Thursday, 19 September 2013

Mutual benefits through ACIAR's advisory council

ACIAR’s Policy Advisory Council, which includes 11 eminent agricultural research leaders from partner countries, just completed their annual visit to Australia. The trip included their annual meeting at ACIAR headquarters in Canberra and a visit to South Australia to see a showcase of agricultural production and research.

ACIAR Policy Advisory Council members
with ACIAR review team members Sept 2013

The Australian visit brought mutual benefits to the Council members, who get to see how Australian agricultural industries and research works, and ACIAR, which gains a better understanding of how the agency can help partner countries.

“The PAC members fulfil a valuable role advising the Minister and the agency, are key in-country contacts, and help shape our research programs,” said ACIAR’s CEO Dr Nick Austin. “Their annual meeting in Canberra is a chance for the members to provide feedback to ACIAR on the R&D landscape in their countries, but also to compare notes with other members and build their research networks.”

During their trip to South Australia, members of the PAC and ACIAR Commission visited the Waite Research Institute, the Global Food Studies Program at the University of Adelaide, and the FOODplus Research Centre. They also travelled to Port Lincoln to learn about the aquaculture and fishing industries, to the Barossa Valley where they heard about the challenges of value-adding and marketing of food and wine, and visited a leading grain producer on the Adelaide Plains.

Dr Ouk Makara of Cambodia (2nd from left in photo) is Director of the Cambodian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI), and has been a PAC member for two years. He originally trained as a plant breeder and has collaborated with ACIAR in Cambodia since 2000. He said “It’s great that people like me from the national agricultural systems (NARS) from developing countries can be members of ACIAR. We learn about what the other developing-country NARS are doing and how ACIAR is working with them. We also see how ACIAR works with the Australian government to help improve research in agriculture overseas and in Australia, because many ACIAR projects include an Australian component.”

Dr Muhammad Tasneem of Pakistan (5th from left) is the Chairman of the National Agricultural Education Accreditation Council in Islamabad, and has been a PAC member for five years. He says the Australia Pakistan Agricultural Sector Linkages Program has been a very successful way of bringing Pakistani and Australian expertise together, particularly with regards to mango, citrus and dairy industries.  “Since the program’s inception in 2005 the mango and citrus industries have essentially doubled their exports, and the initiative has also helped form the foundation of food security policy for Pakistan,” he said.

 “The highlights of the PAC visit this year for me, apart from the building of networks with other member countries, and with Australia, has been seeing advanced techniques, both in terms of production, value chains and supply chains, and the diversity of agriculture under different agro-climatic conditions. On the policy side, ACIAR’s insights are quite deep, and ACIAR’s association with the CGIAR system help to highlight some of the policy issues which are extremely important from my professional perspective as well as from the national policy planning point of view,” Dr Tasneem said

The Hon Professor Ruth Oniang’o of Kenya (9th from left) is the founder of the Rural Outreach Program and the Editor-in-Chief of the African Journal of Food, Agriculture, Nutrition and Development. She has been a PAC member for the past three years, during which time she has been a valued contributor to discussions in Africa on how Australian and African institutions can best collaborate and bring practices from Australia to apply in Africa.

 “I’m glad to say that right now the Australian Government is fully involved in supporting capacity building, food security issues, and agricultural research in Africa, and ACIAR is a major player in that. I’m happy to work with an organisation that takes the time to listen and to work in a partnership way,” she said.

“When you visit Australia you see a lot that we can learn, and you also see a lot of commonality, even between a highly developed country – with very big farms like what you find in Australia — and some of the environments that we operate in.  Some of the same principles actually apply, and there’s a lot we can learn from here.

“Australia is so far advanced, and yes you have a much higher level of education, but some of the technologies you use, like being able to determine the weather patterns, soil fertility, what their requirements are, those could be highly simplified to operate at the smallholder-farmer level.  Then the whole area of post-harvest, handling of farm produce, and nutrition is now a big global thing. It is not just about quantity of food, but quality of food.”

Dr Oniang’o said she is keen for ACIAR to take some of the lessons learnt in its long history of work in other developing countries, such as in Asia, and share the good practices with Sub-Saharan Africa in a collaborative way.

By Mandy Gyles, ACIAR Communications and Public Affairs

More information:

See photos of the South Australian trip.

ACIAR’s Policy Advisory Council members
Dr Beth Woods (President), Queensland Deputy Director-General, Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry
Dr Subbanna Ayyappan, India, Director General of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research and Secretary of the Department of Agricultural Research and Education
Mr Brown Bai, Papua New Guinea, Managing Director of Tola Investments Limited
Dr Nguyen Van Bo, Vietnam, President of the Vietnamese Academy of Agricultural Sciences
Dr Monthathip Chanphengxay, Lao PDR, Director General of the Department of Agriculture
Dr Patricio Faylon, Philippines, Executive Director for the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development
Dr Ir Haryono, Indonesia, Director General of the Indonesian Agency for Agricultural Research and Development
Dr Jia Jingdun, China, Director General of the China Rural Technology Development Centre within the Ministry of Science and Technology
Dr Ouk Makara, Cambodia, Director of the Cambodian Agricultural Research and Development Institute
The Hon. Professor Ruth Oniang'o SS DSM, Kenya, founder of the Rural Outreach Program and the Editor-in-Chief of the African Journal of Food, Agriculture, Nutrition and Development
Dr Jimmie Rodgers, Pacific, Director General of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community
Dr Muhammad Tusneem,  Pakistan, Chairman of the National Agricultural Education Accreditation Council
Mr Jim Woodhill, AusAID, Principal Sector Specialist Rural Development


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