Along the banks of the Namoi River in New South Wales, cotton farmers have for the last three years been restoring natural habitats for wildlife in a unique project with the help of Landcare Australia and fashion brand Country Road.
Today, to kick off Biodiversity Month, we celebrate three years of restoring, repairing and enhancing biodiversity in the cotton farming landscapes of the Namoi Valley across four farms, thanks to significant funding support from Country Road.
Despite the challenges of COVID and floods 59.6 hectares and 11.6 kilometres of riverbanks have been rehabilitated, with 11,800 seedlings planted across four farms, providing important habitat for native animals.
Fencing around water courses has been established to exclude livestock, with alternative drinking points installed helping improve water quality and enhancing agricultural production.
Country Road committed $600,000 in the first three years of the project, and has since raised $790,000 through sales of the iconic Verified Australia Cotton Heritage Sweat and brand contributions.
Protecting and enhancing biodiversity on cotton farms is extremely important. It provides services to farmers in the form of natural pest control, erosion control, carbon sequestration and storage as well as the obvious benefits to nature itself. Healthy natural environments also provide social and recreational benefits so important in regional communities such as fishing, camping and swimming spots.
Meet The Biodiversity Project Families
Cotton Australia’s Cotton to Market Lead Brooke Summers has been involved with The Biodiversity Project since its inception and believes that collaborations like this are the only way to get real and significant outcomes on such a complex topic.
“This project not only provides much needed funding and support for implementing biodiversity projects at farm level, it also showcases what can be achieved when we work together on issues of mutual importance,” Brooke said.
“We know biodiversity is critical for sustainable cotton production and the planet as a whole and that we need to act fast to stop rates of extinction globally. We need to work together through projects like this to find the balance between clothing the world in sustainable natural fibres, and protecting the natural resources we rely on.
“It’s been a true collaboration between Landcare Australia, Country Road, Cotton Australia, the Cotton Research and Development Corporation’s biodiversity specialists and our farmers and everyone has brought something different to the table which has created great a opportunity for achieving a lot and learning along the way,” she said.
The partnership draws on a Cotton Research and Development Corporation (CRDC) report that mapped biodiversity in Australian cotton landscapes, identified threatened and endangered species and recommended ways to protect them.
Country Road Brand Sustainability Manager Erika Martin said Country Road was proud to partner with Landcare Australia and the Australian cotton industry on The Biodiversity project to restore native habitats on cotton farms in the Namoi Valley.
“This partnership has shown how brands and industry can work together towards a shared vision,” Erika said.
“As we celebrate three years and reflect on what we have achieved, one of the highlights has been building relationships with the farming families. We are inspired by their commitment to ‘the long game’, by investment in building biodiversity now for the benefit of future generations.”
The partnership with Country Road and Landcare Australia’s work with the cotton industry is supporting biodiversity and landscape restoration benefits for cotton farms in northern NSW, Dr Shane Norrish, CEO Landcare Australia, said.
“Over the last three years, the projects have been impacted by various external influences including covid and flooding, however Country Road are committed more than ever to supporting Australian cotton farmers improve the ecological and habitat restoration on the farming properties.
“Landcare Australia’s relationship with the cotton industry is vital to the work we are doing with the growers, their support and promotion of the famers to be involved in The Biodiversity Project has led to the success of the project.
“With the support from Country Road’s iconic brand position in the Australian fashion industry, together we can create greater awareness of Landcare Australia and the environmental stewardship of famers.”