There’s a lot of discussion about how to best build the capacity of farmers to both cope with and adapt to challenging times, and to be able to take advantage of emerging opportunities. This is often described as building the resilience of farmers. Farmers commonly experience multiple challenges, often at the same time — for example, in 2020, many have experienced drought, bushfires, floods and the impacts of COVID-19 on availability of agricultural supplies and labour availability, all within a short space of months. At the same time, some have seen new opportunities emerge as markets and supply chains have changed due to COVID-19.
While the importance of building farmer resilience is well recognised and often discussed as critical to ensuring the success of future agriculture in Australia, there remains a lot of work to be done to identify the types of on-ground actions and processes that are most effective for supporting and building the resilience of farmers. We are one of many groups in Australia and internationally who are contributing to the rapidly growing body of knowledge in this area. We focus on translating the theory of resilience into on-ground measures that can be used by organisations to guide action and investment. Examples include: Working with the NSW Rural Resilience Program, we developed methods for measuring and monitoring the resilience of farmer across NSW. Our first report on this was produced in 2015, and you can also check out presentations of the findings here and find out more about how the Rural Resilience Program has been using the methods developed here. In 2020, we are again partnering with the Rural Resilience Program and will be producing an updated report examining resilience of NSW farmers.
- In 2018, we asked farmers to tell us what helped — and what didn’t help — build their resilience to drought. Farmers told us that it’s important to think both short-term and long-term — short-term support during the worst of drought helps farmers maintain their longer-term resources and capacity to recover from drought and prepare for the next one.
- Kimberley Brown has been exploring whether farmers who use regenerative farming principles have improved wellbeing and resilience. We have also partnered with other researchers to examine whether best practice regenerative graziers do achieve better environmental, social or economic outcomes, including through difficult times.
- We examined whether investing in some types of natural resource management (NRM) practice is associated with evidence of improved resilience to drought — and found that there is promising evidence for some NRM actions.
We will continue our work examining farmer resilience as a core part of the activities of the Regional Wellbeing Survey team.