Partnerships for the Goals with Catholic Earthcare

Schools involved in the 2022 Kreative Koalas – Design a Bright Future challenge are well advanced on their SDG journey of discovery and are in the process of designing and delivering their Community Action Project (CAP). To empower students’ further Action4Agriculture connects them with similar sustainability programs, for alone we are smart but together we are brilliant.

Let’s meet Catholic Earthcare, which delivers the sustainability message and SDGs into Catholic schools across Australia.

The Catholic Earthcare Schools program “responds to the ‘cry of the earth’ to safeguard creation and provide a voice for victims of environmental injustice.”

In 2015 Pope Francis sent an appeal to Catholics around the world through Laudato Si’, which was a papal communication calling for environmental care, prayer and action. In 2020 he created a seven year action plan to care for our common home, with goals addressing the response to the cry of the earth, a response to the cry of the poor, ecological economics, adoption of sustainable lifestyles, ecological education, ecological spirituality and community resilience and empowerment. Earthcare Schools work within this framework, alongside programs for youth, parishes and families.

“Earthcare was an initiative from the Australian Catholic Bishops in 2000 to encourage people to care for the earth,” Earthcare Schools coordinator Gwen Michener says, “Our schools’ program was introduced two years ago and now has 251 schools (both primary and secondary) involved.”

The Earthcare Schools program has a five level certification process:

  • Level 1 – affirming ecological practice
  • Level 2 – ecological dialogue creating change
  • Level 3 – ecological conversion and sustained change
  • Level 4 – deep ecological conversion creating cultural change
  • Level 5 – living an ecological vocation

“Most of our schools are at Level 1 or 2 with some at Level 3. I know there are more schools out there that are at Level 3, but they just haven’t had time [with COVID etc.] to document that,” Gwen says.

While the background and methodology may differ from Kreative Koalas, the activities and outcomes for students are familiar.

Kitchen gardens stand alongside worm farms and composting. Schools have waste free Mondays and Nude Food days and are involved with Clean up Australia Day and National Recycling Week. Environmental audits allow students to design their own action plans.

“For example we have a school whose students decided they wanted to work on biodiversity so they are making birdfeeder hotels, planting native trees and researching bees. They use iNaturalist to take photos and identify species. They participate in projects with outside organisations such as testing for water quality with Melbourne Water. They’ve been involved in the Kids Teaching Kids Environmental Conference and last term they held a sustainability expo for parents and community members. And because they are in the Dandenong Ranges they participated in the Great Australian Platypus Search using eDNA, which has given them a sense of ownership for their local environment,” Gwen says.

Earthcare Schools is a student-led national movement that harmonises with other sustainability programs across Australia and Gwen sees Kreative Koalas as an ideal fit for delivering Earthcare goals through collaboration. “We recognise work that schools have done in other sustainability programs and Kreative Koalas achieves what we are looking for. Our point of difference is having the Catholic theology embedded into our program and asking why, from a religious point of view, we should care for the environment.”

#creatingabetterworldtogether #YouthVoices #SDGs

Impact Reports – An opportunity to celebrate the extraordinary people you work with doing extraordinary things

At Action4Agriculture we work with some truly wonderful people. One of those is our journalist Mandy McKeesick. She is such a pleasure to brief and the outcomes always bring great joy.Mandy is the author of our Impact Reports and yesterday we made our 2021 report live. 

We celebrated the students and teachers we work with who are changing the world.

We celebrated the young people in agriculture we work with who are changing the world.

We celebrated our funding partners and our supporting partners who enable them to create a world we are all proud to be part of.

Young people may only be 20% of the population but they are 100% of the future

The research shows they are the demographic who are aware and active. They also have the capacity to bring the rest of us along with them.

Extraordinary things are happening in our schools –

Just a couple of examples – read our Impact Report to celebrate the many others

Watch this extract from an international presentation given by our founder Lynne Strong and teacher Kristen Jones

Banksia Awards finalists Hamilton Public School’s entry for the 2021 Kreative Koalas Competition

 

Visit their website here    

And the magnificent team at Penrith Valley Learning Centre – so looking forward to celebrating their win in person

2022 is the year the team at Action4Agriculture get the opportunity to deliver best practice.

And we welcome funding and supporting partners who, like us, know success requires investing in a marathon not a sprint

Become a Citizen Scientist with PlantingSeeds and Kreative Koalas

Schools involved in the 2022 Kreative Koalas – Design a Bright Future challenge are well advanced on their SDG journey of discovery and are in the process of designing and delivering their Community Action Project (CAP). To empower students’ further Action4Agriculture connects them with influencers in our communities who work with us to create change and offer opportunities to engage with special projects. One such opportunity is with PlantingSeeds who can train everyday Aussies to be citizen scientists.

Let’s find out more.

PlantingSeeds is an environmental protection and sustainable education initiative under the passionate direction of Dr Judy Friedlander. Judy grew up exploring nature in the backyard of her Sydney home, discovering tadpoles and frogs in waterways and spotting koalas in the trees of Pittwater – in the days when this was a common sight. Throughout her journalistic career Judy championed the environment and then translated this to tertiary study with a Masters and PhD before founding PlantingSeeds in 2015.

PlantingSeeds offers a range of programs designed to engage and educate, all backed by science, research and evidence.

“Our key initiative is called the B&B Highway, which stands for bed and breakfasts for bees, birds and biodiversity. So, we’re literally talking about the need to help our wildlife with what they eat and where they sleep. We focus on plants and pollinators because they’re species that people can relate to and that are in the urban environment; and also because we have an alarming decline in our pollinator numbers,” Judy says.

The B&B Highway is both educational and practical and has established nearly 100 hubs for regenerative corridors. This involves planting native plants and establishing constructed habitat such as a nesting box or native stingless beehive. The educational aspects involve teachers and students learning about biodiversity, plants and pollinators and connecting them to biodiversity web databanks such as iNaturalist, which hosts the B&B Highway.

iNaturalist is an example of citizen science where anyone with a smart device can contribute to the identification and, ultimately, protection of fauna and flora. Judy is keen for more people to become citizen scientists and invites schools and students to be part of the B&B BioBlitz (also hosted on iNaturalist)  during National Biodiversity Month in September.

“Citizen Science is very easy and really important because this data can help scientists and experts learn more about patterns and how we can help species. We will also be running workshops for teachers prior to BioBlitz to teach them about citizen science and how to do it,” Judy says.

During BioBlitz, an Australia-wide event, students will have the opportunity to gather information about their local biodiversity and enter a photography competition with smart phones up for grabs.

“We’re excited that our organisation is proactive in bringing citizen science to Australians with this program, which is supported by NSW Department of Education, CSIRO’s Atlas of Living Australia, Australian Citizen Science Association, Environmental and Zoo Education Centres, Landcare and Action4Agriculture,” Judy says.

Download the Bioblitz flyer here 

Learn more about Citizen science: crowd sourcing and crowd-pleasing STEM
activities for schools here

Read more about Judy, PlantingSeeds and citizen science here

If your school and students would like to be more involved and become citizen scientists send an email to info@ps.org.au

Celebrating Our Partnerships – FEAST reaches 500

Today we celebrate OzHarvest FEAST reaching 500 primary schools across Australia and influencing inspiring nearly 35,000 future change-makers to waste less and care for our planet.

Celebrating strategic partnerships that:

  • encourage all Australians to value food, and the people and the places that provide it, and

  • take climate action by not wasting this most basic of human needs.

Action4Agriculture has a long-standing partnership with OzHarvest who deliver the successful FEAST program into primary schools alongside our Kreative Koalas. FEAST (Food Education and Sustainability Training) is a Year 5 and 6 curriculum-aligned education program, encouraging kids to eat healthy, waste less and become change-makers in their local community.

 

“Action4Agriculture recognises there are organisations doing great things in the food and nutrition space and through our collaboration we can help each other multiply our impact. We appreciate our key partnership with OzHarvest and congratulate them on reaching 500 schools with FEAST,” Action4Agriculture director Lynne Strong says.

Together we are supporting Australian schools to take action on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals #SDG 2 Zero Waste, #SDG 12  Responsible Production and Consumption, #SDG 13 Climate Action

The benefits of this successful collaboration are also recognised by Madison Lucas, OzHarvest FEAST National Program Manager.

“OzHarvest’s FEAST Education program values its partnership with Action4Agriculture, as they both share a common vision to bring food and environmental education into schools by providing ongoing support for teachers and delivering on a number of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals. It’s great to see like-minded programs like FEAST and Kreative Koalas come together to inspire children to value food and care for our planet. Both programs understand the importance of encouraging community engagement and provide opportunities for our students to have a voice and take action to prevent food waste,” she says.

The partnership between FEAST and Kreative Koalas is exemplified by St Brigid’s Public School at Raymond Terrace who combined the programs to protect the threatened Hunter River Turtle in 2020.

As part of Kreative Koalas the students at St Brigid’s chose to focus their attention on threatened species, selecting the Hunter River Turtle as their school mascot. By participating in FEAST they planted a vegetable garden and used the cooking kit provided by OzHarvest to hold three cooking days utilising their home-grown produce. Items made were sold at the school canteen.

“All funds raised were dedicated to the Hunter River Turtle and we are thrilled to say we have made a $300 donation to the Australian Reptile Park and the work it does to protect the species,” teacher Kristen Jones says.

Kristen and St Brigid’s students travelled to the Australian Reptile Park to make their donation in person to Tim Faulkner. They were given a tour of the new turtle facilities nearing completion, and looked at a successful clutch of Manning River turtles in anticipation of how the breeding program will work.

“Tim tells us our $300 will go directly to the care and breeding program of the Hunter River Turtle. The whole Year 6 cohort is extremely proud of their achievements and our school has gone turtle mad,” Kristen says.

Read more about this exciting project here.

As Kreative Koalas rolls out for another year, Action4Agriculture welcomes the opportunity for our schools to once again partner with the OzHarvest FEAST program. Together we can promote the Sustainable Development Goals, inspire communities and create tomorrow’s change-makers today.

Sign your school up to participate in FEAST here 

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Keeping agriculture front of mind – COE’s Virtual Ag-Week Conference

 

Everyone, everywhere will agree COVID has been tough on education. Working and learning from home has meant the curtailment of activities beyond the online world.

Principal Kris Beazley and the team from the Centre of Excellence in Agricultural Education have risen to the challenge ensuring that agriculture stays front of mind with a virtual conference to connect young people in schools with people working in the industry.

Timed to coincide with National Ag Day on November 19 the conference for both NSW primary and secondary students will run over five days from November 15, with 22 masterclasses from a range of industry experts from IT, on-farm, science and research, and media.

“We were holding a field day in conjunction with Tafe (Richmond) and Local Land Services during ag-week but because of Covid it was postponed but we wanted to make sure we didn’t lose that focus. We had been delivering WOW Wednesday to our full-time AgSTEM students during lockdown to connect them, via Zoom, to an industry expert and this has proved a good model for a virtual ag conference,” Kris says.

The CoE panel of agricultural experts includes our Young Farming Champions. Dr Danila Marini will speak about research and technology for animal welfare, Dr Jo Newton will speak about the future of dairy farming and Emily May will give insights into peri-urban agriculture. Friend of the YFC, Kate McBride, will also speak about farming in the Murray-Darling river system.

Visit the website here to book a place for your school

“We have connected the conference to curriculum and there is clear alignment to not just agriculture but science, geography, food and fibre production, sustainability and environmental sciences. We have also included the careers component so young people have exposure to people in the industry, and on top of that it is good PL (professional learning) for teachers. It is a chance for teachers to connect their young people to the world beyond their immediate world, when they have been in lockdown for so long,” Kris says.

Sessions for the conference are filling quickly and registration is required beforehand. Ensure places for your students by visiting the website

#YouthinAg #VirtualExcursions #WoWWednesdays

Soroptimist International Griffith joins forces with Action4Agriculture Young Farming Champions to achieve gender equity.  

Connie Mort, Lynne Strong and Dr Dione Howard presented at Soroptimist International Griffith Dinner in July 2021

In 2019, when Dr Anika Molesworth was preparing to travel to Antarctica with a cohort of 100 other female scientists from around the world, she crowdfunded to help cover the costs of her trip.

Young Farming Champion Dr Anika Molesworth travelled to Antarctica with the support of SI Griffith 

Enter Soroptimist International Griffith, a branch of the global volunteer movement of women, who stepped in to sponsor Anika, then working in Griffith, in the NSW Riverina region.

Flash forward three years later, and when Soroptimist International Griffith (SI) wanted to take action to address climate change, they turned to Anika. She shared with SI the impact that Action for Agriculture (A4A) had played and was continuing to play in her professional and personal development, six years after joining one of its world-renowned programs, Young Farming Champions (YFC).

“I attribute my work’s impact with rural women, farming communities and international development largely to the skills I learnt through this program

A4A is championing rural young people, teaching them about the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and climate change and bringing those people close to food and farming production, motivating and enabling them to help shape rural communities for the better. Imagine if more rural people are given a similar opportunity!”  says Anika, who now sits on the A4A Youth Leadership team.

As Soroptimist International Griffith’s member Will Mead says, that “was enough for us”. They decided to provide financial support for a leadership course run by A4A aimed at enabling equity for emerging female leaders, as part of their global vision on supporting rural women, gender equity and women’s mentorship. The workshop was run in October 2020.

At a dinner held in Griffith on July 21, SI told its members and community why “A4A is an organisation whose ideals and programs align with those of Soroptimist International perfectly as our objectives are all based on the UN’s SDGs”.

The dinner, held at the Exies Club in Griffith, was a chance for SI to meet A4A leaders including founder and national program director Lynne Strong, Dr Dione Howard, Connie Mort, Veronika Vicic and Dylan Male. All shared with Soroptimist International Griffith their own stories and A4A’s highly revered programs for primary and secondary schools.

Will Mead says that having A4A visit Griffith to share their experiences was “a bit special”, local media reported.

“We wanted our members and our community to meet some of these amazing people,” she says.

She told the event that Soroptimist International Griffith was impressed by A4A’s school programs Kreative Koalas and the Archibull Prize because they are “really pushing for better responses to climate change and achieving gender equality”, The Area News reported. 

“Agriculture is such a male-dominated field and yet most of PYiA’s YFC are women,” said Will, who described it as a “wonderful organisation”.

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The stunning table decorations at the SI Griffith Dinner

The A4A leadership course aimed at enabling equity for upcoming women leaders was part of a series of workshops rolled out at the end of last year. Alongside A4A’s fabulous national facilitators Kris Beazley, Jenni Metcalfe, Les Robinson and Josh Farr, we were delighted to add internationally acclaimed Kwame Christian to our repertoire.

Kwame is the director of the American Negotiation Institute, a practising business lawyer, and host of the world’s most popular negotiation podcast Negotiate Anything (downloaded over 1.5 million times). He’s also author of the Amazon best-seller Finding Confidence in Conflict, a negotiation and conflict resolution professor at The Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law and regular Forbes magazine contributor. In addition, Kwame is a LinkedIn trainer, a regular contributor to Forbes magazine and a popular public speaker with his 2017 TEDx talk being named the most popular talk on the topic of conflict.

A4A is very grateful for Soroptimist International Griffith’s support.

 

 

Celebrating our Cohort – Meet Dr Jenni Metcalfe

They say it takes a village to raise a child and at Picture You in Agriculture (PYiA) it takes a village to support, mentor, teach and encourage our Young Farming Champions. One of our village “chiefs” is Dr Jenni Metcalfe from Econnect Communication who each year holds a series of workshops to enable our YFC on their leadership and career development journeys.

Recently Jenni conducted an online workshop Designing Compelling Messages including a mnemonic to capture her ideas:

  • Motivated – What is driving you to communicate? What do you want to achieve?

 

  • Empathy – Who do you want to communicate with? Have you tried standing in their shoes?

 

  • Specific – What is the concrete (not abstract) message that you want to convey?

 

  • Simple – Have you considered what your audience could misunderstand?

 

  • Acknowledge uncertainty – How sure are you of your information?

 

  • Game-change – Does your message include a call for change, in attitudes or actions?

 

  • Enable – Have you detailed how people can change?

 

This was immediately taken up and put into practice by YFC Bryan Van Wyk.

“I printed out the mnemonic and have it on my office wall. I have found it very useful to evaluate my presentations before sharing and will also use it to gauge any future articles, videos or reports I compose before publishing,” he says. In fact, Bryan used the mnemonic to test one of his favourite video creations: Born Free, Caught Wild. The Northern Prawn Industry and this was his assessment: “Motivated – yes; Empathy – yes; Specific – kind of, but there’s a lot of information to digest; Simple – relatively; Acknowledge uncertainty – thinks so; Game-changer – the message was to buy Australian and MSC-certified prawns, but it could have been clearer; and Enable – as above.” Great work Bryan.

At the beginning of June Steph Tabone had the opportunity to present to her Corteva colleagues about her YFC experience.

“I shared some insights on [Jenni’s] workshop as I felt that this topic would resonate with my colleagues. We have all been in social situations where we’re asked who we work for, and it can be a challenge knowing how to say you work for an agricultural chemical company because the people we are speaking with may not be as connected to agriculture as we are. I am proud of what we do and am proud to share the great things Corteva is doing, because we really have had a positive impact on the farmers we work with. I shared how these workshops help not only in conversations with adults who have existing perceptions of the industry, but also with the next generation in schools, engaging them in conversations about agriculture and the exciting career opportunities in our sector. I enjoy working for Corteva and I am confident other young people will too. Jenni’s workshop helped me understand how to share my story so it is engaging, relatable and memorable  ” Steph says.

Steph Tabone (left) and Lynne Strong at the Corteva birthday celebrations in the Botanic Gardens on June 1st

Connie Mort joined Steph on the Corteva stage and her take-home message from Jenni’s workshop was the relevance it had not only for her but for long-term YFC.

“We are in these workshops alongside alumni who have been with the program for up to eight years, such as Jo Newton and Anika Molesworth. This gives me confidence that content provided by the YFC program will be continually fresh and evolving, and that it is really all about life-long learning,” she says.

Most of our new YFC will now know Jenni from her workshops but few might know the full impact she has had on Picture You in Agriculture.

Program founder Lynne Strong has the backstory:

“The YFC program was inspired by the 2010 Climate Champions program I participated in. Jenni co-founded the program with Colin Creighton AM and delivered it for four years. The learnings inspired much of her PhD thesis. I was highly impressed by how much confidence and skills competence the program gave to farmer participants and I was committed to having it funded for young people.  Jenni and her partner in mastery, the wonderful Sarah Cole, then ran our first YFC workshop in 2011. Jenni is a world-leading science communicator with the vision to ‘bring science to life’ and we are very grateful to have Jenni as a central part of our team and carry on the legacy of the Climate Champions program”

and as Jenni so succinctly puts

“The YFC is an example of participatory science communication about sustainable agriculture. Like I found in my thesis, Rethinking science communication models in practice, this program works because of the relationships of trust that have grown between young people involved in agriculture (the YFCs), more experienced mentors and trainers, experts in sustainability, and educators.  Developing such relationships of trust takes time and have the power to create a legacy of transformational change.”

Our Young Farming Champions are extraordinary roles models of who you can be in the world of agriculture

Dr Anika Molesworth, Dr Jo Newton, Daniel Fox and Samantha Wan are just a small sample of the impact our Young Farming Champions are having on the world  

Crafting Careers in Agriculture Rob Kaan says it starts with engaging with young people and their parents (our consumers )

“We see the consumer being just as important as the farmer. Changing entrenched cultural values and beliefs held by parents is challenging so it’s really important to us to focus on students, which is why we target agriculture and STEM education in schools around the world. This helps the kids form their own educated and hopefully positive views on agriculture.” Rob Kaan MD Corteva Agriscience Australia/NZ/Japan/Korea

At Picture You in Agriculture (PYiA) we have four goals.

Achieving Goal 4 – attracting the best and brightest people to the agriculture sector which we do using our Young Farming Champions as role models in our in-school programs The Archibull Prize and Kreative Koalas also requires a whole of sector commitment to

  • expose young people as early as possible to jobs in agriculture whilst they are at school
  • ensure there are multiple touch points to agriculture along their school journey
  • equip students and job seekers with navigation resources into agricultural career pathways and jobs
  • ensure industry routinely assesses its skills and credential requirements
  • inspire the agriculture sector to take a whole of supply chain approach to being the image we want the world to see.

In this Crafting Careers in Agriculture* series we speak with leaders in the industry to understand their views on the future of the agricultural workplace.

Following the opinion piece from Young Farming Champion Emma Ayliffe our first Thought Leader is Rob Kaan

Rob is the managing director – Australia/NZ/Japan/Korea – at Corteva Agriscience, a company ahead of the curve when it comes to workforce forecasting to ensure they have the right team on the ground supporting farmers now and in the future.

Rob believes engaging with school and university students and, in turn, their parents (the consumers) is an important avenue for attracting people to agriculture.

“We see the consumer being just as important as the farmer. Changing entrenched cultural values and beliefs held by parents is challenging so it’s really important to us to focus on students, which is why we target agriculture and STEM education in schools around the world. This helps the kids form their own educated and hopefully positive views on agriculture.”

“It’s also why working with PYiA is important because it provides a pipeline from school to university, allowing us to identify and develop talent. A great example is Corteva’s Steph Tabone who has recently joined the Young Farming Champion program.”

Sparking an agricultural interest in students and the consumers is only one step to attracting the future agricultural workforce. Rob believes creating a workplace where people want to work is critical and Corteva is actively addressing this.

“Diversity in many forms is important but gender diversity is critical so we work to have positive policies in place such as maternity and paternity leave and strive to have gender balance within our teams and leadership. Employee flexibility is another important factor and this has been highlighted with COVID. We still need good guidelines and rules in place to support collaboration, but I think young people want a flexible work environment. Another factor is technology. School kids don’t always make the connection between cool technology and agriculture. That is a big gap and one we want to change.”

Finally, Rob talks about what he calls the purpose of agriculture; a notion that the sector not only provides food and fibre, but is influenced by holistic real-word interests.

“Relationships with food companies and the active promotion of integrated pest management (IPM) are important activities that support our corporate values. Young people are also interested in these issues and issues such as sustainability and climate change.”

Corteva’s identification of the needs of the future workplace puts them in an optimum position to be an employer of choice for the students they are currently reaching in schools. And what example would Rob give them of a cool career?

“The future challenges for agriculture are both daunting and exciting at the same time, with a singular focus on the global need to grow more food with less; less labour, less water, less land and less impact. Developing and utilising automated technology is a great example of this– anything from driverless vehicles, sprayers and harvesters to specialised drones and satellites. Automation using cutting edge technology is going to be a huge global market that will help solve significant labour shortage issues in all countries.”

And how did Rob find his way into a career in agriculture?

Rob readily admits to having no affiliation or connection with agriculture during his childhood years. In fact, he wanted to be a veterinarian.

“I didn’t get the HSC marks to directly enter vet science, so the only other pathway was through agricultural science at Sydney University. Once I entered this stream, I found I really enjoyed it and stayed with a focus on agronomy.”

Connect with Rob on LinkedIn

* The Crafting Careers series is an initiative of the Youth Voices Leadership Team (YVLT) and their commitment to

  • expose young people as early as possible to jobs in agriculture whilst they are at school
  • ensure there are multiple touch points to agriculture along their school journey
  • equip students and job seekers with navigation resources into agricultural career pathways and jobs
  • ensure industry routinely assesses its skills and credential requirements
  • inspire the agriculture sector to take a whole of supply chain approach to being the image we want the world to see

Meet Francesca Earp who is hungry for equality

In partnership with Corteva Agriscience we invited young people in agriculture to share with us their journey to a career in the agriculture sector. We asked them to show us what they stood for and if they could wave a magic wand what would they change.

Today we meet Francesca Earp  who shares with us her

  • Belief that gender inclusivity is the future of food security.
  • Young people can contribute to international agriculture
  • Empowering women benefits everyone

The is Francesca’s story ……

In November of 2018, less than a week after my final exam for my undergraduate degree, I packed my bags and moved to Laos. As my friends prepared for a uni free summer, I purchased a pair of zip-off pants. While my classmates worried about their final exam results, I worried about the waterproofing of my steel-capped boots. When everyone else my age was wondering what they were going to do with their lives, I unbeknownst to myself had already started.

I don’t think it was a surprise to anyone when I decided to enrol in my Bachelor of Animal and Veterinary Bioscience, even though the closest I’d gotten to livestock was milking a cow at the Easter show. Despite my lack of experience, I’d somewhat made a name for myself as the girl who loved adventure and getting her hands dirty. During my degree, I spent my holidays in South Africa at a White Shark research centre or as a farmhand at a Goat farm in Rural NSW

 Francesca on a Rural placement on a goat farm in Wellington, NSW.

I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my degree, but I did know I was interested in the relationships between communities and their farming culture. I also loved travel and had been hooked since a service trip to Nepal in my high school years

Francesca and girls from the Dream Centre in Kathmandu, Nepal

So, it also came as no surprise when I decided to complete my honours project in Laos, investigating the cost of foot-and-mouth disease control. Just weeks after returning from my trip to Laos, my supervisor asked if I’d be interested in returning to Laos full time. This time as the in-country implementation officer for two agricultural development programs. It was a no brainer.

I flew to Luang Prabang in November of 2018, determined to make a difference. I worked with farmers, government and university staff. It wasn’t until six months into my time in Laos that I realised what I was genuinely passionate about. I noticed that the female farmers sat at the back of the room during training, that they answered on behalf of their husband in surveys and that I was one of the only females in my team. I noticed female farmer exclusion and disempowerment. After that, I knew what I wanted to do. I became dedicated to the inclusion and empowerment of female farmers in a culturally appropriate manner. I designed non-verbal training tools such as board games and activity books to accommodate for the higher rates of illiteracy due to limited schooling

Female farmers in Xayabuli, Laos playing the board game designed by Francesca

 I ran female only training sessions. I became a PhD candidate, investigating the impact of socio-cultural factors on the uptake of agricultural development training programs, with a emphasis on the female farmer. My focus and passions go beyond the empowerment of female farmers in Laos. Just as food security is a global problem, so too is the exclusion of the female farming community. Female farmers in Australia still suffer the effects of gendered disempowerment themselves. With Australian women only becoming legally recognised as farmers as late as 1994.

Gendered poverty, traditional gender roles and patriarchal perceptions of female leadership all result in female disempowerment. Globally women are more likely to conclude formal education early, be victims of violence and displacement and often bear the responsibility of household management. In many counties, ‘ women are more susceptible to disease, malnourishment and the impacts of climate change.

The disempowerment of females results from long-standing and pervasive gendered marginalisation.

The experience of female farmers is a result of the socio-cultural factors of her community.

It is shaped by:

  • her age
  • her ethnicity
  • her community and
  • her beliefs.

For that reason, we need to tailor our gender empowerment strategies to our beneficiary groups.

Success comes from:

  • acknowledging the intersectionality of the female experience
  • being sensitive to the role of the female farmer in her own community.
  • learning to ask the right questions.
  • ensuring that development is custom-made to each community we apply it to.
  • being vigilant that the empowerment of marginalised groups is self-directed.
  • putting these women in the position that they can define their own empowerment.

Once we learn to do that, we will be empowering women the world over. Learning to tailor extension programs in Laos can teach us how to empower our own female farming communities here in Australia. Its an answer to a much bigger question.

Back in Australia, after a year and a half of living in Laos, I am still dedicated to the empowerment of the female farmer. To achieve my goals in gender development, I have devoted my studies to learn more about gender, sustainable development and agricultural extension. This has meant I had to make many changes to my original study plans, which saw me move to Cairns to complete my Masters of Global Development at James Cook University. For this Masters program, I am writing a thesis investigating the role of academics from the Asian region in creating feminist theory and scholarship. I am also completing a Master of Philosophy (science) at the University of Sydney, exploring the engagement of female farmers in gender-sensitive agricultural development projects in Laos. I will then begin my PhD at James Cook University in 2022, investigating the tensions between Western academic understandings of culturally sensitive female empowerment and its implementation in agricultural development programs.

I believe that we need to understand and recognise the cultural script of beneficiary communities so that we can tailor agricultural extension programs to these socio-cultural factors. More importantly, I believe in the power of the female farmer. I believe that inclusivity in agricultural extension programs will improve their equality and their successes. I believe that gender inclusivity is the future of food security.

 

Young Farming Champion Dr Anika Molesworth recently interviewed Francesca for our Leadership is Language series. You can watch the interview here

Read Francesca’s blog “Things my father taught me ”  here

Connect with Francesca:  LinkedIn and on Twitter 

#BtheChange #Changemakers #YouthinAg #YouthinAction #SDG5 #SDGs

 

R.M.Williams Outback Magazine showing young people Who they Can Be in the world of agriculture.

R.M.Williams – the name is a siren call to regional, rural and remote Australia; the company is grounded in the outback; the man was a legend. Twenty-two years ago R.M.Williams OUTBACK magazine was launched with the aim of showcasing the positive stories of those beyond our city limits. OUTBACK has become a celebration of our people and places and is cherished not only by those living in the bush, but by Australians from all walks of life; a vital and living connection bridging the oft-called urban-rural divide.

The ethos of R.M.Williams OUTBACK mirrors that of Picture You in Agriculture. We identify brilliant young agriculturists, equip them with skills and confidence, and send them into the broader world to share their own positive stories. Through The Archibull Prize and Kreative Koalas these stories reach thousands of students and teachers, their families and their communities.

PYiA believes in the power of partnerships and of shouting-out to those who share our values so we are proud to announce some stories from R.M.Williams OUTBACK now appear on The Archibull Prize website, where teachers and students can easily access real-life examples of careers and sustainable communities.

One of these stories is about Bald Blair Angus, owned and operated by Sam and Kirsty White. If Kirsty’s name seems familiar it is because she has recently hosted one of our Youth Voices Leadership Team’s Leadership is Language sessions. You see, our stories are interconnected.

Best practice agriculture, role models in agriculture and the diversity and breadth of exciting careers in our sector are celebrated by both PYiA and Australia’s premier magazine, R.M.Williams OUTBACK. Telling stories has never felt so good.