The Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) has a unique role in development assistance, in that it brokers, facilitates and invests in research partnerships, rather than working directly with beneficiaries, by providing funds for community-based programs and infrastructure.
Since 1982 ACIAR has worked with public and private research institutions to improve the productivity and sustainability of agricultural systems and the resilience of food systems in the Indo-Pacific region. The achievements of ACIAR are very much due to the partnerships that have been developed and fostered over 40 years.
The calibre and commitment of these research partnerships is a defining element of the success of ACIAR. They bring together the best of Australian agricultural research expertise and partner-country researchers to work together to find solutions in a changing world. Successful research partnerships in turn strengthen diplomatic relationships between Australia and partner countries.
While collaboration between scientists is at the heart of these research partnerships, there are other stakeholders who contribute and strengthen the partnerships to increase impact. Farmers, communities, civil societies, government representatives, international research networks and the private sector all bring unique knowledge and perspective to research questions and solutions.
ACIAR has maintained continuity of purpose and a reputation as an honest broker. Through the dedication of its staff, ACIAR has established deep trust and respect with its partners. The relationships that develop during a project, with ACIAR partners, and between Australian and in-country science partners, endure for years beyond the project life cycle.
In addition to bilateral and regional project partnerships, ACIAR has invested time and funds in partnerships with national, international and multilateral organisations that share similar goals. These partnerships help deliver outcomes more effectively and efficiently, and ultimately with greater impact, because the expertise and resources of different partners enable more ambitious and wider-reaching programs.
The work of ACIAR and its diverse range of partners over 40 years has greatly contributed to Australia’s positive international reputation, which has been acknowledged within and outside of Australia.
Partnerships – both formal and informal – are at the heart of the ACIAR model. Mobilising Australia’s agricultural research capability in bilateral projects is perhaps what ACIAR does best. The ‘mutual benefits’ concept is an important element of this. Internationally, working within each partner country to identify the right research partners is just as crucial. Every country has a different national agricultural research system.
Visualising and implementing a ‘product delivery path’ to get the research outputs to farmers or policymakers is just as crucial and often involves additional partners, sometimes informally. Here in Australia the ‘informal’ partners and stakeholders range all the way from parliamentarians and research managers to farmers, with plenty of agricultural businesses
and organisations in between.
I think 40 years of history show that ACIAR’s ability to identify, mobilise and motivate people and partners of all kinds from its vast network is its most valuable asset.
Dr Bob Clements AO
ACIAR Director (1995–2002)