Thursday, 10 December 2020 08:55

Environment plans driving change

Written by  Staff Reporters
Otautau farmer Edward Mabonga says the survey results show how serious farmers are about taking care of the environment. Otautau farmer Edward Mabonga says the survey results show how serious farmers are about taking care of the environment.

A survey of farmers in Aparima, Southland, shows farms achieve better environmental results when they have Farm Environment Plans.

Six hundred dairy, sheep and beef farmers work together in the Aparima Community Environment Project, which aims to improve the health of freshwater and reduce environmental footprint.

A recent survey of 151 Aparima farmers showed 80% have Farm Environment Plans – an increase of 23% on last year. The survey also highlighted that farmers with environment plans are more likely to implement a range of good farming practices.

“These survey results show how serious farmers are about taking care of the environment,” said Otautau dairy farmer Edwin Mabonga, from mid-Aparima. 

Of the farmers surveyed, 95% have excluded stock from waterways – up 4% on last year. About 87% use nitrogen fertiliser strategically – up 4% (this means using fertiliser only as needed to maximise pasture uptake and only on certain parts of the farm).

“Farm Environment Plans identify environmental risks and management options on the farm, and contribute to improving water quality and other environmental benefits,” said Mabonga.

“They are living, breathing documents that help farmers achieve better environmental outcomes.”

Plans must include actions to reduce farm sediment and nutrient loss, outline how wintering rules will be implemented, and where to riparian plant and fence. The plans are reviewed annually.

Thousands of farms already have a comprehensive Farm Environment Plan and sector groups are continuing to further develop them as an effective way to accelerate further improvements.

Farmers in the Aparima Community Environment Project are making significant changes which illustrate the type of innovation and commitment needed to surpass good management practices and set farmers in good stead for future.

Mabonga said his Farm Environment Plan ensures all his team know and understand the way the environment is looked after on the farm. “For us a big benefit is to have everyone on the farm thinking environmentally.”

Mabonga and his wife Fungai are equity partners and have been carrying out farm riparian planting for 10 years. All staff are involved in tree planting, which gives them a sense of ownership in the environmental work, he said. 

The Aparima Community Environment Project is led by farmers and supported by DairyNZ, Beef + Lamb New Zealand, Environment Southland and Fonterra.

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