Lucie Douma and Parmindar Singh, 2022 Nuffield New Zealand Farming Scholars, have been in Norfolk, UK, for the Contemporary Scholars Conference (CSC).
Back after two years’ hiatus, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the CSC ran between 7 and 15 March.
The Contemporary Scholars Conference – all together now, finally.
The Conference gathers Scholars from the current year and creates opportunities for them to learn and get to know each other at the start of their Nuffield journeys. Nuffield Scholars each bring different expertise, and all are keen to share knowledge and discuss the big challenges.
The CSC is followed by the Global Focus Programme (GFP), where Scholars split into groups to travel around the globe, visit multiple countries, businesses, institutions, and research organisations. On the GFP, Scholars will begin to dig deeper into their topics of interest, they will gather information and explore solutions and ideas.
CSC 2022 – Food, climate, health.
The theme of this years’ Conference was “Food, Climate, Health”, but by all accounts, the discussions were far reaching and went beyond the theme, not surprising given the aim of any Nuffield initiative has always been to look at things differently.
The Conference itinerary was packed with quality content, Q and A sessions, workshops, and plenty of opportunity for networking between Scholars.
In a post early on the CSC, Lucie and Parmindar both share the excitement,
“What a privilege to be able to join 150 people from across 15 countries at the Nuffield Contemporary Scholars Conference in both Norwich and London.
The week was packed with inspirational speakers, farm visits, gala dinners, meeting MPs, and getting to know how other countries farm. We’ve met some incredible people along the way.”
The elephant in the room: War time food security.
When the Conference was planned, everyone’s mind was preoccupied with the Covid pandemic and when we would get that under control. If we only knew…
Just couple of weeks before the start of the CSC, a new global challenge arose – the Russian invasion in Ukraine, bringing a tsunami of worries around the world – the humanitarian devastation, the economic sanctions, the shifts in the political stances on so many issues. But there are massive implications for the agricultural sector and food security, caused by the war and the sanctions imposed on Russia and Belarus.
As part of the conference a Dutchman, named Kees Huizinga, who farms in Ukraine, addressed the scholars and talked about what it is to farm in a war zone.
As Lucie recounts, “Kees gave a sobering account of what is happening on the ground in the Ukraine, where farmers have less than a two-week window to plant their crops for the next year, including wheat. They are short 200,000t of diesel and are afraid to drive their tractors at night because they light up like Christmas trees and become targets.”
Everyone in the room felt the situation required immediate action.
“I just heard of a group of UK farmers who are driving to the Ukraine border next week to drop off supplies. This is real action. My question to you is what can we do from New Zealand to support these farmers?”, asked Lucie.
Scholar, Camila Hayseldon-Ashby, from the UK also conveys the sense of urgency and desperation she felt during Kees’s talk:
“As well as the humanitarian and moral impact, the war will have a huge impact on food production. We go to our political representatives and make sure they understand how this is impacting food production and global food security.”
Aled Rhys Jones, Nuffield Farming Scholar, broadcaster, and podcaster tweeted,
Visiting the locals: Condimentum.
Another highlight for the New Zealand Scholars, was the visit to Condimentum. Lucie shared on LinkedIn after the meeting:
Great to spend the morning with CEO, David Martin and the wider team at Condimentum where they are going through an exciting Growth stage while servicing a 10 year contract with Unilever to supply Coleman’s Mustard, an iconic brand in the UK. Parmindar Singh and myself learnt a lot about the mustard business and suggested ways they could use their by-products as an income stream instead of a waste stream #Condimentum
The end of the beginning.
The week appeared very intense and busy, even from afar, and in Lucie’s words “An excellent week spent getting to know 150 scholars, across two years from all around the world.”
Another attendee, Helen Wyman, quoted Nuffield Scholar Wyn Owen at the conclusion of the conference – ‘The end of the beginning’ as she elaborates on the experience,
“On Tuesday I returned home emotional, tired and overwhelmed but after a few days of reflection I am excited about the future and look forward to visiting my new friends around the UK and the globe very soon.”
These were only some of the anecdotes from the conference. We’ll hear more from Lucie and Parmindar when they return to New Zealand to collect their thoughts.
The conference is over, but the journey still lays ahead. For most of the participating scholars, it will never end. After all, being a Nuffield Scholar is, above all, a mindset – to keep searching, keep daring, keep improving.