Tuesday, 16 September 2014

PAC to Perth

On landing in Perth one sentiment was common amongst our group: are we really still in the same country? Flying 4–5 hours in most of our group’s home countries would involve passing over at least more than one country.

We were in Perth as part of ACIAR’s annual meeting of the Policy Advisory Council (PAC), a group made up of representatives from the developing countries ACIAR works with.  The meeting consists of 2 days in Canberra , followed by a short field trip somewhere in Australia to meet with key research partners, policymakers, farmers and agribusinesses. This year I had the pleasure of organising the meeting and the field trip to Western Australia.

the Hon. Julie Bishop and members of ACIAR's PAC and Commission

After a busy 2 days in Canberra, meeting with ACIAR’s Commission for International Agricultural Research and the Foreign Minister, the Hon. Julie Bishop, we had landed safely in Perth and were looking forward to the 3-day tour ahead. 

Day 1 – Perth

University of Western Australia
PAC members with UWA researchers and chickpeas
First up was the University of  Western Australia (UWA) with researchers from the UWA Institute of Agriculture. It was a beautiful sunny day and the historic campus was showing off its best side. The group discussed common global issues for universities including research priorities, funding and how to attract students to agriculture. It was clear that everyone was passionate about agriculture and determined to engage future generations for development and sustainability of the industry.

After a busy start to the week, Dr Bo (Vietnam) was intrigued by the Centre for Sleep Science but especially interested in the Chickpea experiments. The research into water use efficiency and salinity tolerance was of particular interest to our South Asian colleagues. 

CSIRO – Floreat
We spent the afternoon with the CSIRO team at their Floreat facility. Our group was taken through the soil science basics in a demonstration of how CSIRO engages with farmers through training and field days.

Dr Bo demonstrated his soil science background by taking and examining a soil core from the CSIRO lawn

We were also shown a sheep nutrition study into the effect of diet on methane production and productivity, a new saltbush variety, and productivity testing of new lupin accessions recently collected from the Fertile Crescent region. 

Day 2 – Bunbury

Department of Agriculture and Food

Day 2 was a bus tour with Western Australia’s Department of Agriculture and Food (DAFWA). We visited a seed potato farm, a dairy farm and a vegetable packaging facility. The group gained a lot from interacting with the farmers and learning about the industry from their perspective. 

Wearing biosecure and fashionable plastic shoe covers to inspect the seed potato crop

At the DAFWA office we learned about the wine industry (even tasting a couple of new varieties) and a fledgling jujube (Chinese red date) industry. Some PAC members wondered why they weren’t exporting jujube to Australia at those prices!

Day 3 – Perth

Crawford Fund
We started the final day with a breakfast hosted by the Western Australian committee of the Crawford Fund. PAC members were very interested in the potential collaboration and training opportunities for their researchers back home.

Ruth Oniang'o (Kenya) and Leah Buendia (Philippines) show off their fluoro vests
Australian Grains Centre and Murdoch University
Next we headed off on the bus for a tour of the impressive Australian Grains Centre at the CBH bulk grain storage and handling facility, and a visit to Murdoch University

In an example of projects delivering benefits to both Australia and our developing-partner countries, we were shown an experiment focused on improving legume productivity through development of the rhizobia (nitrogen-fixing bacteria). Legume species collected from South Africa were being tested for their potential in improving Western Australian grazing systems. Ruth Oniang’o (Kenya) was particularly impressed with the African focus of the Murdoch team and was interested in further engagement with the researchers. 

Kings Park and Botanic Garden

Mr Xaypladeth from Laos taking a selfie with Perth in the background
We finished the day with a visit to Kings Park and Botanic Garden, and were fortunate enough to be guided by our enthusiastic, former botanist, bus driver Laurie. After a couple of quick snaps overlooking Perth and at the end of a very busy week, there was still some time for exploring the city and shopping! The tradition of gift-giving remains strong amongst our Councillors and they welcomed the opportunity to buy some Australian souvenirs to present to colleagues back home.  

It was a very productive, interesting, funny and exhausting week. Everyone seemed to have confidence in my calm exterior and trusted I had everything in control. Underneath though I was extremely relieved each day as we arrived and departed on time, didn’t get lost and, most importantly, didn’t lose anyone along the way.


Rebecca McBride, Communications Officer

1 comment:

  1. It's lovely to see you guys out there and having a bit of fun while visiting us down under. Looking forward to the conclusions and findings from your trip!


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