Measuring Farmer's Resilience
Host: Tony Crowley | Date: 03 Oct 2018
They say the only constant is change, but how would you rate your ability to deal with some of the challenges that farming is throwing up – issues such as climate change, government regulations, digital connectivity and new technologies?
Dr Nadine Marshall and her team interviewed 240 cattle producers in northern Australia to develop a vulnerability assessment, a measure of how well equipped they were for change.
The result showed only a small percentage of producers were well equipped for the future, which Nadine says would be typical of most agricultural industries in Australia.
The survey revealed four categories of vulnerability:
- Those who were highly resilient, very well able to cope with change and be strategic about it, who could incorporate change into decision making and be successful through time (2.6%).
- Those who were resilient for different reasons. Good at managing risk, knew how to manage for uncertainty and incorporate it into their planning practices (13.4%).
- Very vulnerable farmers who were not strategic, not very well networked or good at planning for future, who don’t have emotional and financial buffers (41%).
- Those who were highly vulnerable, who don’t have any skillsets to manage uncertainty or incorporate it into their future plans (43%).
While some would suggest we are born with the ability to adapt to change, Nadine says it’s possible to learn the strategies to manage and plan for risk.
And there’s no age group or gender that is more resistant to change, she says, such as older people. However, women have a slight advantage over men in dealing with change as they’re more likely to call on their networks for support during a crisis.
There is some truth in the belief that farming can be insular in nature. Nadine says farmers with very strong local community networks actually don’t do better over time because they’re not exposing themselves to fresh ideas, but tend to reinforce the ideas they already have with colleagues and family.
Farmers who are very business oriented and strategic, who have weak links with others in the broader community such as government and resources, tend to have more novel suites of options available to them and do better through time.
While we can’t predict the future, Nadine says there are four simple tactics to minimise risk:
- Develop strategic skillsets for change, experiment with them and refine them.
- Surround yourself with good emotional and financial buffers – having friends, family and money in crisis times is very important.
- Be interested in change – talking to and learning from each other in a collaborative way will put your industry ahead of the game.
Change is a continual process, Nadine says. The key is investing the same amount in people as we do in infrastructure and technology, so that rural industries can move through change events confidently and survive.
Dr Nadine Marshall
CSIRO Land & Water
James Cook University
07 4753 8537 or 0439 073 010
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