Maori farmers and landowners are under increasing pressure to use ancestral lands in ways compatible with their communal values, and must balance these goals with the need to reduce greenhouse gases on farms, according to two researchers.
Emeritus Scientist Dr Tanira Kingi and Agricultural Economist Phil Journeaux worked on research alongside three Maori farming collectives to determine how profitability would be affected if changing land use, reducing greenhouse gases greenhouse and cultural values were taken into account. changes to collective farm systems.
“The majority of New Zealand farms are owner-operated, but for Maori, the majority of land is tribally owned and has organizational structures elected by the landowners. It is effectively managed by boards, committees and trustees,” Kingi said during a recent Takahuri Whenua webinar.
These administrators were under pressure to respond to climatic, governmental and community demands.
Kingi and Journeaux have worked with the Tuwharetoa Collective, Te Arawa Arataua and Tairawhiti Farms. Each collective had six farms under its umbrellas. Of the 18 farms, six were dairy operations and 12 were focused on sheep and cattle.
Agricultural maps, spatial mapping and Farmax, a decision support tool for pastoralists, were used to model possible land use changes, emission reductions and profitability.
Modeling showed that farms could achieve a 10% reduction in methane by 2030, with a 36% reduction in nitrous oxide. These specific parameters would achieve the 2030 target of nationally determined contributions for greenhouse gas emissions, as set out in the Paris Agreement.
Land use change, diversification and offsetting through forestry would be needed to achieve these goals, the modeling showed.
“You can use land for social and ecological reasons and align it with cultural priorities,” Kingi said.
The modeling took into account many possible changes in land use.
One possibility, which could meet cultural and sustainability objectives, was to bring wetlands back into agricultural systems and incorporate aquaculture, such as farming eels, to provide a source of income for farmers while protecting fragile ecosystems.
“We want to bring wetlands back into the agricultural ecosystem because 90% of wetlands have been drained and converted to pasture and lost,” Kingi said.
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One advantage of wetlands was their benefits for reducing nutrient leaching, Journeaux said.
One of the collectives had already started making changes by producing beef on a smaller, more intensive scale and offsetting the intensification through carbon forestry, Kingi said.
Land use change did not necessarily mean a completely new approach to the already existing agricultural model, but often meant that certain parcels of land were excluded from agricultural activities and could be used for carbon sequestration initiatives, such as forest forestry. carbon, or for horticulture.
Investing in alternative agricultural models required greater investments in infrastructure, such as processing capacities and supply chains. Such investments needed to be made across a collective or an entire area, to reduce a single farm’s excessive exposure to risk, Kingi said.
Government and industry also needed to be aware of the challenges faced by collectives. The risks were high if the government and private sector did not support collective efforts, he said.
The capacity of governance structures needed to be developed and there was a real need for diversity on boards, Kingi said.
“We have seen over the years that a diversity of perspectives and skills in governance matters. We need to develop the capacity of young people from universities. [They] need to understand agricultural production systems and their complexities. Teams need to know the history of their land and identify important areas that need to be protected when developing and diversifying land to meet changing demands in the future,” Kingi said.
It was therefore also necessary for farmers to reach out to industry organizations and join current industry programs on extension and information, Kingi said.
“We don’t offer direct solutions to farmers, but we can consider a number of different scenarios for each operation. The idea of the program is to give farmers a good idea of the options they have,” Journeaux said.
Kingi and Journeaux would now visit individual farms to report their findings. They would meet with collectives in June. Next year they will start modeling at the collective level.