15 November 2011

Two masters' and eight undergraduate students at Tay Bac University, Son La, Vietnam, have received much-needed bursaries allowing them to complete their theses research, thanks to an anonymous donor affiliated with UQ.

In early 2010, a woman of Vietnamese origin made an anonymous donation to the Centre for Communication and Social Change, The University of Queensland (UQ), to support a research project in the north west of Vietnam.

The project team decided to allocate this donation towards bursaries for students conducting theses research in the context of the project through Tay Bac University. The $2000 endowment was matched by the Centre and the School of Journalism and Communication.

"Although small in relation to some donations received by the University, these funds have made a huge difference for the students, who are undertaking field research in the context of an Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) funded project," said Associate Professor Elske van de Fliert, co-director of the Centre for Communication and Social Change, UQ, and project leader of the ACIAR project.

"Many of the students who were allocated these bursaries to support the field work of their theses research are from ethnic minorities in the north west region of Vietnam. The research will directly contribute to the development of more sustainable agricultural systems in their own villages.

"The students are involved in project activities that span a range of academic disciplines, from soil science to value chain management. This is great example of communication for transdisciplinary research for development, a key theme for our Centre."

Dao Huu Binh, 25, is a junior lecturer at the Agro-forestry Department of Tay Bac University and currently completing his masters' degree. His research on plum value chain in rural north west Vietnam is expected to be completed in 2012. He received a AUD1, 500 bursary, which he says has been an absolute necessity in supporting him financially in traveling to field sites, purchasing materials and printing his thesis.

"The many field trips and interviews would have been completely unaffordable to me; however, with this bursary I was able to accomplish all necessary tasks for my research. Thanks to all these field trips, I have been able to explore many innovative and useful aspects of data collection for my research, which consequently motivated me in furthering my future research activities," he said.

Vi Thi Thin, 23, is an undergraduate student from a minority group in Muong Te, Son La, who investigated the effects of plant density on the development, yield and pest occurrence in pumpkin.

"The living conditions where I come from are still very marginal. I know that farmers here are living mostly on their land; yet, they don’t know how to preserve their farm land. After graduating, my ambition is to stay in my hometown and help farmers improve their farming practices to make them more sustainable," she said.

"I have learnt a lot of useful knowledge in class; however, this is not enough to make me become a good researcher, especially a good agricultural researcher.

"So, when I was given this grant, I felt really happy and tried my best to learn. I learnt how to work with farmers, how to involve them in our activities and try to put myself in their position to understand them … These skills I did not learn in class but they are really vital for students like me.

"I was very happy that the experiment was very successful and the farmers had a good pumpkin crop."

Media: Siena Perry, Communication and Logistics Officer, Centre for Communication and Social Change, on +61 7 3346 3465 or +61 404 520 556.