A landmark achievement of revegetating about 60 hectares of farming land along the Namoi River is celebrated by cotton farmers in the Namoi Valley, who teamed up with Landcare Australia and the fashion label Country Road to mark Biodiversity Month.
It's been three years since 'The Biodiversity Project' kicked off in the Namoi Valley, and cotton farmers and their families have worked with Landcare Australia to plant 11,800 seedlings along 11.6 kilometres of riverbank with long-term aims to improve waterways on their farms and benefit nature as well as their agriculture production.
In partnering with Landcare Australia, Country Road committed $600,000 in the project's first three years and has since raised $790,000 through sales of the iconic Verified Australia Cotton Heritage Sweat and brand contributions.
As part of the project, more than nine kilometres of fencing around water courses have been established to exclude livestock, with alternative drinking points installed - this will increase habitat and shelter for native animals and help improve water quality.
Cotton farmer Daniel Kahl, business manager for Merced Farming, Wee Waa, has been part of the project since it began but sees the work as a continuation of work they've done on his farm and others.
"We've fenced and protected riparian zones on other farms to conserve natural landscapes; we utilise nature corridors and the benefits of natural predators to reduce pesticide use; we conduct carbon audits of our farm to ensure we're doing our part to not just counteract our emissions but do more than that. This project ties in with all of those endeavours," he said.
Cotton Australia's Cotton to Market Lead, Brooke Summers, has been involved with The Biodiversity Project since its inception.
"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," Ms Summers said.
"We know biodiversity is critical for sustainable cotton production and the planet, and we need to act fast to stop extinction rates globally. We must 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, our biodiversity specialists and our farmers, and everyone has brought something different to the table, which has created a great opportunity for achieving a lot and learning along the way," she said.
The partnership with Country Road and our work with the cotton industry supports biodiversity and landscape restoration benefits for cotton farms in northern NSW, said Dr Shane Norrish, CEO of Landcare Australia.
"Over the last three years, the projects have been impacted by various external influences, including covid and flooding. However, Country Road is more committed to supporting Australian cotton farmers to improve the ecological and habitat restoration of the farming properties.
"Landcare Australia's relationship with the cotton industry is vital to our work with the growers; their support and promotion of the farmers to be involved in The Biodiversity Project have led to the project's success.
"With the support from Country Road's iconic brand position in the Australian fashion industry, we can create greater awareness of Landcare and the environmental stewardship of farmers.
"Having the cotton industry as a part of this project is important as it helps us build trusting relationships with the growers. In addition, the research and biodiversity mapping from Cotton Research and Development Corporation has been important to ensure we choose sites that need biodiversity enhancement as identified by the cotton industry."
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 draws on a Cotton Research and Development (CRDC) report that mapped biodiversity in Australian cotton landscapes, identified threatened and endangered species and recommended ways to protect them.
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