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BMPs in the Mareeba-Dimbulah Water Supply Area
9 May 2008
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OVERVIEW This project was managed by the Northern Gulf Resource Management Group and funded by the National landcare Program. It provided funding for on-ground works for farmers in the Mareeba-Dimbulah Water Supply Area to take up improved land and water management practices to improve their sustainability and profitability. The project was supported by industry field days and workshops and associated publicity and awareness activities.

PROJECT ACTIVITIES Incentives were provided in the form of small grants to individual farmers and matching funds for industry groups for supportive education and awareness activities (field days, workshops, technical advice and publicity). Industry groups played an integral role in assessing grant applications and in supporting farmers in their individual efforts.

Priorities activities for incentives included: 1. Increased water efficiency, reduced nutrient and chemical runoff for the sugar cane and horticulture industries through improved irrigation systems and mulching systems (including pumping, pipes, sprinklers, recycling, automated mulching systems) 2. Reduced runoff and improved soil management through minimum tillage, controlled traffic systems and mulching systems 3. Soil erosion control or rehabilitation

OUTCOMES 1. Increased adoption of best practices in sustainable land and water management by farmers in the Mareeba-Dimbulah Water Supply Scheme area. 2. Increased involvement and capacity of industry groups working with and supporting farmers to take up improved practices. 3. Strengthened prioritisation of NRM issues and practices at the farm and sub-catchment level in the Mareeba-Dimbulah Water Supply Scheme area.

There was a very positive response to the project. Industry groups (Canefarmers, Mareeba Fruit and Vegetable Association, Growcom, Tobacco Growers, BSES) supported the project through discussion of priorities, publicising the scheme through their newsletters and emails to their members, and subsequently through assistance in reviewing and evaluating applications. The field days, workshops and awareness programs conducted by industry groups promoted the efforts of individual farmers more broadly and shared information and knowledge gained through the improved practices being implemented.

Thirty farmers submitted applications to the incentive scheme. Only 13 projects were able to be funded for on-the-ground works with the available funds, although almost all of the applications received were deserving of funding. Applicants committed a high level of their own resources for the on-ground works, and the average in-kind and financial contribution of successful applicants was 71% of project costs. All of the farmers and industry representatives spoken to supported the scheme and its aims and there have been ongoing enquiries about continuation of the scheme since applications closed.

The criteria for the scheme allowed for funding a variety of activities around the general theme of sustainable land and water management so farmers were able to select a project that met their objectives. The break-up of the submitted project applications was as follows: 1. Improved irrigation on cane, orchard and small crops (13 applications) 2. Mulching systems for orchards (4 applications) 3. Controlled traffic systems in cane (4 applications) 4. Soil conservation works (2 applications) 5. Orchard fertigation system (1 applications) 6. Organic farming – horticulture and orchard (2 applications) 7. Revegetation 8. Soil erosion and rehabilitation (3 applications)

Applications covered a range of farming enterprises, including cane farming (8 applicants) orchards (16), vegetables (4), cattle (1) and hay (1).

The strategy of working with industry groups for this type of incentive scheme was a good one that added substantial value to actions of individual farmers. Future projects will build on these relationships by working with each industry group to further refine priorities for the incentive programs, and continue to emphasise collective action within industry groups to share knowledge and experience (and where appropriate, encourage joint action by industry groups to share knowledge between industry groups).

The other important collaboration for this scheme was between the Northern Gulf Resource Management Group and other NRM groups. This has worked well and is a good step towards having coordinated approaches and implementation.

There is scope for enhancing this further in the Mareeba-Dimbulah Water Supply Area which is shared by the Northern Gulf Resource Management Group and Terrain NRM. Farming systems (and the socio-economic structure of the community) are similar across the boundary between these two NRM groups. Future schemes will treat this area as a single area for a coordinated approach, rather than splitting the schemes into separate activities between the two NRM bodies. This would reduce confusion amongst landowners and further support collective action across the whole area covered by the Industry Groups.

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