Off to Cambodia

IMG_1821As part of the Cambodia project, we’re collaborating with National School of Agriculture Prekleap, who are helping with the ethnographic portion of the research. As a whole, we’re integrating semi-structured interviews with leaders in the agricultural field, focus groups with farmers, and ethnographies with farmer household/communities. IMG_1764

I’ll be in Cambodia for the next week running training session on Qualitative methods, so should be fun (and a great revision for myself).

More updates and papers to publicise, but the flight leaves in a couple hours and I want to go and play with Elspeth.



P.S. please be sure to get in touch if you are similarly interested in farmer decision making, farmers and farming, or the integration-competition of knowledge systems.IMG_1848

My Masters Subject at the University of Melbourne

I’ve finally gotten around to publicising my Masters subject: Risk Management & Public Participation (Geog:90020). Please visit the teaching page if you are interested, it’s a great subject for anyone interested in Risk Management or questions like: ‘why won’t the public do what we want them to do’?

I’ve a whole bunch of papers in review and needing small revisions, so I’ll be posting about them in the near future. As always, I’m very keen to discuss papers or research topics with people, so please do get in touch.

Best Wishes.


Successful Institute of Australian Geographers Conferece (IAG)

It’s been some time since I’ve updated my blog, the reason being that the IAG conference has involved a ridiculous amount of work. Ian Rutherfurd and I are extremely pleased with the response (and that it is done). While I can honestly say I will never, ever do it again, I can also say that it was well worth the effort. It’s been an amazing opportunity to get to know the work of about 400 geographers from more than 20 nations. Furthermore, it was really inspiring to see the innovative methods and findings coming out of the community and discipline. I’m looking forward to Canberra in 2015, mostly because I won’t have to do anything.Presentation at 2014 IAG, Melbourne

Editors vs Publishers – The Times Higher story on Prometheus and Taylor & Francis

Progressive Geographies

The Times Higher has an interesting and worrying piece about the clash between the editors of a journal and their publisher Taylor & Francis. Here’s the opening few lines:

A journal’s editorial board has been left on the brink of resignation after an eight-month standoff with its publisher Taylor & Francis over the publication of a debate on academic publishing and the profits made by major firms.

The debate, in the journal Prometheus: Critical Studies in Innovation, was due to appear last September, but was delayed by Taylor & Francis and published only at the end of last month.

Its “proposition” paper, “Publisher, be damned! from price gouging to the open road”, by four academics from the University of Leicester’s School of Management, criticises the large profits made by commercial publishers on the back of academics’ labours, and the failure of the Finch report on open access to address…

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Balkan state of emergency

Floods and flood impacts.

Dragana Mrkaja

Originally broadcast on Panorama, SYN Media 2014 | 90.7 and streaming online | Feature photo sourced from Reuters

Serbia, Bosnia and Croatia have been experiencing some of the worst floods recorded in Balkan history. Dragana Mrkaja speaks to Dalibor Saula, Victorian State Coordinator for the Serbian Orthodox Youth Association (SOYA) and Dr Brian Robert Cook, geographer and University of Melbourne lecturer.

*Introductory sound sourced from Youtube user: dzohusafetw
*Image sourced from Reuters

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First field visit to Cambodia


The scoping visit to Cambodia has gone exceedingly well (so far…). We’ve met with researchers, NGOs, and foreign and national governmental representatives, and had great response. It’s an amazing, dynamic place, with all the hallmarks of rapid development. Society and the environment in the context of wealth creation, and my sustainable development subject ringing in my ears.

The farms are incredibly small here, which – we’re told – is the basis for poor yields and livelihoods. I’m not sure I accept this, as farming is presently a poor return on labour relative to the garment industry, and farmers seem to be doing just enough to produce rice for their family’s subsistence. It’s odd listening to the agronomists complain that the farmers are ignorant or misguided when it looks (to an outsider) that the farmers are no longer in farming for money, so much as for growing their family’s rice; there seems to be a really social and cultural (i.e. Not rational economic) reason for current farming and livelihood decisions that are being missed or dismissed. I guess we’ll see.

Successful ACIAR grant to work on farmer decision making in Cambodia

Smallholder perspectives and decisions about technology adoption in agro-ecological zones and farming systems of Cambodia

I’m really pleased to be a part of a successful grant through the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR). Bob Farquharson and I are looking to analyse farmer decision making using a ‘post income’ approach, probably the Genuine Progress Indicator. It’s our hope that this approach will help us push past over-reliance on income and money, to explore a wider range of considerations. What the GPI boils down to is measuring quality of life in ways that don’t simplify life to money. Into this context we are going to take a fresh look at the decisions that farmers make when faced with the opportunity to adopt a new technology.

The project begins soon, so watch this space for an update (and photos).