In this issue of Partners we focus on the Pacific in celebration of the upcoming Pacific Week of Agriculture in Samoa. We cover topics as diverse as composting to improve atoll soils, to better weather forecasts and advisories to help farmers plan for climate variability.
Our commitment to the Pacific reflects our role in the Australian Government’s effort to step-up its engagement in the region that Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison spoke of at the recent Pacific Island Forum in Tuvalu in August.
In his statement about the forum, Prime Minister Morrison acknowledged the threat climate change posed to the Pacific and Australia’s commitment to help. ‘The Pacific is our home, which we share as a family of nations. We’re here to work with our Pacific partners to confront the potential challenges they face in the years ahead,’ he said.
We have a long history of research in the region spanning agriculture, forestry and fisheries projects, all focused on securing a better future for Pacific Islanders. I’m looking forward to seeing some new initiatives start on climate change mitigation and adaption. A couple of examples include research to improve plant biosecurity and the genetic diversity of coconuts to ensure their long term resilience as temperatures rise.
ACIAR also supports capacity building and, in July, launched a new program to develop the capacity of research organisations in the Pacific, through furthering professional development and strengthening institutional linkages to Australia. The first Institutional John Dillon Fellowship (iJDF) involves 15 fellows from organisations across Papua New Guinea, including the National Fisheries Authority, National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI), University of Technology, Science and Technology Secretariat and the Autonomous Bougainville Government’s Department of Primary Industries, as well as regional partner the Pacific Community (SPC).
This new ‘institutional’ version of the John Dillon Fellowship will help interconnected organisations develop innovative solutions to contemporary challenges in the agricultural research sector. It combines a range of capacity building approaches, including in-country mentoring and professional development workshops with industry visits and networking opportunities.
ACIAR again supported the annual Crawford Fund Parliamentary Conference on food security held in Canberra in mid-August, with the theme this year being ‘weathering the perfect storm: addressing the agriculture, energy, water, climate change nexus’. It was my pleasure to moderate the lively question and answer session which followed an authoritative keynote address by the eloquent Professor Sir Charles Godfray, Director of Oxford University’s Martin School. Key themes across the conference program challenged delegates to continue increasing food production while improving environmental sustainability and mitigating climate change.