Tasmania’s role in international agricultural research and its impact at a grassroots level was discussed at a Crawford Fund forum at Government House this week.
The half-day forum in Hobart on Wednesday included University of Tasmania research fellow Dr Stephen Ives speaking about the benefits of his international projects to developing countries as well as to Tasmania, its researchers and industries.
Dr Ives spoke about the university’s involvement in a number of projects in Vietnam and shared stories about how those communities changed as a result.
“We are working with universities, research institutions and local agricultural department workers on livestock research in two provinces in North-West Vietnam,” Dr Ives said.
Agronomist Dr Ives coordinated the project that saw the Vietnamese agricultural workers conduct research with farmers.
“The project was based around using alternative feed sources,” Dr Ives said.
“There’s always a feed shortage in summer and winter. It’s not that much different to here,” he said.
Dr Ives told forum participants about how he and his team worked with a widow to improve her financial circumstances.
“She got a loan to buy a cow and a calf and, with instruction, she was able to feed the cow and calf and then sell the calf to buy what she needed and send her kids to school,” Dr Ives said.
“That’s the sort of thing that can make a big difference,” he said.
While working on the project Dr Ives coordinated a team of researchers and support people, but also learned the dynamics of working across cultures and communicating despite language difficulties.
“You have to speak plainly and use different ways to communicate,” he said.
Other forum speakers included Primary Industries minister Jeremy Rockliff, Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research Country Programs general manager Dr Peter Horne, Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture head Holger Meinke and research fellow Dr Lydia Turner and a PhD student.
Some of the questions addressed at the forum included the the benefits of Australian involvement in international agricultural research, how more young people can be encouraged into agriculture and how such work can be expanded to help Tasmania, Australia and other countries.
The Crawford Fund charity engages Australians in research, development and training to help develop international agricultural scientists and raise awareness of the benefits of that work.