Monday, 25 November 2013

Growing our knowledge and the world's farmers

Matt Linnegar
(Hilary Wardaugh Photography)
The latest edition of ACIAR’s Flagship publication—‘Partners in research for development’—was issued today. Part of the Australian Government’s Development Assistance program, ACIAR manages agricultural research projects to address problems of mutual interest and benefit to both developing countries and Australia. The bumper edition includes many examples of how ACIAR’s portfolio of research projects has helped the livelihoods of smallholder farmers overseas, while providing benefits back home. Matt Linnegar, CEO of the National Farmers’ Federation provides an in-depth editorial outlining the significant benefits ACIAR provides in the domestic arena. An excerpt of his editorial follows. 

As the world population grows and the market changes to reflect this, it is appropriate for Australia to seek to understand these trends and develop strategies to address them in the best interests of not only Australian consumers, but also Australian farmers.

Farmers already grow more food on less land than at any time in the world’s history. But for farmers to continue to produce more with less, increased investment in innovation, research, development and extension (RD&E) in agriculture is crucial.
Key to the continuing success of ACIAR is ensuring that a balance is achieved between investing in international RD&E, and working with Australia’s domestic agricultural RD&E system.
Australia holds a rare position amongst industrialised countries, having the range of climates—cool and warm temperate, subtropical and tropical—typical of the developing world. There are common agricultural research interests due to similar environmental conditions and natural resource management issues.
While Australian farmers generally support ongoing investment in improving sustainable agricultural production in developing countries, the challenge for the Australian Government and agricultural community is to maximise opportunities and realise dual benefits for both developing countries and Australian primary producers from this investment. 

No less than 98% of the Australian wheatbelt
is sown to varieties with genetic material derived
from the genebank and breeding programs of the
International Maize and Wheat Improvement
(CIMMYT), one of 15 International
Agricultural Research Centres
(IARCs) working
with ACIAR to help sustain global food security.
(photo by Paul Jones)
Currently, the research undertaken by ACIAR in developing countries does provide benefits to Australia, through capacity building for Australian researchers and scientists, access to broader information and research on pests and weeds that could impact Australian agriculture, the ability to learn from agricultural practices in other countries, and even direct economic benefits. Several examples are cited in this issue of Partners magazine.

Providing training and greater information and development opportunities for farmers in developing countries can have important flow-on effects for both the international and Australian agriculture sectors. Australia’s international work assists in building the number of agricultural scientists at home, ensuring that Australian farmers still have access to the latest information and advice, while Australia is providing our depth of knowledge to developing countries.

The NFF is of the view that greater linkages between Australia’s primary producers, RD&E experts and developing countries would lead to increased benefits for all parties involved, particularly in terms of encouraging new and fresh perspectives on issues being tackled on the Australian home front.

With a unified approach, and a focus on developing domestic opportunities of dual benefit, we believe that both the international and domestic agriculture sectors will continue to benefit from ACIAR’s important work.

By Matt Linnegar, CEO of the National Farmers Federation

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