BestFarms Environmental Management System (EMS) was developed by the Blackwood Basin Group in 2003 in response to a landholder need for a systematic way of implementing better environmental management of properties. Over the last five years, more than 250 participants have developed a BestFarms EMS across the south west of WA and in northern NSW. Despite the enthusiastic uptake by landholders, feedback from participants identified a need for further support and incentives to carry out monitoring and evaluation of their EMSs – an integral part of the continuous improvement cycle on which BestFarms is based. To address this need, BestFarms developed the BestFarms Monitoring Kit which builds on existing local knowledge and practical monitoring activities to provide BestFarms participants with $500 worth of user-friendly equipment to help them monitor the effects of their EMS.
Over 100 kits have now been produced and are assisting landholders to effectively monitor their EMSs on-farm. Monitoring trends and feedback is collected from participants annually and used to assist regional bodies in monitoring land management and landscape change.
Monitoring, continuous improvement, incentives, existing knowledge.
The BestFarms EMS project works with landholders to help them identify and manage environmental issues on their properties. The management system is based on a cycle of continuous improvement that includes planning, implementation, monitoring and review stages. Through surveys, feedback and on-going contact with participants, Project Facilitators identified a need for incentives to help landholders complete the ‘monitor and review’ stages of the continuous cycle.
To address this need, BestFarms developed the BestFarms Monitoring Kit which builds on existing local knowledge and practical monitoring activities to provide BestFarms participants with $500 worth of user-friendly equipment to help them monitor the effects of their EMS.
Developing the BestFarms Monitoring Kits
The BestFarms Monitoring Kits were developed by farmers for farmers and were based on previous monitoring work done by the Land Management Society in the early 1990s. The kits provide basic monitoring equipment that allows landholders to monitor key areas of their EMS on-farm. Equipment and monitoring activities cover the key areas of land and soil; water and biodiversity, as well as general monitoring of areas such as climate and weather.
Each monitoring kit is provided at a subsidised rate of $100 with funding from the South West Catchment Council and South Coast Natural Resource Management Inc. To support the kits, BestFarms uses regular monitoring workshops and field days to help participants learn more about the benefits of monitoring, and a Monitoring Manual is included in the equipment. The Manual provides procedures for each monitoring activity that can be done using the kit equipment, outlines basic monitoring needs and benefits and provides record templates for many monitoring activities (Martin, 2005).
General monitoring trends from landholders are collated by the BestFarms Team on an annual basis to ensure that valuable, on-ground data can be used to gauge the overall impact of individual landholder efforts through the BestFarms project.
The response to these kits has been positive with significant uptake, and with further kits to be distributed in 2008, the benefits will continue to grow. BestFarms participants have embraced the ability to monitor the change in their local natural resources as a direct result of their on-ground activities and projects.
This poster demonstrates the value of distributing practicable, user-friendly monitoring equipment to landholders in conjunction with a BestFarms EMS and supporting its use through a strong network of peers, workshops and one-on-one facilitation.
Figure 1. (left to right) BestFarms Monitoring Kit contents; and participants at a BestFarms Monitoring workshop learn about monitoring creekline health and macroinvertebrates.
BestFarms Monitoring kits have been successful in providing landholders with incentives and support to complete the EMS continuous improvement cycle by monitoring their on-ground actions. The kits will continue to be distributed and improved with feedback from participants.
Interest in the kits has now spread to NSW, QLD and northern WA as a practical and useful tool for monitoring land management change and outcomes.
• Build on existing investment, knowledge and networks – there is no need to reinvent the wheel.
• Incentives and on-going support and education are key steps to ensuring continuous improvement on-ground.
• Providing monitoring equipment to landholders provides them with the resources and knowledge to monitor the impacts of their on-ground actions, which in turn encourages them to continue managing their properties in a sustainable and environmentally responsible manner.
Martin, K (2005). BestFarms Monitoring Kit Manual. Version 1. Blackwood Basin Group, Boyup Brook WA.