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Researcher Spotlight: Bill Pritchard

Bill Pritchard is a Professor of Geography at the University of Sydney. Professor Pritchard has been working with colleagues in India for almost two decades on projects connected to rural development, food security and climate change. He has co-authored two books about India, Value Chain Struggles, about the economic and social challenges facing the tea and coffee industries of South India, and Feeding India, which addressed India’s journey towards food security in the context of the 2013 National Food Security Act, as well as numerous other publications. From 2016 to 2020, he led four University of Sydney undergraduate field trips to India involving more than 100 students.

What are you working on right now?
I have a longstanding research partnership with colleagues at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai. Our current project is to assess the social and economic effects of an initiative by the Government of Maharashtra to address the increasingly severe effects of drought within areas dominated by Scheduled Tribe populations. Our interest is the connection between climate change adaptation and social disadvantage. In February 2023, we visited field sites and will soon begin collecting data that will help us interpret the effectiveness of this scheme.

What’s the best part of your work?
Fieldwork is the best part of my research activities in India.

Being a Geographer means that I need to visit the sites I’m researching, and I’m privileged to have excellent Indian collaborators with whom I work. Over my time in India I’ve been able to visit many parts of this beautiful country.

What sparked your interest in your field?
During my twenties I backpacked in India. Beforehand I didn’t know much about the country, but it sparked a passion. It was only much later in my life that I got the opportunity to build a professional career that involved deepening my relationship with India, and I’ve never regretted it. Especially because of the food.

What does successful research collaboration look like?
Successful research collaborations require trust and understanding. The objectives of research can be understood differently by Australian and Indian partners, so listening and adapting is crucial. It’s also vital to be able to share a joke and enjoy each other’s company.

What are some of your favourite places to visit in Australia and India?
In India, I love Kodagu and the Nilgiris. In my first major Indian research project, I had the good fortune of being able to travel across these districts to meet with and interview people involved in the tea and coffee industries. I fell in love with these places.

In Australia, I’m Sydney-born and still a Sydneysider, and I try to spend my spare moments either in the water or on a kayak on top of the water, usually in Sydney Harbour. In my teenage years I lived on the Far North Coast of NSW, near Byron Bay, and try to visit there as much as possible.

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