The challenges of meeting the nutritional needs of a growing global population have been explored at the Crawford Fund’s annual conference held in Canberra in August.
Support from the Graham Centre allowed two Charles Sturt University (CSU) scholars to take part in the event, Post Doctoral Research Fellow Dr Jian Liu and Bachelor of Agricultural Science Honours student Mr Matt Champness.
Nutrition: the global challenge
The Crawford Fund Conference brought together international researchers, students and government representatives to discuss the theme, ‘Reshaping agriculture for better nutrition – the agriculture, food, nutrition, health nexus’.
Mr Champness said the conference showed the different nutritional challenges faced by the global community.
“Globally, since 1969, we have halved the number of people going to bed hungry, however the conference highlighted that food in the belly doesn’t signify proper nutrition,” said Mr Champness.
“Two billion people are considered malnourished, lacking key micronutrients like iron and vitamin A. 151 million children are stunted and 52 million are wasted, affecting brain development and life expectancy. Simultaneously, 2.1 billion adults and 38 million children are overweight or obese, costing $2 trillion annually.”
Dr Liu said, “The discussion explored the complex issues human kind is facing globally. This was thought provoking for me, as an agricultural researcher.
“I having been focusing on improving pest management in a few crop systems and hadn’t previously fully appreciated the link between my work and the global nutrition problem.
“Scientists focusing on research should broaden their world-view, rather than focusing solely on their specific discipline. The conference has shown me that the world really needs more multi-disciplinary efforts.”
The scholarship program
The 2018 Crawford Fund Scholar program brought 44 young researchers to network and learn more about international agricultural research and development.
The program also pairs scholars, who are students and early career researchers with mentors.
Dr Liu was mentored by value chain economist Dr Dale Yi from Plant & Food Research.
“The mentors shared their experience, success, challenges and tips in global agriculture research.”
Mr Champness said, “I was lucky enough to be paired with Professor Peter Wynn, an adjunct Professor of Animal Production at Charles Sturt University who has a CV longer than I could ever image, with a research background in sheep, dairy and pig physiology and beef and sheep meat production.”
Mr Champness was also inspired by presentations to the scholars by Crawford Fund Chairman, the John Anderson AO and by Foreign Minister the Hon Julie Bishop MP.
“In a time of great hardship for farmers across NSW and Queensland, it is easy to call cuts to funding for international agricultural development and invest it locally.
“However, as a country, we have an obligation to help our neighbours in the Pacific who don’t have the mechanisms, systems or education to bring them through times of adversity.
“I was interested to hear that for every dollar Australia invests in foreign aid, we receive seven back in benefit,” Mr Champness said.
Dr Liu said, “This experience has illuminated the pathway ahead for my international agriculture research adventure.”
Mr Champness said, “The conference and scholarship program not only opened my eyes to the severe nutritional issues we are facing, it inspired me and gave ideas about how to continue postgraduate studies and work collaboratively with international and Australian farmers to help solve malnutrition in an environmentally, socially and economically sustainable manner.”