More world class scientists must be trained in agronomy/farming systems, environmental science, genetics, biotechnology and plant breeding. By instituting international agricultural training initiatives we can positively address the global food crisis.
Australia's engagement in international agricultural research and education, through ATSE, AusAID, ACIAR, universities, government departments, Crawford Fund and NGOs, has imparted knowledge and skills and delivered sustainable technologies for local conditions.
An example is ‘Seeds of Life', a project in partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries East Timor, funded by ACIAR and AusAID and which commenced in 2005 with the goal of improving food security for East Timor by improved crop varieties and technologies - critical for the country's independence and economic development.
The project has already released new varieties of cassava, a staple food in East Timor, which yield up to 65 per cent more than traditional varieties.
Australia's involvement with Iraq, through the project, ‘Development of conservation cropping in the dry lands of northern Iraq', in partnership with ICARDA and supported by ACIAR and AusAID and training of young Iraqi agricultural scientists at Australian universities, is another example of Australia's strategic involvement in war-torn countries.
According to ACIAR CEO, Dr Nick Austin, "agricultural science can be a catalyst for lifting many of the world's estimated 1.4 billion poor people from poverty".
Addressing the annual ABARE Conference, he said in the past 50 years, agricultural R&D had been pivotal in lifting gross world food production by 138%, from 1.84 billion tonnes to 4.38 billion tonnes.
At the moment, it's closer to a nightmare, for those going to sleep at night with an empty stomach and this is something that is unpalatable to caring, thinking human beings with the capacity to make the changes necessary for everyone to be adequately fed and cared for.
We simply can't claim global food security when one in seven people today still do not have access to sufficient food, and equal number are over-fed.
Many of our global problems, such as food, water and energy shortages and climate change, are related and it's clear we can no longer take a linear path to a solution. I believe appropriately funded and strategic R&D has the capacity to drive agriculture and, in turn, global food production, to the point where food security can be more a reality than a dream.
Strong political leadership and social planning are also equally necessary to achieve these desired outcomes.
Australia has contributed significantly through joint education and training initiatives in developing the next generation of scientists, agriculturalists and farmers - the people the world will depend on to solve the greatest challenge of human history - food security in the 21st century.
Published in ATSE Focus 164
Winthrop Professor Kadambot Siddique is Chair in Agriculture and Director of The UWA Institute of Agriculture and Associate Dean Research, Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, The University of Western Australia, Australia.
He has developed and commercially released several grain legume varieties that have superior yield, quality and disease resistance.
In 2005 Professor Siddique was elected a Fellow of ATSE, in recognition of his outstanding contribution to Australian and international agriculture, particularly innovative research and leadership in production agronomy, farming systems, crop physiology, germplasm development and breeding of grain legumes and cereal crops of benefit to the grains industry in Australia and overseas.