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A farmer’s perspective on climate change

Thursday 10 November 2005

A farmer’s perspective on climate change

Climate change will pose new challenges for farmers, says scientist Dr Gavin Kenny.

Bay of Plenty farmers and communities now have a down-to-earth working guide to help them adapt to climate change – and survive whatever the future brings.

The resource kit, called “Adapting to Climate Change in Eastern New Zealand – a farmer perspective”, uses real-life case studies to highlight ways farmers can alter farm practices to better cope with changes in the climate. It also explores ways in which rural and urban communities might interact for mutual benefit in the face of climate change.

“One of the biggest challenges we have for the future is working together”, says the guide’s author, Dr Gavin Kenny.

The Sustainable Farming Fund and various agencies, including Environment Bay of Plenty, funded the kit’s development. Information for it was drawn from a series of workshops with farmers in 2003 and 2004 and in-depth interviews with selected farmers. The kit features 12 individual case studies, three from the Bay of Plenty. They are Graham and Margaret Evans, who farm on the Rangitaiki Plains, Geoff and Gill Brann of Paengaroa, and Glen and Rosemarie Reichardt of Rerewhakaaitu.

According to scientists, the region will face warmer conditions in coming decades with a greater tendency for drier average conditions, but the possibility of wetter average conditions in some areas. There may be more frequent droughts and floods. The biggest issue for farmers is likely to be security of water supply. They will have to deal with new animal health issues, weeds, pest animals, diseases and types of pasture.

Dr Kenny, who is one of New Zealand’s top climate change experts, says climate change will pose many new challenges for farmers. “Developing on-farm and regional resilience are key,” he explains. There will be a need for both individual action and community interaction aimed at developing positive visions for the future.

Dr Kenny says many farmers are already innovative and proactive in adapting to changing conditions. “Some have been doing so for the last 40 or 50 years, and their work has been very influential on others. An important message is that people on the ground need to drive adaptation. The work of the innovators needs to be communicated, acknowledged and supported more widely. We have the knowledge but we need to use our imaginations more.”

The resource kit is posted on http://www.earthlimited.org/resources.html. You can also view copies in public libraries, at district and city councils, and at Environment Bay of Plenty offices. For more information, please contact Michelle Lee at Environment Bay of Plenty on 0800 ENV BOP (368 267).


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