Wednesday, 21 December 2011

New roles at the Food Security Centre

During the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in October 2011, the Australian Government announced support for the establishment of an Australian International Food Security Centre (AIFSC).

In this announcement the Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard noted,
“Australia has unique agricultural and scientific expertise and world-class teaching and research institutions that are well-suited to African agriculture and food security,”
Prime Minister, Julia Gillard.

The Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) is all about being a research institution specialising in agricultural science!  There are strong, direct relationships between agricultural productivity, hunger, and poverty.  ACIAR is the logical wing for the food security initiative to nestle under.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

New ACIAR publication

The latest book to be published in ACIAR’s Monograph Series is a quality control manual for the production of biofertilisers for rice crops in Vietnam.

Biofertilisers contain micro-organisms that promote the uptake of nutrients and growth of plants. Use of biofertilisers can reduce the need for more costly and environmentally damaging chemical fertilisers.

ACIAR research has shown that rice yields in Vietnam can be maintained and even increased with reduced application of chemical fertilisers, after treatment with the biofertiliser ‘BioGro’. However, the benefits of reduced fertiliser costs and increased rice yields can only be achieved if there is adequate quality control of biofertiliser production and application.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Helping researchers to be better communicators

Turn your thinking upside down was the advice to a group of Asian agricultural researchers who took part in a training program to become better communicators in Chiang Mai, Thailand, last week.

“Scientists start with an introduction, then their method, results, and finally outcomes and conclusions,” said trainer Jenni Metcalfe of E-Connect. “But when writing for the media, or even in a policy document, put your key messages up front to capture people’s interest.”

Eighteen people from Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines attended the six day Master Class in on Communicating Research to Stakeholders organised by the Crawford Fund at Chiang Mai University.

Dr Chiranjeevi Tallapragada, Chief Economist, Livelihoods and natural resource managment Institute, who is working on an ACIAR climate change adaption project in India (M.Gyles)

Monday, 28 November 2011

Agriculture and the skills challenge: finding the links between uni and industry

With parts of the developed world facing economic crises, the informal Australian tag-line of the ‘lucky country’ has never seemed more appropriate.

Indeed, being unable to meet the demands of Australia’s growing economy is, according to the Minister for Tertiary Education Chris Evans, “the best kind of challenge of all” for our country to be facing.

Finding people to fill the 500,000 new jobs forecast to be created by 2013, however, is not a new problem.

Universities have been struggling to make themselves attractive to school-leavers in a number of key industry areas, particularly agriculture, for quite some time.

In recent years, the supply of agriculture graduates from Australian universities has fallen well short of the market requirement.

A 2007 study by the Australian Council of Deans of Agriculture found that for the 2000 jobs available each year for agricultural science graduates, less than 800 degrees are being awarded. And that number is on the decline.

One of ACIAR’s Graduate Officer’s, Brendan Brown, reasons that failure of universities to accommodate for the changing experiences of Australia’s young adults is putting a strain on meeting the demands of the agricultural industry.

Monday, 21 November 2011

From the Murray to the Mekong

New South Wales Department of Primary Industries (NSW DPI) researcher, Jarrod McPherson, is relocating from the Narrandera fisheries centre to Laos until May 2012 to take up a volunteer position to assist with the development of a fish passage program for the Lower Mekong Basin.

With more than five years experience in fish migration in the Murray-Darling Basin, Jarrod will apply this knowledge to fish of the Mekong River, in his role as an Australian Youth Ambassador for Development

He will be working on a $2.2 million five-year ACIAR project that is helping develop fish passage technology for the lower Mekong River to help prevent future fish declines which may occur as the river becomes increasingly developed.
 Jarrod McPherson during one of his visits to Lao PDR.

The bivalve mollusc

When I think of oysters I think of The Walrus and the Carpenter by Lewis Carroll, which is this poem about a walrus and a carpenter who go for a stroll on the beach one sunny night, and trick some naive oysters into joining them, only to eat them. In real life this probably wouldn’t happen. I’m not sure if oysters are really that sentient.

Oysters are filter feeders. They feed on particles in the water, leaving the surrounding water particle-free. This results in oysters being quite environmentally friendly. Pollutants such as sediment and algae are either eaten by the oysters, or shaped into small packets that are deposited on the bottom of the sea where they are harmless.

Mr Chau Ngoc Hong, from the Quang Ninh province in Vietnam is also quite a fan of oysters. He is a farmer involved in an ACIAR project to build bivalve hatchery production capacity in Vietnam. The program has had an amazing economic and social impact on his life.
“With oyster farming, my family had money
to build a boat as a transport means,
moving goods and materials for oyster farming,”
said Mr Hong.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Re-energising Global Agricultural Productivity

At the G20 Summit in Cannes, world leaders agreed for the first time to commit to sustainably increase agricultural production and productivity to feed a world population expected to reach more than 9 billion people by 2050.

To that end, they estimated that agricultural production will have to increase by 70% over the same period. They agreed to further invest in agriculture, in particular in the poorest countries and to improve market information and transparency in order to make international markets for agricultural commodities more effective and mitigate the adverse effects of excessive price volatility.

viEUws brings you in-depth and thorough analysis of this issue through a series of exclusive interviews of key stakeholders in this debate recorded at a G20 seminar co-organized by the French Permanent Representation and the Australian Government in Brussels on 13 October 2011 and entitled: 'Re-energising Global Agricultural Productivity'

Mandy Gyles, ACIAR Public Affairs Officer

7 billion today, this week, or this month or...?

This week the world’s population will hit 7 billion people. Actually it may have already occurred, or may occur in the next few months, but more on that later.

Put simply 7 billion mouths are a lot to feed, and given some 13 million of us are currently facing starvation in the famine devastating the Horn of Africa it is a daunting prospect. Another 1 billion of we people live in hunger and poverty every day.

(above: US Census Bureau chart illustrating world population change in history)

And to make matters more complicated our population is projected to grow by another 2 billion people in the next forty years.

To put some perspective to that, in 1900 the world’s population was an estimated 1.6 billion. In 2000 it was 6 billion. It has taken just over a decade to add the next billion souls.

Which raises a couple of questions:
  • Are the estimates of an extra 2 billion people over the next forty years right (after all that is adding to our population at half the rate of the past decade)?
  • And how exactly will we feed these people, given most of the new additions will be in developing countries?