Friday, 23 September 2016

From Canberra to Port Moresby – my journey in ACIAR

I started at ACIAR at the reception desk on a part-time, two-week contract to backfill leave. That was twelve years, and what feels like a lifetime ago. I worked from the Canberra office for almost five years, in a range of roles across the research, executive and communication teams. I had a great time, largely because of the wonderful team and great working atmosphere at ACIAR.

Liz Ogutu (former ACIAR Regional Manager Africa) mentioned her favourite Australian saying is ‘have a go’. I agree, and it’s how I approach life. Say yes and work out the details later. So far it’s been a good life motto!

So, late one Friday afternoon in 2009 when I was asked if I’d go to Papua New Guinea (PNG) to keep the office running for three months while they recruited a new Country Manager, I didn’t hesitate in saying yes. And it’s a ‘yes’ I haven’t regretted once over the last seven years.

I arrived in Port Moresby to an empty office, with very little idea about PNG agriculture, fisheries or forestry but a desire to explore and learn. I was, and still am, completely blown away by this spectacular country. It is unlike anywhere I’ve ever been before and has surpassed every expectation. PNG has some of the most kind and generous people, and most breathtaking countryside I’ve ever seen.

I spent the first few years asking questions and I’m sure I must have driven my colleagues mad. I am forever grateful for the patience, kindness, time and wisdom shared with me by the ACIAR Research Program Managers, project teams and partner organisation staff. It must have been confusing and amusing to have the new ACIAR Country Manager asking ‘what’s that?’ to obvious things like sweetpotato and banana, but I didn’t notice too much laughter.

Emily (second from left) with her Country Office colleagues in Panang earlier this year. Photo: ACIAR
It has been a privilege working with and getting to know some of the brilliant Papua New Guinean men and women in the sector. Seeing the impact the ACIAR research partnerships have on these individuals, their Australian and PNG colleagues, and on farmers and communities, has helped me appreciate and understand ACIAR and the work we do.

My life has changed over my time at ACIAR, and particularly my time in PNG. I am very grateful for the opportunities I’ve had. To everyone I’ve met along my journey, thanks and best wishes.

By Emily Flowers, Country Manager Papua New Guinea, ACIAR

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Working for ACIAR in the Africa regional office

My favourite Australian expression is, “Have a go,” and through my four years with the ACIAR regional office in Africa, I have used this motto to do what I have to, to support our activities in Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA).
Liz (right) with farmers and their sweetpotato harvest (in the bag) in Zimbabwe. Photo: Liz Ogutu.

Friday, 2 September 2016

Leading Australian agricultural scientists brought together at Climate Smart Agriculture Workshop in Canberra

With an expanding population and a changing climate how can we begin to unravel some of the world’s greatest production problems? Growing more food on less land with an increasingly variable climate will present a suite of challenges to both urban and rural populations worldwide. It’s clear that farmers are already adapting to what is a shifting climate both here in Australia and abroad, but there is more to be done. Science has a critical role to play in brokering knowledge on past trends, future predictions and possible tools for mitigating and adapting to this scenario.

Participants introduce themselves at the Climate Smart Agriculture Workshop in Canberra. Photo: ACIAR

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Biofortification for better nutrition - Dr Howarth Bouis at the National Press Club.

A panel of scientists from Adelaide, Melbourne and Flinders Universities, and partner World Vision Australia shared the stage at the National Press Club in Canberra yesterday to discuss nutrition, agricultural research and the development impacts of biofortification.

Hosted by ACIAR, The Crawford Fund and the National Rural Press Club and lead by Dr Howarth Bouis, Director and Founder of HarvestPlus and winner of this year’s World Food Prize, the panel presented contemporary and historic perspectives on biofortification: the nutritional value of staple foods and their connection to “hidden hunger” in the developing world. 

Dr Bouis, Director of HarvestPlus with Mellissa Wood, General Manager Global Programs, ACIAR.

Friday, 5 August 2016

Testing “Chameleon” and “FullStop” equipment at ACIAR HQ in Canberra

ACIAR has been funding projects in Africa, and soon in Pakistan, to help irrigators manage their water better (LWR/2014/085 and LWR/2014/074). This work has been conceived as the “Virtual Irrigation Academy” (VIA), an online environment where growers and researchers can learn together using simple tools about how to manage irrigation water and nutrients better.

The research has developed the Chameleon Soil Water Sensor which measures how hard it is for plants to suck water out of the soil and the data is displayed as coloured lights. It can measure the soil moisture at three depths in the ground. The light for each sensor can turn from blue (soil wet) to green (soil moist) to red (soil dry).

Friday, 29 July 2016

Achieving impact with agroforestry in North Western Vietnam

In the north-west of Vietnam, which is one of Vietnam’s poorer regions with many ethnic groups, large areas of steep land are farmed to grow hybrid maize. Over the past decade many forests have been cleared and the current agricultural system results in very substantial soil erosion. ACIAR is funding a five year agroforestry project (FST/2010/034) ‘Agroforestry for Livelihoods of Smallholder Farmers in North-West Vietnam’ (AFLi), which is managed by the World Agroforestry Centre. The Vietnamese partners are: Northern Mountainous Agriculture and Forestry Science Institute (NOMAFSI); Forest Science Centre of North Western Vietnam; Tay Bac University and the Department of Agriculture and Regional Development (DARD) from Son La, Yen Bai and Dien Bien Provinces. ACIAR recently reviewed its achievements to date and it is clear that the collaborative research on the introduction of various agroforestry systems has led to substantial impacts in a relatively short period.
Fodder grass contours established in maize fields. Photo: Tony Bartlett, ACIAR.

Monday, 25 July 2016

Promising results from South Pacific Cocoveneer project

Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research's Forestry Research Program Manager, Mr Tony Bartlett, traveled to Fiji last month for an End of Project Review of the Cocoveneer project (FST/2009/062).  

Spindle-less lathe in action.