Australia, Africa help each other

RESEARCH and development partnerships between Australia and Africa are not just "one-way traffic".

University of Queensland adjunct professor Dr Gabrielle Persley has spent the majority of the past decade in Africa running research programs and looking into livestock and cropping systems and diseases. She had also previously initiated a research partnership between Australia and some east African countries.

More recently, Dr Persley was working on a long-term strategy for the role Australian farmers, researchers and scientists could play in tackling global food security. Part of that initiative was launched last week by Prime Minister Julia Gillard - as the new, $36 million Australian International Centre for Food Security.

Dr Persley said that one of the key things Australian farmers could offer was the "inherent resilience" of producing crops and livestock in regions often plagued by natural disasters. Experience in recovering from floods, cyclones and droughts was something African farmers could learn from.

Australia could also offer expertise in research and development, particularly the role of scientists in arid and tropical environments.

But, Dr Persley said the farmers in east Africa - largely small-scale mixed farmers - could offer much value in such a partnership, with their experience of cultivating arid land, particularly in sub-Saharan areas.

As part of the research partnership Dr Persley helped establish, African PhD students were visiting Australian farms and research laboratories and vice versa.

"When thinking about Australia's role in food security, we must remember that Australian farmers produce enough food each year to feed some 60 million people," Dr Persley said.

"So we play two important roles already but it's not all one-way traffic - there are many benefits to Australian agriculture by working with other countries and different environments and learning from them as well."

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