, and people in livestock projects. It was amazing to hear the different perspectives coming from various entities of the system, and the different opinions on how to approach different problems in the country and this highlighted how it is so hard to improve the systems and how all the different entities have to work together, and how they do.

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