SILC’s Landcare philosophy
The challenge for this century is for communities, worldwide, to achieve a balance between ever-spiralling production demands and the knowledge that the planet Earth is a finite resource. If we are to survive, this balance must be thoroughly understood and acted upon. For this to happen, we need to be better trained and educated and prepared to take action.
A global dilemma
Achieving desired environmental outcomes is as much about social technologies – engaging people and organisations in change processes, learning, planning and strategic action – as it is about the technical aspects of, for example, catchment hydrology or biodiversity conservation.
Landcare in Australia is a highly successful, “whole of community” program. It is about the future: clean food, water, air and biodiversity; about how people manage their affairs in harmony with the environment. The diversity, scale and breadth of environmental problems in Australia represent a global microcosm. From horticulture in the wet tropics to cereal cropping in Mediterranean climates, to pastoralism in semi-arid rangeland and broad-acre, dryland farming, leading-edge management through the Landcare structure is addressing those problems.
SILC – an agent for change
The Secretariat for International Landcare (SILC) Inc. provides the gateway for international understanding and advancement of Landcare philosophy by: bringing delegations to Australia; and / or by facilitating Landcare awareness in-country.
Andrew Campbell in an email to the Chairman of Landcare International in October 2008 eloquently summed up the potential global role of Landcare:
The looming global food crisis, converging with (and being exacerbated by) rising energy and nutrient prices, water scarcity in many regions and underlying climate change, further accentuated by subsidies for first-generation biofuels, especially in the US and EU, will place more pressure on local farming systems and resource management skills than ever before.
The need to prevent further land degradation and to rehabilitate once fertile lands that have been degraded has never been more acute. This will require smart, resilient farming systems adopted on a widespread scale. We have to close the wide gap between the best farmers and the average, and we need to make huge improvements in preventing the worst practices and the long term costs they impose on the resource base of future generations.
All countries face major challenges and very difficult policy choices. There is a disturbing trend to start to see food production and environmental protection as competing objectives — a very short-term and self-defeating approach. There is a grave risk that local communities feel helpless and impotent in the face of big external forces over which they have little influence, and about which they feel confused and hear conflicting signals. It will be difficult for governments to make the decisions that will be needed over coming decades while bringing their people with them, and giving local communities practical options and support.
A framework through which governments and communities can work in partnership — with industries and NGOs as appropriate — is a potent tool. It is essential if we are to tackle the challenges of climate change, and sustainable food production and resource management, at the most crucial grassroots level. If such a framework already exists, is trusted at a community level and already has a good track record (like Landcare), then in my view that is an invaluable asset that should not be squandered, but in fact should be built upon.
One of the beauties of Landcare is that it combines a focus on farming systems and land use practices with an explicit acknowledgement of the social and broader ecological (or catchment) context in which they are situated. In my view we underplay the social learning elements of Landcare and the effect it can have on social norms within a given community. Landcare can provide a useful mechanism through which we work through the big challenges we face, down at a meaningful local level. It can be an efficient way for governments to engage with a cross-section of landholders, through which to deliver new forms of assistance for sustainable land management.
Andrew Campbell was Australia’s first National Landcare Facilitator (1989-92), CEO of Land & Water Australia (2000-2006), Managing Director of Triple Helix Consulting from 2007-10 and the Director of the Research Institute for the Environment and Livelihoods (RIEL) and Director of the Centre for Renewable Energy at Charles Darwin University from 2011 to July 2016. He was appointed by Foreign Minister Julie Bishop to the position of Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) in Canberra from 1 August 2016. Andrew Campbell has played influential roles in sustainable agriculture and natural resource management in Australia for 30 years.