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Students on Connections Program address challenges of smallholder farming in Vietnam

The Australian & New Zealand students on the 2017 Connections Program.
The Australian & New Zealand students on the 2017 Connections Program.

10 agricultural students from leading universities across Australia and New Zealand recently participated in a two-week immersive study tour of Vietnam, as part of the 2017 Syngenta Connections program.

Now in its seventh year, Syngenta Connections seeks to engage and inspire the next generation of agricultural leaders by providing participants with the opportunity to learn about differing farming practices and challenges, in collaboration with universities, institutions, growers and local organisations.

This year, the program expanded into New Zealand and South Korea for the first time.  The 2017 Syngenta Connections program has brought together the largest cohort of students to date, with 26 students from eight countries across the Asia-Pacific, including Australia, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Myanmar, Nepal and Vietnam.

Though the program, the participants are able to build their understanding of emerging agricultural markets while applying their skills and insights, according to Paul Luxton, Syngenta Territory Head – Australasia.

“The Syngenta Connections program is a great opportunity for our Australian and New Zealand students to apply their learnings, gain practical experience and make a contribution towards addressing the challenges of smallholder farming in the Asia-Pacific region,” Mr. Luxton said.

During the two-week study tour, the Syngenta Connections participants attended lectures, field trips and met with growers in Ho Chi Minh and Can Tho to gain insights into the current state of agriculture in Vietnam and learn about the role stakeholders, including agribusinesses, governments and NGOs, play in supporting farmers and improving food security in the region.

Pictured: The Innovation Challenge Winning Group

The Syngenta Connections participants were also tasked with exploring the constraints facing smallholder farmers in the Mekong Delta and developing a real-world solution that addresses an identified challenge.  With guidance and technical advice from mentors, the students developed their project ideas and presented their concepts to a judging panel of industry representatives.  Kacie Baker (Australia), Samuel Coggins (Australia), Santosh Koirala (Nepal), Kieran McCahon (New Zealand), Nguyen Thuy Dung (Vietnam), Pham Hong Duc (Vietnam) Soekmin Hong (South Korea) and Sothearath Sok (Cambodia) were named the winners of the Innovation Challenge.  The team developed a model to recycle used crop protection product containers and encourage adoption by growers and distributors.  They were awarded $2,000 from Syngenta, which will be invested in supporting the implementation of their project idea on the ground.

For the Australian and New Zealand students, the 2017 Syngenta Connections program has broadened their understanding of smallholder farming in Vietnam and the parallels with Australasian agriculture.

“It was really interesting to see how the challenges facing agriculture are similar around the world, but are addressed differently in each country,” said Mariann Turner, La Trobe University student and 2017 Syngenta Connections program participant.

Pictured: Syngenta Vietnam Field Research Employee with Connections students Mariann Turner & Kiana Barrie-Gresham from Australia.

“Participating in the Syngenta Connections program really highlighted the importance of working together as a community to solve these challenges.”

Since its launch in 2010, 70 Australasian agriculture students have participated in the Syngenta Connections program. 

The 2017 Syngenta Connections program was implemented in collaboration with industry partners, including USAID, Winrock International, Rimfire Resources, MimosaTek and CETDAE.   

Pictured: Connections students Sam Coggins & Matt Champness from Australia, presenting to the other participants during the program.

To hear more stories from the students, you can watch them on the YouTube playlist below:


Click here to go to the Connections Program webpage for more information.