Project Cane Changer is a CANEGROWERS initiative that works with growers to recognise, value and accelerate their efforts to adopt farming practices that help protect the land, and subsequently, the Great Barrier Reef.
The project officially started in early 2017 with funding from the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection and is being rolled out across the Wet Tropics to a warm welcome.
Cane Changer focuses on various priority areas, as identified by local growers, and may including peer-to-peer mentoring, the development of monitoring and record keeping tools, and highlighting positive stories of practice change.
In Innisfail for example, the project has held workshops designed to build cohesion and cooperation between industry groups, and facilitated peer-to peer learning between younger and older growers.
The project is led locally by the CANEGROWERS Innisfail board chaired by Joe Marano.
“Growers in Innisfail have really embraced the project," Joe says. "It is a different way of encouraging the public to understand the sugar industry.
“Through the project, we have government and sugarcane growers working together, and we are keen to continue working together with the project, with the mill and with other industry bodies for a positive outcome for the sugarcane industry.”
By mid October 2017, Cane Changer had been launched in four districts - Innisfail, Tully, Cairns and Herbert River.
“We are happy to have the Cane Changer program in the Herbert and are committed to the program,” says Michael Pisano, CANEGROWERS Herbert River Chairman. “We believe it is important to share our story to other industries and the greater community.”
Growers are invited to sign up through a Cane Changer Commitment which asks them to detail farming practices that they have changed over the years and to commit to making further changes in line with best management practices.
Across the districts more than 150 growers have signed heir own Cane Changer Commitment to date.
Tully was the second district to join the project and has run a number of shed meetings to encourage participation. One was hosted by Peter 'Jacko' Jackson who is supportive of the project.
“Growers have been making changes, improving and protecting the environment for decades, but there isn’t a lot of acknowledgment of that.” Jacko said. “The work being done by Project Cane Changer is positive and is bringing attention to the work that growers have been doing for a long time.”
A key focus of the workshops has been to help growers and their families develop skills to keep better records and improve participation in Smartcane BMP.
CANEGROWERS Cairns Region Chairman Stephen Calcagno was pleased at the support shown by locals.
“It’s great to see the growers and their families showing interest in the Smartcane BMP process and understanding that the broader picture of record-keeping is to show to the general population that the sugar industry is doing the right thing by the environment and by the Great Barrier Reef.”
The Project will be heading to Mossman and the Tablelands before the end of 2017 and will run until the end of next year.
All growers across the Wet Tropics are invited to get involved and help set the record straight.
For more information please head to www.canechanger.com or speak to your local CANEGROWERS office.