Reef Trust Partnership funding propels project to new heights

In its first two months, more than 60 sugarcane growers across Queensland have engaged in project activities and workshops held by Project Cane Changer, a CANEGROWERS initiative funded by the Reef Trust Partnership

Project Cane Changer was one of 11 projects to receive funding through the first round of water quality grants through the Partnership. The first round of funding was aimed at continuing the momentum of active projects with a track record of delivering practice change and water quality outcomes. 

Cane Changer Team with CANEGROWERS Burdekin Board Representatives

Cane Changer Team with CANEGROWERS Burdekin Board Representatives

Cane Changer is an initiative that is designed to better understand the challenges faced by sugarcane growers and recognise them for their ongoing commitment to improving practices on their farms and their protection of the Great Barrier Reef.

Cane Changer works with growers to accelerate the adoption of best management farming practices that are known to benefit on farm productivity and improve the quality of water entering the Great Barrier Reef Lagoon.

The project officially launched in February 2017 with seed funding from the Queensland Government’s Department of Environment and Science. To date, more than 250 growers have signed up to the project throughout Queensland’s Wet Tropics sugarcane region. 

The recent funding from the partnership between the Australian Government’s Reef Trust and the Great Barrier Reef Foundation has seen Cane Changer continue this momentum in 2019 throughout the Wet Tropics while expanding further south into the Mackay, Burdekin and Southern sugarcane regions of Queensland.

The first round of 2019 Cane Changer workshops were held in the Herbert River sugarcane growing district in the Wet Tropics. Growers from across the district came together to learn how to keep records to achieve accreditation in Smartcane BMP, the sugarcane industry’s best management practice program.  

Accreditation in Smartcane BMP involves growers working with a local facilitator to demonstrate their use of on-farm practices that protect the environment while improving their productivity. 

Across the Burdekin and Mackay regions more than 40 growers have been engaged through the project’s expansion and design phase, with both local CANEGROWERS boards signed up to lead the project in their region.  

A key focus in many of the discussion has been the role of women in the sugarcane industry and the potential to further enhance the vital role that women play both on and off the farm. 

Recent record-keeping workshop held in the Herbert River sugarcane growing region

Recent record-keeping workshop held in the Herbert River sugarcane growing region

“Women help drive this industry, and play a vital role as catalysts for change,” said Toneya McIntosh, Cane Changer Project Manager. “We are especially interested in ensuring that we continue to support and grow this role as the project rolls out across the rest of the state.” 

The coming months will see the team continue to meet with members of the local cane growing communities in the Burdekin, Mackay and Southern regions to co-design and tailor the project for their district. 

“We’re looking forward to working closely with the foundation and our project partners throughout 2019 to continue Cane Changer’s momentum in the Wet Tropics and expand the project across the state,” Ms McIntosh said. 

“We’re working with growers across the state who want the best for their family, their farms and the environment,” she said. “We’re excited to be about to share this story through the project and set the record straight.”