Getting up close and personal with the big Panda

The 2014 Archibull Prize is off to a flying start with a new look program and lots of new, exciting and diverse young people for our young farming champions and school students to work along side

As this great article reminds us

Feeding the world today does not depend on the total food produced. At the global aggregate scale we currently have enough food to feed everyone. It depends on where this food is produced and at what price. Hunger today is a problem of insufficient access to nutritious food and not of insufficient food availability

And to quote the team at the Youth Food Movement

‘4 million tonnes of food is wasted in Australia each year. As someone who eats, buys and loves food, we all have the power to help stop this waste. It’s simply a matter of making our food choices count.’

There is no denying food is an emotional topic. Everyone cares about what they eat. Food often has a strong cultural, religious or even political meaning attached to it. The issues farmers face in this country are issues many farmers across the world face. Complex problems often have simple solutions if we can bring the can-do organisations  and the can-do people to the table. If we are going to find those organisations and those people we have to be willing to seek out other perspectives, have conversations and open dialogue

The Archibull Prize offers the opportunity for young people in the agriculture sector to have these conversations with students. This year we are excited to announce that we have engaged with a number of other organisations ( international and local) who are promoting wise food choices and the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption who the students will also have direct access to.

Today’s guest blog comes from Ian McConnel who is  WWF Australia’s Project Coordinator for Sustainable Beef. Students will be able to contact Ian  as part of their Archibull Prize journey

This is Ian’s story

Ian McConnel WWF Sustainable Beef IMG_9870

I am a beef producer who works for WWF (The Panda, not the wrestlers). I joined WWF in 2012 to support their work in promoting and supporting farming practices that are good for farmers and good for the environment. WWF has a goal that people live in harmony with nature – a goal I whole-heartedly agree with. It recognises the importance of people, their livelihoods, their communities and their future while also striving to ensure a healthy and resilient environment.

It’s often repeated that we will need to feed 9 billion people by 2050 and those people will consume more than double what our current population consumes. It is true! By 2050, there will be more than 7 billion people living in urban areas alone1 – that’s the same as everyone on the planet right now. They will need to be fed and clothed by farmers operating on no more land than we have currently. This is not a long-term problem, it is one that will be faced by this generation. I was born in 1981 and by the time I am able to retire it will be 2047 – the solution must be found by my generation, by our generation.

I am a staunch advocate for Aussie farming but I’m not sure the wider community understands the breadth of the role that farmers play. They are first and foremost food and fibre producers, literally putting food on your table and clothes on your back – but not just yours. Australia is a net exporter of agricultural produce with nearly two thirds of our product being exported. Our farmers are also the largest managers of our natural environment. The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) states that 53% of the Australian landmass is managed by agricultural businesses2. As some of the largest land managers in Australia, farmers have an important responsibility to manage biodiversity as well as ensure efficient productive and sustainable agricultural systems. Balancing these two necessary roles to ensure positive outcomes is crucial and is the intent of almost every farmer I know.

It is true, however, that transforming the land to agriculture has generated some problems. Over 80% of the land within the catchments that drain into the Great Barrier Reef is now used for agriculture. This change has seen a massive increase in sediment and nutrient loads entering the Great Barrier Reef lagoon. These pollutants are a major reason for the 50% decline in coral cover we’ve seen over the last few decades3. Luckily, we now know what is happening and many farmers are leading the charge to find ways to produce food without having a detrimental impact on the environment.

This, I believe, is one of the true environmental success stories. The fact that many farmers are taking a stand and want to save the reef. It is true in the past that farmers have often been blamed for the impacts of agriculture but generally, farmers want to improve what they are doing and to reduce any impacts that may be caused by out-dated practices. It was farmers who dutifully carved agriculture out of the Australian bush and have continued to adapt and improve their practices over time. It is this same ability to adapt and change that is needed now, more than ever, in the face of a changing climate and the declining resilience of our natural systems.

While the impacts are real, so too are the solutions. Grazing practices that maximise productive pasture growth both hold sediments on farm and maximise beef production. Optimising nitrogen applications on cane farms reduces waste and unnecessary cost to farmers while reducing nutrient run-off into waterways. In these and many other ways, Australian farmers are finding innovative ways to produce food and fibre while ensuring we have a future where we can truly live in harmony with nature.

Listen to Ian speak at the Facets Conference here

Ian McConnel

As part of the Archibull Prize journey students are asked to write a blog post titled ‘Sustainable Living – What you can do to change the way you live’

We will be asking them to blog about how and why food wastage occurs and to suggest sustainable strategies and motivational tools to reduce wastage.

Students will be able to get knowledge and inspiration from the work of Foodbank, use the World Wildlife Fund website to investigate ways individuals can reduce their footprint and investigate the success of the Youth Food Movement model of ways that young Australians are working together to help give ‘all young Australians the capacity and motivation to make food choices that demand and support a healthy and secure food system”.

Not only will the students be able to read about the work these organisations are doing they will have the opportunity to talk directly with people inside these organisations.

I see some very interesting and insightful blog posts from the students coming your way in 2014

1.http://www.who.int/gho/urban_health/situation_trends/urban_population_growth_text/en/

2. http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/Lookup/4102.0Main+Features10Dec+2012

3. http://www.reefplan.qld.gov.au/about/assets/scientific-consensus-statement-2013.pdf

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