Overview of Landcare
Landcare is the key community mechanism by which natural resource management outcomes are delivered. As such, landcare has a vital role in the way that science and research is transferred to land managers.
Landcare Australia recently commissioned a report into the future of sustainable agriculture in Australia. In the foreword of Landcare Farming: securing the future for Australian agriculture, the authors (Cullen, Williams and Curtis) made the following overview and observations of landcare:
‘Australia has a long history of governments working with individual farmers and small farmer groups in soil conservation projects. In the 1970s and 1980s however, Australia’s environmental consciousness became more highly developed, and other legacies of the past such as salinity and loss of biodiversity became more noticeable. There was an emerging awareness that new policy and institutional approaches would be required.
Following an alliance between the National Farmers’ Federation and the Australian Conservation Foundation in 1989, the Prime Minister declared the 1990s the Decade of Landcare and committed $320 million in Commonwealth funding. From its early beginnings, Landcare is now a broad movement comprising:
• Over 4,000 Landcare groups Australia-wide, with 40 percent of farmers as members and influencing at least a further 35 percent of farmers;
• Landcare Australia Limited, the national body that builds partnerships between Landcare and the corporate sector, and carries out awareness raising activities;
• Commonwealth/State grants programs including the National Landcare Program, the National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality, and the Natural Heritage Trust;
• The community-based Australian Landcare Council, which includes representatives of major stakeholder groups and advises the Commonwealth Government on resource management issues; and
• The National Landcare Facilitator project, where a rural affairs and extension specialist has a charter to report to government on all Landcare matters, but especially on organisation and support.
Landcare has a major influence on adoption of sustainable agriculture
In 2000 ABARE (Alexander et al 2000) found that adoption of landcare farming practices is much higher if the landholder is a landcare group member. Landcare group members (compared to non landcare group members) are:
• 88%more likely to exclude stock from agricultural areas affected by land degradation;
• 77%more likely to undertake formal monitoring of pasture/vegetation conditions;
• 30%more likely to protect or enhance areas of conservation value;
• 20% more likely to maintain vegetation along drainage lines; and
• 46%more likely to undertake other preventative/control practices.
The characteristics of landcare group members have also been extensively studied.
ABARE’s 1992-93 survey found that landcare group members were generally more likely than non landcare group members to:
• have a younger farm operator;
• possess a farm plan;
• have a perceived land degradation problem on their property;
• have made expenditure eligible to be claimed as a tax deduction;
• be participating in a community based National Landcare Program project;
• be larger.
Overall, landcare members recorded higher levels of farm cash income, farm debt and capital invested in their property, plus a higher rate of return to farm business capital. They operated larger farms, with less intensive cropping and more livestock compared with non landcare members.
The 1995-96ABARE survey found that:
• More landcare members had a farm plan; they more frequently participated in training activities, used a wider range of farm management information sources; and had adopted a larger proportion of ‘best farm management’ practices.
From the above it is clear that the landcare group network provides a powerful network to achieve significant change toward more sustainable agricultural practices.
Source : Landcare Australia – Submission to the House of Representatives on Science and Innovation
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