Nedbank, WWF-SA, the Illovo Planters Group (IPG) and the Eston Show committee launched the inaugural Nedbank Sustainable Farm Award at the 2013 Nedbank Eston Show, which took place this past weekend in Eston, KZN.
The Award seeks to recognise agricultural businesses that are practicing sustainable farming principles, particularly in terms of integrating the social, environmental and economic aspects of their operations.
In order to enter, farmers were required to self-rate their farming operations via a survey. From the responses to the survey a panel comprising of representatives from the IPG, Nedbank and an independent expert selected three finalists. These three operations were visited to determine the most sustainable farming operation in the IPG district, and the winner of the inaugural Sustainable Farm Award was announced at The Eston Show prize giving ceremony on Friday evening.
The winner of this year’s award is Eric Lusso from Kanga Farm in Eston, KZN.
The criteria for the award are:
- Management of alien plant invaders, which degrade or replace natural habitat and use excessive water, thus decreasing ecosystem health and functions;
- Soil conservation because healthy soil helps maintain or increase yields and decrease agrochemical use, making operations more cost effective and reducing environmental impact;
- Wetlands and watercourses as South Africa is a water scarce country. Wetlands and rivers manage and regulate water flow and quality, and assist with Eldana control, so it is beneficial to the farmer to keep on-farm freshwater ecosystems healthy;
- Holistic, integrated pest and disease management approaches reduce input costs and crop damage by strengthening natural predator-prey balances;
- Social compliance and good practice because healthy work environments and trained staff help a farmer achieve their best practice goals while increasing efficiencies; and minimising accidents and environmental impacts; and
- Financial sustainability as an operation needs to deliver a profitable return in order to farm on a sustainable level.
Tracy Gurney, Chairperson of the Beaumont Eston Farmers’ Association welcomes the award, saying that the time has come to implement more sustainable farming methods. “This award will hopefully encourage farmers to review their farming practices, which is vital if we want future generations to be able to farm these lands. Some of the issues in the sugar sector that need to be addressed are the over use of chemical fertilisers, the spread of noxious weeds and the increased prevalence of pests in more widespread areas. These issues all affect the long term viability of sugar cane farming and need to be addressed by communities as a whole. We feel that this award will help to get the entire community involved in dealing with these matters. Farmers also need to become more involved in committees and social forums in their areas, as true sustainability will require a united approach.”
Says Nick Parry, Nedbank Business Banking’s Agricultural Area Manager for Pietermaritzburg and surrounds, “At Nedbank, we realise it can no longer be business as usual. Our more than 20-year journey in sustainability is indicative of our commitment of not only doing business sustainably, but also enabling other businesses to embark on their own journeys. The agricultural sector is no exception to this commitment.
Conscious of the importance of agriculture and its impact on the environment and the communities it supports, Nedbank forms strategic partnerships with stakeholders in the agricultural sector to gain a better understanding of the challenges faced and contribute to the development of effective sustainable agriculture initiatives. Our three-year, R8.3 million investment announced in 2012 into WWF-SA’s Sustainable Agriculture Programme is just one example of the integrated approach we take to encourage and enable sustainable agriculture at all levels of industry and society.
Part of this partnership includes acknowledging agricultural businesses that are embracing sustainable farming methods and this award will be the first of its kind to recognise such businesses in South Africa,” concludes Parry.