Our Vision is a world where communities can daily access sustainable, safe and nutritious food in order to live their lives in the way they choose, and our Mission is to make this happen.
Confronted with extreme poverty in Indonesia while in his early 20's, Dr Donald Van Cooten made a personal commitment to go above and beyond the usual short-term, unsustainable assistance dished out by aid projects to focus instead on identifying and formulating long-term solutions to the underlying causes of poverty.
Don's passion for food production was evident early on with studies and research at the University of Queensland's Agriculture Department. Field work in Indonesia for his Masters degree consisted of evaluating a wide range of high-protein, drought resistant pigeon pea varieties so they could be developed and incorporated into cereal-based cropping systems. A visit to the semi-arid island of Timor during the annual starvation period which visibly impacts humans and livestock left its mark, instilling a vision for using his research and analytical skills to pursue freedom from hunger as experienced in rural communities.
In 1989 Don moved with his wife to Indonesia and, after a year of language studies, settled in West Timor. Here he worked with local NGO, Yayasan Bina Mandiri, to develop sustainable solutions applicable to the semiarid regions of eastern Indonesia. Throughout a decade-long tenure, Don researched mixed cropping systems on permanent raised beds which resulted in higher yields, reduced risk and greater nutrition over a range of seasons.
From Timor Don moved his family to the semiarid region of Semarapura, eastern Bali and spent the next five years expanding and extending the reach of sustainable development enterprises throughout the south-eastern islands of Indonesia. In addition, he undertook a multicultural research Ph.D. in order to further understand and mitigate the impact of traditional beliefs and practices on ethnoagriculture.
With children needing access to higher education, Don returned to Australia in 2005 and since then, as Chief Executive Officer of World Relief Australia, has facilitated the delivery of hundreds of community development initiatives in more than 50 countries across the globe.