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The Future of Food in Arid Lands

Last week ALEC policy officer Alex Read was out on the land, visiting farms as part of the Northern Territory Farmers Central Australian Food Futures Roadshow. It was a great opportunity for ALEC to make connections with the agriculture industry and have valuable conversations about sustainable food production, water conservation and climate change.

The Roadshow, held over three days from the 19th-21st November, brought together producers, government, industry representatives and other stakeholders to learn about horticultural projects in the centre and the opportunities for sustainable growth for the industry.

By travelling to farms around central Australia, participants saw first hand the harsh realities of horticulture in the arid zone, and what it takes to run a successful agricultural project in this environment.

While this industry requires huge volumes of water, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources are committed to implementing an accountable and robust licencing framework to ensure that development is ecologically and culturally sustainable. Along with discussions about water regulation, ALEC also engaged with NT Farmers on climate adaptation and development in the North. 

“It was heartening to hear that the industry is conscious of the need to use water efficiently and only develop on land with suitable soil and vegetation types, while also returning benefits to local Aboriginal communities. I’m also encouraged that NT Farmers understand the importance of taking climate change seriously,” said Alex Read. 

“While we are generally supportive of the industry growing, we must ensure this growth is sustainable. The industry requires a lot of water to operate, and this must be managed in a way that doesn’t negatively impact groundwater-dependent ecosystems.”

ALEC looks forward to continuing to build a constructive relationship with the industry to support ecologically sustainable horticultural projects for the arid zone. 

“Having a dialogue with NT Farmers means that they can talk to us about what’s in the pipeline; we can keep channels of communication open to negotiate on certain things, share information, and possibly work together. We aren’t always going to agree but it’s good to keep talking, this could be the beginning of a positive longer-term conversation,” said Alex Read.

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