Australia is a world leader in agricultural innovation. This is a strategic national capability that the Australian Government, through the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), is able to mobilise by forming international research partnerships to improve food security, food system resilience and the livelihoods of smallholder farmers in the Indo-Pacific region.
Tackling shared challenges through agricultural research collaboration is a compelling element of Australian soft power in the Indo-Pacific region. Australia is well equipped to play a leading role within our region and globally—disproportionate to the size of our population and our economy. Through our research partnership model, ACIAR supports regional stability, health security and economic recovery and builds scientific and policy capabilities for more productive and sustainable agriculture, fisheries and forestry sectors.
ACIAR is established by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research Act 1982 (ACIAR Act) and is an agency of the Foreign Affairs and Trade portfolio. Our mission is to achieve more productive and sustainable agricultural systems, for the benefit of developing countries and Australia, through international agricultural research partnerships. We broker, facilitate, invest in and manage strategic partnerships in agricultural research-for-development in the Indo-Pacific region.
This Annual Operational Plan sets out the structure and programs of ACIAR for the 2020–21 year. It describes how we will continue to build the partnerships, knowledge and capacity required to achieve more productive and sustainable agricultural systems in the Indo-Pacific region. Some of the major influences of our operating environment have been in play for some time—such as rapid social, economic and political change within partner countries and an increasingly variable and changing climate. However, the most significant shaper and disruptor of our 2020–21 operating environment will be the COVID-19 pandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic is a global health and economic crisis that will disrupt the lives and livelihoods of diverse communities around the world for years to come. The pandemic is amplifying existing vulnerabilities and exposing new risks in food systems at local, national and regional levels. Our work during the coming year will be framed by striving to understand how to mitigate future disruptions to food systems across the Indo-Pacific region and developing new ways of operating to overcome restrictions on international travel and restrictions on travel within partner countries.
This Annual Operational Plan provides a comprehensive outline of the investment by ACIAR of around 2.5% of the Australian official development assistance budget during 2020–21. It explains the context and priorities of our program areas, and describes our partnerships and projects. These range from our support and governance role with our largest partner, the CGIAR system and its 15 international research centres, to our brokering and management role of approximately 200 individual bilateral and regional research projects. The research projects focus on aspects of productivity, resilience, sustainability, opportunity and equity of agriculture, forestry and fisheries systems throughout the Indo-Pacific region, to reduce poverty and improve livelihoods and food security.
I have every confidence that our committed and skilled staff and partners will deliver this plan successfully. Through ACIAR partnerships, we will continue to grow the knowledge base for agricultural research-for-development, and in turn improve livelihoods of smallholder farmers and fishers in our partner countries. Along the way, we will introduce new technologies, risk management and capabilities to Australian agriculture and agricultural sciences, generating a very high return on public investment.
Chief Executive Officer