According to a paper prepared by its founder Professor Derek Tribe in July 1998, its origins derive from a May 1986 meeting of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) in Ottawa which considered the need for “Broadening Support for International Agricultural Research”. The focus was to be on funding for the CGIAR Centres and increased public awareness of the benefits that flow from agricultural research for development.
In order to carry “the message to a range of audiences” it was decided that “national support organisations” should be established in member countries, starting with the USA, the UK, Canada, and Australia.
Between June 1986 and January 1987, Professor Derek Tribe with support from Australian aid (ADAB, now AusAID), the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) and the CGIAR Secretariat, explored the possibilities of establishing a national support organisation in Australia. Finding wide support from prominent academic, political and business persons in Australia, he concluded that the Academy of Technological Sciences (and Engineering) would be an appropriate ‘home’ for such an organisation.
Named the “Crawford Fund” in honour of Sir John Crawford, The Crawford Fund for International Agricultural Research is governed by its own Board, one or two members of which are on the Academy Board, and includes the part-time Executive Director.
At the time the Fund was established, the Academy defined its role as making “more widely known throughout Australia the benefits that accrue both internationally and to Australia from international agricultural research, and to encourage greater support for, and participation in, international agricultural R&D by Australian governmental and non-governmental organisations and, in particular, the industrial, farming and scientific communities in Australia”.
After some years, an independent assessment determined that The Crawford Fund was “an independent and value-adding element of the Australian aid program”, and this stimulated the Australian Government to support The Fund’s mission: to increase Australians’ engagement in international agricultural research, development and education for the benefit of developing countries and Australia. The Crawford Fund networks via 70-odd office-bearers and committee members, which are undoubtedly its greatest asset. They enable the Crawford Fund to liaise with policy-makers in Australia and overseas to a greater extent than its modest resources and profile would suggest.
The main activities of the Crawford Fund include awareness-raising to increase support for IAR, short-term, and for persons from developing countries, practical training for agricultural researchers, master classes for emerging research leaders, and two types of awards.
The Public Awareness Program includes an annual conference at Parliament House, Canberra, which focuses on an aspect of international agricultural research, showcasing eminent speakers and accompanied by an intensive round of high-level meetings and media publicity. Since 2000, conferences have included: • “Food, Water and War: Security in a World of Conflict” (2000) • “Prosper or Perish: Asian Poverty and the Australian Economy” (2001) • “Food for the Future: Opportunities for a Crowded Planet” (2002) • “The Livestock Revolution: A Pathway from Poverty?” (2003) • “Fish, Aquaculture and Food Security: Sustaining Fish as a Food Supply (2004) • “Forests, Wood and Livelihoods: Finding a Future for All” (2005) • “Water for Irrigated Agriculture and the Environment: Finding a Flow for All” (2006). • “Biofuels, Energy and Agriculture: Powering Towards or Away from Food Security?” (2007)
Since its establishment, the Crawford Fund has provided training to about 5000 researchers, research managers and farmers in dozens of developing countries. Two kinds of training are provided: • About 25 Training Awards are made each year to enable individual researchers from developing countries to undertake customised training in Australia in specific aspects of a wide range of topics in agriculture, forestry and horticulture. • Additionally, about 15 multi-participant Training Courses are conducted each year either in developing countries or Australia, covering a wide range of topics in agriculture and forestry by teams of experts from CSIRO, Universities, State Agriculture Departments, etc. Approximately 40% of Training Awards and Training Courses are linked to ACIAR projects. The Crawford Fund also conducts Master Classes. These are high-level courses aimed at mid-level researchers and emerging research managers who undertake a short period of training (typically two weeks) on particular research issues. The maximum number of participants in any one Class is set at 20 people, and they are hand-picked, as are the trainers (typically there are several trainers contributing to each Class). Although in a typical year only two Classes are conducted, they make up between a quarter and a half of the Crawford Fund’s training budget.
The Crawford Fund provides two prestigious training Fellowships, the Derek Tribe Award and the Crawford Fund Fellowship from a private donor. Awarded biennially, the Derek Tribe Award is presented to a senior researcher from a developing country, and the Crawford Fellowship is presented to a young researcher from a developing country.