The ongoing effort to promote best management practice to sugarcane farmers in the Great Barrier Reef catchment

Working with sugar cane farmers and other agricultural landholders in Great Barrier Reef catchments is critical to improving the quality of water flowing out to the GBR. Persuading ‘un-engaged’ farmers to update their practices is a key objective for GBR health managers. But how best to reach these farmers?

The Tropical Water Quality Hub’s Project 2.1.3, led by Professor Lynne Eagle at James Cook University, aims to optimise the ‘marketing’ of Best Management Practice (BMP) changes to farmers in these catchments to improve water quality outcomes.

The project’s early surveys of farmers in these areas results have painted a detailed demographic picture.

While many growers are already engaging with other TWQ Hub water quality impact reduction and monitoring programs, the findings highlight an ongoing need to persuade remaining farmers on the validity of the science behind of water quality management.

Data indicates that the average land manager in a GBR catchment is significantly older than the median age of the Australian population, and believes strongly in maintaining traditions and heritage.

The researchers recommend that there could be increased adoption of best practice through supporting successful adopters of BMP changes as examples for other farmers to follow, amongst other techniques.

Prof Eagle says focusing on highlighting the views of respected farmers that have successfully adopted BMP change is a promising strategy for winning over the less-engaged landholders.

“What the farmers are doing is asking ‘what do the people that I respect think about this?’ Successful, respected farmers are the gatekeepers of information for other farmers, who need to see these changes in action and what effects they have.”

“We need to focus our efforts on the farmers that are prepared to trial these changes and ‘stick their heads up above the parapet’. At the same time, however, less-engaged farmers won’t help if they don’t feel their knowledge and experience isn’t valued. We need an integrated approaching involving these farmers co-creating the solution.”


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