The recently announced drought package, while a positive outcome for farmers, does not address the long term impact of droughts and how to deal with them.
Droughts are inevitable and soils throughout Australia are in decline with serious water, food, economic and environmental consequences. To alleviate these potentially serious outcomes, Australia urgently needs to focus on regenerating the health and resilience of its soils and landscapes so they can reverse this decline and better survive the impact of climatic extremes.
Water is the key natural strategic asset, and there is an immediate need to ensure that it is captured, conserved and used effectively. This can only be done if the soil structure is restored so that it is able to absorb and store more of the unreliable rainfall and, in so doing, extend the level and longevity of green growth across Australia’s landscape.
Soil restoration also requires reducing both the loss and emission of carbon from vegetation and soils as a result of increasingly more intense and frequent wildfires. This can be done by converting the vegetation that is burnt into dung and soil carbon through the gut of grazing animals.
To achieve all of this, there is a need to examine the potential for restoring the grazing systems that earlier created the soils, hydrology, resilience and productivity of large areas of Australia. Some farmers already are achieving this through carefully managed and considered practices.
But more needs to be done, including relevant research, training and education, publication of best practices and outcomes that incorporate a range of issues, including population, infrastructure, markets and investment.
Only through these processes can the long term impact of droughts and other outcomes relating to climate change and land degradation be met. The means for achieving this are there. What is needed is an understanding of the concept, a clearly stated vision and a determination to achieve outcomes that are sustainable and perceived to be in the interest of all Australians for generations to come.
FDI will publish several articles on these issues over the next few weeks.
Major General John Hartley AO (Retd)
Institute Director and CEO
Future Directions International