I was fortunate to have been chosen to participate in the Agri-Inno Workshop that brought together 34 early career researchers from both the sciences and social sciences to network and learn from each other, both in terms of career progression and more specifically the grant-seeking process. This workshop was made possible by a generous grant from Newton Links, and with the guidance of mentors from University of Reading and Crops for the Future.
Over the course of one week, we heard from both highly experienced academics and industry experts, as well as grant-giving bodies on tips and tricks of writing a winning grant. We were divided into teams to develop an extensive mock grant application over three days, which culminated in a nail-biting presentation session to a jury that included a representative from Newton Links. Unfortunately, our team, “Fantastic Four-estry” was not the winning team, but nevertheless we went away more inspired to apply our practical knowledge in the ‘real world’ of grant applications.
The highlight of the one-week workshop was a field trip to the North Selangor Peat Swamp Forest in Kuala Selangor (NSPSF). Here, I had the chance to experience firsthand one of the largest peat deposits in Penisular Malaysia, and see for myself the conservation efforts carried out by the Global Environment Centre in collaboration with the surrounding community. Surrounding the NSPSF is one of the largest swathes of paddy fields in the country. Agriculture and nature exist side-by-side in a delicate balance revolving around water management between the two land types; peatswamps and paddy fields. As the NSPSF was only recently gazetted as a protected area, one of the main challenges is the lack of buffer zones separating the swamp from the surrounding agricultural activity. Hence, there is a high risk of fires spreading to the swamp area throughout the year. However, active community participation has reduced incidences significantly. There is still a long way to go, but the communities in the villages bordering NSPSF, especially in the Kuala Selangor area where we visited, was an inspiring example of a harmonious relationship between humans and the larger ecosystem.
The website of the workshop is accessible here.