ACIAR: a quiet achiever of Australian aid
Last week, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop launched a new 10-year strategy for the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), describing ACIAR as a ‘quiet achiever’ within the Foreign Affairs portfolio.
ACIAR has been brokering and funding research partnerships in the Indo-Pacific region since 1982. Recognising that Australian agricultural, fisheries and forestry science has much to offer the world, the Fraser Government, on the advice of Sir John Crawford and others, established ACIAR as an independent statutory authority within the Foreign Affairs portfolio, reporting to the Minister for Foreign Affairs.
Over the last 18 months, it’s been obvious to me — as just its sixth CEO — that the people who conceived and established ACIAR got many things right. My predecessors developed and refined a very effective business model based on collaborative prioritisation of research with partner countries, astute commissioning of expertise from mostly Australian research providers, and hands-on management of research programs by experienced ACIAR program managers. They imbued the organisation with a distinctive combination of good applied science skills and a deep understanding of smallholder agriculture, fisheries and forestry in the Indo-Pacific region.
The ACIAR Act also mandates us to strengthen research and policy capabilities within partner countries, by funding postgraduate and professional scholarships linked to ACIAR programs, and masterclasses through the Crawford Fund. Many of our alumni are now leaders in the region.
Unfortunately, the need for well-targeted and well-managed research to improve the knowledge base for improving food security is more compelling today than ever. Moreover, the challenge of feeding humanity is no longer just about increasing agricultural production. Food security is also about access, distribution, safety, health, and nutrition.