Towards long-term sustainability of sugarcane farming in the Johnstone River catchment
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Cane farmers are important stakeholders in the Johnstone River Catchment. Their engagement in the sustainability debate is essential, however, at times they appear to be isolated from it. The Johnstone River Catchment Management Association (JRCMA) saw the need for their engagement and applied to The Sugar Research and Development Corporation (SRDC) for a grant to do an action research project to achieve that end. Growers meeting in small groups discussed all aspects of cane growing with the aim of producing a booklet of guidelines for best management practices for the catchment. Growers were invited to speak freely but challenged to be certain that the practices they nominated were sustainable and demonstrable on their own farms. More than 100 growers participated in the discussions over two years and a booklet entitled “Growers perspective of best management for sustainable cane farming (Documenting practices in the Johnstone, Moresby and Liverpool Creek Catchments)” was published in best management practice format. The project received wide acclaim and The Honourable Rod Welford; Minister for Natural Resources, Environment and Heritage launched the booklet in April 2000. Demonstration of best practices for sustainable farming from a grower’s perspective were achieved through a major field day organised by the JRCMA and through a series of video clips of many practices throughout the catchment. “The Most Significant Change Approach” also known as “The Story Method” was used to determine changes growers perceived were occurring in the farming, agency and general communities as a result of this project. Focus group technique was also used to gauge the effect of the project on the general community and agency groups.