The 'Triple bottom line' [Australia]
- Compiler: Anthony J. Webster
- Editor: –
- Reviewer: David Streiff
approaches_2668 - Australia
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1. General information
1.2 Contact details of resource persons and institutions involved in the assessment and documentation of the Approach
Key resource person(s)
Name of the institution(s) which facilitated the documentation/ evaluation of the Approach (if relevant)CSIRO (CSIRO) - Australia
1.3 Conditions regarding the use of data documented through WOCAT
The compiler and key resource person(s) accept the conditions regarding the use of data documented through WOCAT:
1.4 Reference(s) to Questionnaire(s) on SLM Technologies
2. Description of the SLM Approach
2.1 Short description of the Approach
A new expression used by agriculturalists in Australia to explain why farmers change practices: the 'triple bottom line' implies economic, environmental and social concerns.
2.2 Detailed description of the Approach
Detailed description of the Approach:
Aims / objectives: A fundamental change has occurred in farming practice amongst sugar cane growers in the tropics of far north Queensland. Where it was once standard practice to burn cane before harvest (defoliating green canes for easier harvest), tradition has been turned on its head and now almost no-one burns. Instead a 'green cane trash blanket' system has developed, with multiple benefits and few or no drawbacks. There has been no official campaign or punitive sanctions imposed, no enticing financial incentives offered or charismatic environmental leadership - just a quiet technological revolution, based on the principles of the 'triple bottom line' (TBL).
Methods: TBL has recently emerged into common usage amongst agriculturalists in Australia. Rather than attributing farmers' actions as simple responses to economic stimuli ('the bottom line') TBL is a framework that helps explain the complexity of factors that influence farmers to modify their practices. TBL suggests that farmers do indeed respond to money, but also to environmental concerns, and furthermore to social considerations as well. This gives credit to farmers for being responsible stewards of the land. In this particular case, the transition in technology started in 1974, when sugar cane growers in the far north of Queensland were simply unable to burn their cane prior to harvest because of the exceptionally heavy rains. Instead, they had to harvest wet - and green. The technical implications were first, a slower harvest speed because machinery had to cope with a greater load of biomass, and second, a thick residual blanket of trash that covered the soil. The multiple benefits of mulching were recognised by a few growers, who then continued to harvest green cane. Non-burning spread - a technology now described as the 'green cane trash blanket'- until almost every grower adopted it within one generation. While the extension service has supported the transition, growers themselves tookthe initiative to change. There are indeed small financial benefits, chiefly in terms of reduced overall input costs, but growers have simultaneously been motivated by social and environmental considerations. Burning has come to be considered anti-social: a dirty practice, carrying the danger of fire spreading outside the targeted fields. Neither is it a pleasant task, requiring help of family and friends, often at inconvenient times.
Other important information: From an environmental perspective, the benefits of trash mulch are tangible in terms of improved soil quality, and reduced erosion rates. And, equally important, the end result is reduced damage to the close-by Great Barrier Reef with its sediment-sensitive living coral.
The triple bottom line(TBL) is an expression which has evolved in Australia to help explain why farmers act as they do. Its three components of economics, the environment and social aspects cover the considerations that cause farmers to modify technologies. TBL implicitly gives credit to farmer for being sensitive to multiple external signals. In this case the change in practice is from burning sugar cane to harvesting it green in Far North Queensland. This is a case where emerging conservation-friendly farmer practice and the goals of the environmental lobby have neatly coincided.
2.3 Photos of the Approach
2.5 Country/ region/ locations where the Approach has been applied
2.6 Dates of initiation and termination of the Approach
Indicate year of initiation:
2.7 Type of Approach
- traditional/ indigenous
2.8 Main aims/ objectives of the Approach
The Approach focused on SLM only
(1) Demonstration and dissemination. (2) The spread of non-burning practices, specifically the 'green cane trash blanket' technology to promote sustainable and environmentally friendly sugar cane production. (3) Indirectly: to satisfy social concerns associated with burning of sugar cane.
The SLM Approach addressed the following problems: (1) Anti-social farming practice of burning sugar cane which also has negative environmental impacts, both in situ, and offsite in the coral reef. (2) Resistance to change in traditional farming practice.
2.9 Conditions enabling or hindering implementation of the Technology/ Technologies applied under the Approach
social/ cultural/ religious norms and values
traditional way of doing things/social resistance
Treatment through the SLM Approach: demonstration and dissemination of benefits
availability/ access to financial resources and services
Higher costs of harvesting (a small premium charged by contractors per tonne of green cane harvested).
Treatment through the SLM Approach: These costs are offset by lower tillage input, no costs associated with burning, and lower inputs of agrochemicals also.
legal framework (land tenure, land and water use rights)
knowledge about SLM, access to technical support
Harvesting machines at first were not so well able to cope with the greater biomass to be harvested.
Treatment through the SLM Approach: Manufacturers developed higher capacity harvesters.
3. Participation and roles of stakeholders involved
3.1 Stakeholders involved in the Approach and their roles
- local land users/ local communities
There is no difference between men and women in principle, though de facto most growers are male.
- national government (planners, decision-makers)
politicians (govt. agencies)
3.2 Involvement of local land users/ local communities in the different phases of the Approach
|Involvement of local land users/ local communities||Specify who was involved and describe activities|
|initiation/ motivation||self-mobilization||starting up the practice; starting up the practice of green cane trash blanket (GCTB)|
|implementation||interactive||spreading the word; growers spreading the word, support by extension services|
|monitoring/ evaluation||interactive||growers joining hands with research; formal and informal disseminations of observations|
|Research||interactive||growers joining hands with research. Quantifying benefits short, long term and downstream|
3.3 Flow chart (if available)
Institutional framework Inter-relationships between sugar cane growers and other stakeholders.
3.4 Decision-making on the selection of SLM Technology/ Technologies
Specify who decided on the selection of the Technology/ Technologies to be implemented:
- land users alone (self-initiative)
sugar cane growers
Decisions on the method of implementing the SLM Technology were made by by land users* alone (self-initiative / bottom-up)
4. Technical support, capacity building, and knowledge management
4.1 Capacity building/ training
Was training provided to land users/ other stakeholders?
4.2 Advisory service
Do land users have access to an advisory service?
Specify whether advisory service is provided:
- on land users' fields
Name of method used for advisory service: green cane trash blanket (GCTB) system; Key elements: visits, Field days, publications; (1) Advisory service was carried out through: Bureau of Sugar Experimental Stations (BSES).(2) Advisory service was carried out through: Bureau of Sugar Experimental Stations (BSES).
4.3 Institution strengthening (organizational development)
Have institutions been established or strengthened through the Approach?
4.4 Monitoring and evaluation
Is monitoring and evaluation part of the Approach?
Technical aspects were ad hoc monitored by land users through observations
There were None changes in the Approach as a result of monitoring and evaluation: Not applicable.
Was research part of the Approach?
- economics / marketing
Give further details and indicate who did the research:
There has been some ad hoc research carried out on technical parameters by both the BSES as well as CSIRO.
5. Financing and external material support
5.1 Annual budget for the SLM component of the Approach
Comments (e.g. main sources of funding/ major donors):
Approach costs were met by the following donors: government (national government, Bureau of Sugar Experiment Stations): 20.0%; other (growers themselves): 80.0%
5.2 Financial/ material support provided to land users
Did land users receive financial/ material support for implementing the Technology/ Technologies?
If yes, specify type(s) of support, conditions, and provider(s):
By government (national government, Bureau of Sugar Experiment Stations)
5.3 Subsidies for specific inputs (including labour)
If labour by land users was a substantial input, was it:
Farmers themselves provide labour
There are no subsidies connected to GCTB. Australia does not subsidise its sugar cane growers and sugar is sold at the world price.
Was credit provided under the Approach for SLM activities?
6. Impact analysis and concluding statements
6.1 Impacts of the Approach
Did the Approach help land users to implement and maintain SLM Technologies?
- Yes, little
- Yes, moderately
- Yes, greatly
Considerable: nutrient losses reduced, erosion reduced, organic matter built up, etc.
Did other land users / projects adopt the Approach?
- Yes, little
- Yes, moderately
- Yes, greatly
The 'triple bottom line' is probably active throughout Australia in influencing farmers??? decisions.
6.3 Sustainability of Approach activities
Can the land users sustain what has been implemented through the Approach (without external support)?
If yes, describe how:
By definition this is sustainable: it is an internal mechanism amongst farmers.
6.4 Strengths/ advantages of the Approach
|Strengths/ advantages/ opportunities in the compiler’s or other key resource person’s view|
|Farmers take the responsibility of choosing a land management practice that has a positive 'triple bottom line': environmental, economic and social benefits. (How to sustain/ enhance this strength: Support awareness raising and give appreciation to the on-site and off-site benefits; acknowledge sugar produced under this system an environmentally friendly and economic product.)|
|Has successfully stimulated the spread of the green cane trash blanket system. (How to sustain/ enhance this strength: Outsiders should continue to support farmers' multiple concerns.)|
|Sugar cane growing has previously had a bad environmental and social reputation, especially here, close to the Great Barrier Reef, which is a World Heritage Site. This change in practice, resulting from the 'triple bottom line' has changed the reputation of sugar cane growers. (How to sustain/ enhance this strength: Make this public.)|
6.5 Weaknesses/ disadvantages of the Approach and ways of overcoming them
|Weaknesses/ disadvantages/ risks in the compiler’s or other key resource person’s view||How can they be overcome?|
|The fact that farmers are responsive to environmental and social as well as economic stimuli is covered up by conventional thinking that 'only money matters to them'.||Investigation and documentation of the 'triple bottom line' is required.|
7. References and links
7.1 Methods/ sources of information
- field visits, field surveys
- interviews with land users
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