Commonland: a new global sustainable agriculture initiative

on 05 May 2016 

On Wednesday last week, Angela and I joined with staff from Amsterdam-based Commonland and its WA partner Wide Open Agriculture for a Field Day at Temple Farm on the Carlecatup Creek, about 7km downstream of our Kojonup Reserve.

Commonland is a global initiative exploring options for enhancing the sustainability of agricultural landscapes. A WA Wheatbelt project is the most recent of three pilot projects globally, the other two being in the Port Elizabeth catchment in South Africa and on the Altiplano in southern Spain. 

Commonland’s goal is to realise large-scale landscape restoration with local farmers, land-users and experts, based on sustainable business cases. Its mission is to contribute to a large-scale landscape restoration industry, aligned with international policies and guidelines. 

Commonland's model looks to achieve the four returns of social capital, natural capital, financial capital, and inspiration from restoration across three landscape zones - a natural zone, a combined zone, and an economic zone. 

With much of its focus on supporting more sustainable production methods in working agricultural landscapes (the 'combined zone'), Commonland is keen to work with organisations such as our own with expertise in management and restoration of natural landscapes in which biodiversity restoration is the primary goal. And we obviously have a keen interest in collaborating with agencies working to enhance the sustainability of the working landscapes within which our reserves are embedded.

The Field Day was a wonderful chance to meet like-minded folks in a beautiful setting. Brothers David and Michael McFall are the fourth generation of their family working the farm originally taken up by their great-grandfather. 

David read us excerpts from their great-grandfather's diary that made it clear that environmental and social imperatives have featured prominently in management of the property down through the generations. The property was named 'Temple Farm' at the outset not for religious reasons, but rather to exemplify the role of the land in holding together the family and its wider network of associates as a cooperative endeavour.

We had a very full day out and about discussing the many approaches that have informed the management of Temple Farm over the years, and we'll be watching with interest and no doubt engaging further as Commonland builds its global program, including its WA Wheatbelt project.