How is ACIAR’s work relevant to COVID-19?
ACIAR, as Australia’s specialist international agricultural research agency, has been working on biosecurity-related projects for over 30 years.
Our work in biosecurity is diverse. From directly researching diseases in animals, to understanding fungus in soil, developing new breeds of disease-resistant plants, helping smallholder farmers to meet food safety standards to access better markets, and assisting partner countries to improve their biosecurity capacity.
As a trusted science partner across our region, ACIAR continues to provide research to help understand and address threats to food security from animal and plant diseases and pests. Our research is a very tangible, practical demonstration of our commitment to regional security, prosperity and sustainability.
How has ACIAR responded to the COVID-19 outbreak?
Like many organisations in Australia and around the world, ACIAR has had to completely change the way in which it works to keep our staff and the work of our partners safe.
ACIAR has developed business continuity plans for the entire organisation, including the research programs.
Our Country Office staff are locally engaged and, while tele-working from home, continue to liaise with our local partners to identify risks to project delivery in the field.
Importantly, our work to help countries and communities grow more and healthier food, improve nutrition and reduce poverty has not stopped. The response to COVID-19 has prevented some of us going to our workplace and travelling to our projects, but the virus has not stopped our work.
Food System Security, Resilience and Emerging Risks in the Indo-Pacific in the context of COVID-19
As part of our response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have initiated a three-stage assessment to 1) document and analyse food systems vulnerabilities resulting from the crisis and their impacts on smallholder farmers and 2) identify possible actions that could be taken to increase food systems resilience in the face of future shocks.
Stage 1 was a ‘Rapid Assessment’ of emerging food systems risks across the region synthesised from insights from across the ACIAR network. The result has now been now published on our website.
What are ACIAR’s priorities at the moment?
Our number one priority right now is to keep our staff safe and healthy. We have a ‘skeleton’ staff working from ACIAR House in Canberra, and more than 80% are tele-working from home, including our Country Office staff.
We remain committed to continuing to deliver on our mandate as set out in the ACIAR Act – to help improve food security and reduce poverty in our partner countries.
As an Australian Government agency, we are focusing our attention very closely on working with our partners in Pacific Island countries, as part of the Pacific Step-up, along with our near neighbours in South East Asia and other countries in the Indo-Pacific region.