The Crawford Fund was established as an initiative of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (ATSE) in 1987. It is a national support organisation for international agricultural research (IAR).
According to a paper prepared by its founder Professor Derek Tribe in July 1998, the origins of the Crawford Fund derive from a May 1986 meeting of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) in Ottawa which considered the need for “Broadening Support for International Agricultural Research”. The focus was to be on funding for the CGIAR Centres and increased public awareness of the benefits that flow from agricultural research for development.
In order to carry the message to a range of audiences it was decided that national support organisations should be established in member countries, starting with the USA, the UK, Canada, and Australia.
During 1986, Professor Tribe with support from the Australian aid agency (ADAB, later AusAID), the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) and the CGIAR Secretariat, explored the possibilities of establishing a national support organisation in Australia. Finding strong support in academic, political and business circles, he concluded that the Academy of Technological Sciences (and Engineering) would be an appropriate home for such an organisation.
Named the Crawford Fund in honour of Sir John Crawford, The Crawford Fund for International Agricultural Research is governed by its own Board, one or two members of which are on the Academy Board, and includes the part-time Executive Director. The current national chair of the Board is John Kerin.
At the time the Fund was established, the Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering defined its role as making “more widely known throughout Australia the benefits that accrue both internationally and to Australia from international agricultural research, and to encourage greater support for, and participation in, international agricultural R&D by Australian governmental and non-governmental organisations and, in particular, the industrial, farming and scientific communities in Australia”.
After some years, an independent assessment determined that The Crawford Fund was “an independent and value-adding element of the Australian aid program”. This stimulated the Australian Government to support The Fund’s mission: to increase Australians’ engagement in international agricultural research, development and education for the benefit of developing countries and Australia. The Crawford Fund networks via 70-odd office-bearers and committee members which are its greatest asset. They enable the Crawford Fund to liaise with policy-makers in Australia and overseas to a greater extent than its modest resources and profile would suggest.
The main activities of the Crawford Fund include awareness-raising to increase support for international agricultural research, the organisation of short-term practical training for agricultural researchers from developing countries, master classes for emerging research leaders, and two types of awards.
The Public Awareness Program includes an annual conference at Parliament House, Canberra. The annual conference focuses on a selected aspect of international agricultural research, showcasing eminent speakers and promoting an intensive round of high-level meetings and media publicity. Since 2010, conferences have included:
- Biodiversity and World Food Security (2010)
- The Supermarket Revolution in Food: Good, Bad or Ugly for the World's Farmers, Consumers and Retailers? (2011)
- The Scramble for Natural Resources: More Food, Less Land? (2012)
- Agriculture, Mining and Development: Bread from Stones? (2013)
- Ethics, Efficiency and Food Security: Feeding the 9 Billion Well (2014)
- The Business of Food Security: Profitability, Sustainability, and Risk (2015)
- Waste Not, Want Not: The Circular Economy to Food Production (2016)
- Transforming Lives and Livelihoods: The Digital Revolution in Agriculture (2017)
The Crawford Fund supports a range of other activities designed to encourage public awareness of the importance of international agricultural research for development. The Fund supports the preparation of various publications. The Fund also organises other events such as meetings and conferences at the state level in Australia. For example, in 2011 the Crawford Fund sponsored a conference in Brisbane on the theme of 'A Food Secure World'. One of the aims of meetings of this kind is to provide the opportunity for eminent international speakers to address agricultural topics of global importance in Australia.
Since its establishment, the Crawford Fund has provided training to about 8,000 researchers, research managers and farmers in dozens of developing countries. Two kinds of training are provided:
- About 25 training awards are made each year to enable individual researchers from developing countries to undertake customised training in Australia in specific aspects of a wide range of topics in agriculture, forestry and horticulture.
- Additionally, about 30 multi-participant training ourses are conducted each year either in developing countries or Australia, covering a wide range of topics in agriculture and forestry by teams of experts from CSIRO, universities, state agriculture departments, etc.
Approximately 40% of training awards and training courses are linked to ACIAR projects.
The Crawford Fund also conducts Master Classes. These are high-level courses aimed at mid-level researchers and emerging research managers who undertake a short period of training (typically two weeks) on particular research issues. The maximum number of participants in any one class is set at approximately 20 people. Participants are hand-picked, as are the trainers.
The Crawford Fund provides two prestigious training fellowships, the Derek Tribe Award and the Crawford Fund Fellowship, from a private donor. Awarded biennially, the Derek Tribe Award is presented to a senior researcher from a developing country. The Crawford Fellowship is presented to a young researcher from a developing country.
- The annual conference is usually opened by a senior Australian minister. The 2009 conference, for example, was opened by the Australian foreign minister, the Hon Stephen Smith. .
- Foreign Minister Bob Carr opened the conference in 2012.
- 2016 conference proceedings
- See Derek E. Tribe (1991), Doing Well by Doing Good: Agricultural research: Feeding and greening the world, Leichhardt, NSW, Pluto Press ISBN 0-949138-72-X.
- The President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Kanoyo Nwanze, spoke to the Brisbane conference on the topic of A food secure world: Challenging choices for our North, opportunities for the South. 
- For an evaluation of one of the master classes, see J.R. McWilliam, R. Sdoodee, and L. Marlow (1997), 'Evaluation of the Crawford Fund master class in biotechnology: A tracer study of participants, their sponsoring institutions and course providers', Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, Publication code EEU-WP 27, ISBN 1-86320-213-7.