We have Natural Resource Management bodies providing an oversight of catchments and we still have government departments. However, in both domains, the focus is increasingly on ‘enabling’ action at the farm level – rather than doing. But where are the doers? In some industries, there is a very capable private sector to support agriculture – but there is a lack of people with the skills, resources and mandate to undertake proactive extension and education to work with landholders to improve short and long term sustainability of land and enterprises. Here is the real gap facing us.
This has all come home to me as I have spent the first three months of this year travelling across Australia and working with a range of projects and organisations. Not only is there a lack of people in extension but there is a lack of information to show what current land management practices are in place, where changes are needed and what gains have been made over time. This limits the information available to make a case for more targeted investments in extension.
We (those of us involved in agriculture and natural resource management in Australia) cannot let this situation continue – and we must address it. This is an area that I am increasingly getting involved with and see as my focus into the next decade.
Meanwhile, I have the opportunity to deliver a paper in Berlin at the International Farming Systems Conference (http://ifsa.boku.ac.at/cms/) on the evaluation of an Innovation System project in agriculture in New Zealand in April – and then back to London to visit Amy! Exciting times!