Since 1982, ACIAR has implemented more than 1,500 agricultural research-for-development projects, with more than 400 project partners, in almost 40 different countries. In doing so, ACIAR supports Australia’s commitment to contributing to poverty reduction and livelihood improvement in the Indo-Pacific region.
The Crawford Fund is a not-for-profit organisation that highlights, promotes and supports Australia’s engagement in international agricultural research and development. The Fund is named in honour of Sir John Crawford, a passionate supporter of international agricultural research for development and acknowledged as the architect of ACIAR.
The mission of the Crawford Fund is to raise awareness of the benefits to developing countries and to Australia from agriculture for development. Working in partnership with ACIAR since its inception has been a natural course in the organisation’s evolution.
The Fund’s main activities in achieving this mission are creating communication initiatives; supporting scientists and farmers from developing countries to undertake training and career development programs that draw on Australian experience; and encouraging and supporting young Australians in their careers, studies and volunteering in agriculture for development.
The Fund has committees of dedicated scientists in every state and territory, and operates with the financial support of the Australian Government, with overseas development assistance monies allocated through ACIAR. The Fund also relies on in-kind support for its training programs from Australian and international universities, research institutions, the private sector and many individual experts.
Doing well by doing good
Emeritus Professor Derek Tribe AO OBE FSTE (1926–2003)
The Crawford Fund was the inspiration of Professor Derek Tribe.
Professor Tribe was an agricultural scientist, British born and
trained, who migrated to Australia to take up a position in animal
physiology and production at the University of Melbourne in 1956,
and then went on to be Dean of the Faculty of Agriculture from 1969 to 1973.
During his tenure at the University of Melbourne he undertook international assignments and consultancies in developing countries, particularly Africa. In this time he was instrumental in the creation of the International Livestock Centre for Africa, which later become the International Livestock Research Institute – part of CGIAR. In this process, Tribe came to know and work with Sir John Crawford.
Professor Tribe retired from the University of Melbourne and took on a range of roles, including the first Executive Director of the International Development Program of Australian Universities and Colleges (1980–1986).
Using his considerable skills and networks throughout the 1980s, Tribe developed the concept and secured support and funding for the Crawford Foundation for International Agricultural Research (now known as the Crawford Fund). The Fund was launched in 1987 – under the auspices of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (ATSE) – to help develop national and international training and research programs to assist agricultural productivity throughout the world. The Fund was named after Tribe’s friend and mentor, Sir John Crawford.
Professor Tribe was the foundation Executive Director of the Fund (1987–1996). In 2001, the Crawford Fund Derek Tribe Award was inaugurated to honour his outstanding promotion of international agricultural research.
Derek Tribe coined the phrase, ‘doing well by doing good’, which was used in the title of his 1991 book, Doing well by doing good: agricultural research: feeding and greening the world. The phrase captured Tribe’s belief that by providing aid, particularly to agricultural research, we assist other countries to develop, with mutual benefits to Australia and partner countries.
Long and productive partnership
The Crawford Fund operates under a memorandum of understanding with the Australian Government via ACIAR, which is their key funder. However, the relationship extends well beyond that of funder and recipient.
‘The Crawford Fund has had a long and productive relationship with ACIAR, which has been manifest in partnerships around training programs including Master Classes, support of our annual Parliamentary Conference and outreach activities, and our shared focus on encouraging the next generation of Australian researchers,’ said Dr Colin Chartres, Chief Executive Officer of the Crawford Fund.
‘The Crawford Fund partners with a range of organisations involved in agricultural R&D and overseas development. This includes value-adding to ACIAR projects where possible via training and capacity building and public awareness activities. Our mentoring program is being shaped to align with ACIAR programs in specific countries.
‘In 2022, the Crawford Fund published two significant reports demonstrating the significant monetary, capacity building and knowledge benefits accruing to recipient countries and Australia from investment in international agricultural research. These reports demonstrated that Australia is “doing well by doing good”, a phrase coined by our founder, Professor Derek Tribe.
‘Similarly, we work to ensure that Crawford Fund trainees and the ACIAR alumni networks are better connected. We further support ACIAR by public awareness and communication strategies that highlight the benefits to Australia from involvement in and support of international agricultural R&D and capacity building. We also endeavour to work with the federal departments of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Agriculture and Water Resources to contribute expertise to key emerging problems and to facilitate interactions with key international visitors to Australia involved in agricultural development issues.’
There are three main areas of collaboration between the Crawford Fund and ACIAR:
ensuring that policymakers and the public understand the benefits accruing to Australia from Australia’s involvement in international agricultural research and development (examples include access to improved cereal and other plant cultivars, improved biosecurity and a large cohort of individuals who look to Australia for further training and technological and scientific advice and services)
complementing the ACIAR capacity development program to provide training and support of young Australians and overseas scientists to develop careers in international agriculture and development
working with ACIAR to harness the knowledge and capabilities of senior specialists nearing the end of their careers to act as mentors to overseas agencies and counterpart staff.
‘To this day, ACIAR and the Crawford Fund work together with other partners, including those in the private sector, to ensure that Australia is seen as a knowledgeable, reliable and cooperative partner in tackling regional and global agricultural, food and nutritional issues.’
The Crawford Fund partners with a number of overseas organisations. Principal among these are the research centres of CGIAR, non-CGIAR research centres, national agricultural and natural resources agencies, the Asia-Pacific Association of Agricultural Research Institutions (APAARI) and the Global Forum on Agricultural Research and Innovation (GFAR). The Fund also supports mentoring programs by placing volunteers from the Australian Volunteer Program, administered by Australian Volunteers International, with overseas mentors.
Enhancing communication in agriculture for development
Raising awareness of the benefits to Australia and developing countries of Australia’s engagement in international agricultural research and development is a key function of the Crawford Fund.
Public outreach is achieved through communication and engagement activities.
Where possible, the Fund aims to synergistically support ACIAR objectives through complementary training, workshops and the development of alumni networks, and public awareness activities.
Since 1987, ACIAR and the Crawford Fund have worked together to support media engagement and enhance science communication in agriculture for development. This partnership has resulted in many initiatives, including media visits to ACIAR-supported project sites around the world, and working together on Australia’s highest profile annual food security conference, the Crawford Fund annual conference held at Parliament House, and numerous state-based special events.
‘We’re very proud of the success we have had in attracting media attention for “good news” stories about the impact and benefit of the work underway by ACIAR and international agricultural research centres on food and nutrition security,’ said Ms Cathy Reade, Director of Outreach for the Crawford Fund.
One of the most successful collaborations has been the visits that the Fund organises for Australian journalists to ACIAR project sites, which began in the early 1990s. In 2013 the Fund launched an annual competition – the Crawford Fund’s Food Security Journalism Award – in which the winner receives a visit to ACIAR-funded project sites or to international research centres.
‘Nothing beats the stories that come with the improved personal understanding that journalists gain by being in the field talking to researchers and farmers,’ said Ms Reade.
The ACIAR–Crawford Fund partnership has helped ensure information about and support for ACIAR has been maintained over the years, and it has built goodwill and expertise among journalists and students alike.
‘The Crawford Fund’s focus has always been “doing well by doing good”, and with ongoing collaboration and partnership with ACIAR, it will continue to be so,’ said Ms Reade.
Developing the next generation of researchers
The training of agricultural scientists in developing countries was a principal objective of the Crawford Fund when it was established. The Fund was chartered with linking agricultural research projects funded by Australia (not just ACIAR) and partner-country scientists, and funding short-term and hands-on training, rather than training through degree or diploma courses at universities.
The Crawford Fund delivers training programs to developing country agricultural scientists, extension staff and farmers on a diverse range of topics. The first training course for technicians and scientists sponsored by the Crawford Fund took place at Chiang Mai University in Thailand in 1989. Thirty-two agricultural scientists from four countries in South-East Asia were trained in a new technique for measuring nitrogen fixation by legume crops. The ‘ureide technique’, developed in ACIAR-funded projects, involved a simpler sampling and analysis process than existing nitrogen fixation measurement methods. The course was run by the Australian research collaborators on the projects, Dr Mark Peoples (CSIRO) and Dr David Herridge (University of New England).
The style of training favoured by the Crawford Fund is targeted, hands-on and with flexible delivery modes, including class training in groups on topics in demand, or individual training for key people needing specific skills. Over the years, the Crawford Fund has contributed to the development of specialist and cross-disciplinary knowledge for more than 15,000 agricultural scientists, managers and farmers, from more than 98 countries. In many cases the training has been specifically tailored for ACIAR project team members and students.
In 1992, the Fund further developed the Master Classes program to provide capacity-building opportunities for mid- and senior-career scientists to grow their understanding of emerging issues, technological developments, new methodologies and innovative policy/regulatory approaches, as well as cross-cutting issues such as communication, and research leadership and management. The Master Classes are intensive programs, developed in partnership with other Australian and international research, government, industry and academic agencies. As at 2022, around 60 Master Classes have been held for more than 1,500 people in 70 countries across the Asia-Pacific region, Africa and Australia. The most recent Master Class focused on Agricultural Research Leadership and Management and has been run four times with about 120 graduates.
The Crawford Fund has also developed a set of programs to encourage passionate next-generation students, researchers and farmers in their studies and careers, and volunteering opportunities, in agriculture for development – known as the ‘NextGen Project’.
The Fund’s earliest NextGen activities included awards to enable university students to add an international element to their studies (often associated with ACIAR projects), and conference scholarships to attend the Fund’s annual conference and undertake special fun, informative activities and be matched with personal mentors. More recently, with ACIAR support, the Fund has been able to bring an additional focus to agriculture for development as a career opportunity, through the development of high school teaching resources and a school competition for those who use them.
The NextGen Project, with support from ACIAR, also promotes the Researchers in Agriculture for International Development (RAID) network, which brings together early to mid-career scientists with an interest in agriculture and international development. RAID was founded by ACIAR in 2013 to create an opportunity for young researchers to connect with their peers and share knowledge, experiences and opportunities in working internationally. ACIAR believed that raising awareness about career pathways in international agricultural research would encourage more young Australians to engage in careers in agriculture and that the network could also undertake activities for career development.
In 2016, the hosting of RAID was handed over to the Crawford Fund, complementing the Fund’s activities of engaging directly with the emerging generation of agricultural scientists interested in overseas opportunities, to better tailor training and development programs for them. Members of the RAID network have the opportunity to participate as hosts, presenters and reporters at Crawford Fund events.