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From This Land

From This Land

Rural road

From This Land

A photo-story exhibition

Viet Nam and Cambodia. Rich cultures. Complex histories. Growing economies.

From This Land is a Plant & Food Research exhibition by Wara Bullôt and Phil Johnstone. 

Through 18 portraits, other photos, text, video and a podcast series, it visits four agricultural development projects to hear the experiences and dreams of farmers, agronomists, business-owners, scientists and others.

Plant & Food Research is active on the ground, applying its knowledge via a range of partnerships.

Welcome to From This Land.


Most of the world’s 570 million farms are small and family-operated. 

As producers of over 70% of the world’s food, they are critical to biodiversity and food security. 

This matters because only 12 plants and five animal species make up 75% of the global diet, leaving our food systems vulnerable to natural disasters and disease.

Sharing better ways to grow food with such a large and diverse group of farmers is a big challenge. 

It has to happen, however, because demand for agricultural crops is set to double as our planet’s population climbs to 9.1 billion by 2050.

A global shift is underway. Research and sustainable farming practices are changing futures. 

In Viet Nam and Cambodia, New Zealand taxpayers and plant scientists are lending a hand: working alongside farmers, advisors, not-for-profits, science institutes, designers and the business community. 

Best-practice development is reuniting families, lifting incomes and improving the environment. 

As photographer Wara Bullôt says: “If change can happen this quickly, what more is possible in the next decade?”

Watch The making of From This Land

From This Land: dragon fruit

New Zealand and Vietnamese scientists have discovered how to combat the major disease of dragon fruit and dramatically improve sustainable growing and postharvest practices. The incomes of smallholder farmers and others in the supply chain are rising. New cultivars are coming to market. 

Project funding: New Zealand Aid Programme and Plant & Food Research. 

Partners: Southern Horticultural Research Institute (SOFRI) and the Sub-Institute for Agricultural Engineering and Postharvest Technology (SIAEP).

From This Land: avocado

Major pepper exporter Sam Agritech wants to be Viet Nam’s first large-scale avocado exporter.  Targeting markets like Japan, Saudi Arabia and South Korea, the firm is developing a 200-hectare orchard. Plant & Food Research is working to reduce disease incidence in mature plants through improved nursery practices. 

Project funding: Sam Agritech and the New Zealand Aid Programme, facilitated by New Zealand G2G, a government to government joint venture between MFAT and NZTE.

From This Land: quality horticulture

Farmers are earning more by selling to high-end retailers and supermarkets rather than traditional markets. Improved practices and human-centred design are enhancing food safety along the supply chain. 

Project funding: New Zealand Aid Programme. 

Partners: the General Directorate of Agriculture, Natural Garden, Lors Thmey (iDE), the Eco AgriCompany, Project Alba, Svay Rieng Agricultural Cooperative and Natural Agricultural Village.

From This Land: commercial horticulture

New Zealand scientists have trained staff at global development agency iDE in new crop agronomy and pest and disease management. ‘CODES’ project results include incomes for some melon farmers jumping to US$10,000 per year. Other farmers have switched to higher value crops such as cherry tomatoes, chilli and broccoli. 

Project funding: The Plant & Food Research contribution is funded by the New Zealand Aid Programme.

Exhibition content creators

Wara Bullôt is the photographer whose work features in From This Land. She graduated from Massey University in 2015 with a Photography major first class honours Bachelor of Design degree. The University made her a Massey Scholar. She is a Plant & Food Research photographer who has extensively exhibited and published her own creative work. In early 2019 she became the first New Zealand artist in five years to have work accepted in the world’s longest running photography exhibition - the Royal Photographic Society International Exhibition 161. 

See examples of Wara’s creative work at

Listen to an interview with Wara on Radio New Zealand

Phil Johnstone is responsible for the exhibition’s text, video and podcast series. A senior advisor at Plant & Food Research, Phil is a former journalist with a mix of corporate, public sector and not-for-profit communications experience. Over the past decade, he has visited a number of countries in Asia and Africa to collect content for development organisations. This included five months in Nepal following the 2015 earthquake as a communications volunteer for The Leprosy Mission International and the International Federation of the Red Cross.   

Comments by Wara Bullôt, From This Land photographer

“This presentation of new, contemporary work strongly reflects a little-seen Asian reality, namely: the experiences of subsistence farmers in remote places and those they are working with to improve environmental practices and livelihoods.

I tried to be in the moment. Documenting what was there and not putting too much of what I see in the photograph. I portrayed people as themselves. I wanted the images raw and a little bit awkward if that’s how it was.

We went to remote areas in the rainy season. We knew the rain would start around midday, so we had to work quickly. I just went with it. They were long, hot days. 

These people are beautiful, humble, down to earth and hard working. They are passionate and determined to create change.

With this work, I had to think like a documentary photojournalist. I went “old school” – using a 24-70 mm portrait lens with no flash and just a reflector. The light there has soft, magical tones. The trees and colours are so different. I found it visually stunning.”

Our international development activities

We work on projects world-wide that help farmers create long-term economic sustainability for their families.

Exhibition supporters

We’re grateful for the support given the From This Land exhibition. 

The June 2021 exhibition in Auckland was supported by the Ministry for Primary Industries as part of its promotion of the 2020 International Year of Plant Health. 

The August 2021 exhibition at Parliament in Wellington was supported by the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Massey University College of Creative Arts.

The February 2022 exhibition at World Expo in Dubai was supported by the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and New Zealand Trade and Enterprise.