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At the 2010 ABARE Outlook conference in Canberra ACIAR CEO Dr Nick Austin outlined the need for a range of mini-revolutions in agricultural productivity to address global food security.

“Population growth and constraints on food production, including from the anticipated affects of climate change, and shifting supply and demand patterns, are increasing. Such increases must be balanced by improved agricultural yields.

“Despite this, investment in agricultural research and development has fallen over time. Only recently has this trend started to be reversed,” he said.

Series of revolutions

The gains from past successes, notably the Green Revolution, have not been shared across the developing world, with Africa in particular falling behind. This has prompted calls for a Green Revolution for Africa, and increased the pressure on agricultural research to achieve this.

“What is necessary is not one revolution in agricultural productivity, but a series of country specific responses to spark a range of mini-revolutions in productivity that leverages off intellectual capital and an understanding of the environment,” Dr Austin said.

Such calls, however, will not result in the improvements necessary unless the unique range of factors, constraints, and environments – biophysical, policy, market and investment – are understood, and the best minds are recruited to design targeted responses.

Seeds of Life

Dr Austin highlighted the successes of the East Timor Seeds of Life project which is helping to overcome the shortage of staple foods that many families experience each year.

“By working with the centres of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, the Australian Aid program, through ACIAR, sourced a number of staple crop varieties better suited to local conditions and higher yielding than varieties currently grown.

“Since the research began in 2005 114 of East Timor’s 442 villages have seen improvements in food security as a result of seed dissemination and field trials funded by Australia,” Dr Austin said

ACIAR, through its international collaborative research programs, is demonstrating, around the world, how agricultural science can make an important difference and why investment in the science of food security is critical to poverty mitigation and population stability.

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