Natural Capital Accounting Benchmarking Project
The Natural Capital Accounting Benchmarking project (NCA), is a joint project between Accounting for Nature® Ltd and Landcare Farming to provide training in natural capital accounting methods and develop environmental baseline reports for producers.
Natural capital accounting provides standardised, quantifiable assessments of the physical state of environmental assets including agricultural soils, native vegetation and wildlife, rivers and marine ecosystems. These measures of environmental condition can be used to understand whether actions are improving or degrading natural capital, which may then guide investment in sustainable land and sea management through enabling natural resource managers, policy makers, investors and customers to link the condition of environmental assets with economic decision making.
Over two years, the NCA delivered 30 workshops to 320 participants (including farmers, graziers and landholders), training them in practical natural capital accounting methods and developing environmental baseline reports for producers and their properties, by using a common set of information such as the type and condition of native vegetation.
Harden Landcare Natural Capital Accounting Field Day
NCA training has been rolled out around Australia through the Landcare network, and when the Harden Murrumburrah Landcare Group, based in the South West Slopes of NSW, hosted the AFN training in 2023, participants said the training empowered them to implement more robust measurement systems.
Genevieve Wakeham, who has 120ha on the Murrumbidgee River, attended the training because of the opportunity to be an early adopter.
“It was a clarification of the whole situation of where the benefits are, whether it fits in with our philosophy about how we want to look after what we have or improve what we have and contribute to the environment,” she said.
Harden Murrumburrah Landcare Group co-ordinator Julie Roberts said the training provided clarity around highly detailed guidelines and theories.
“People were able to learn that environmental information can be valuable to them as landholders in their decision making, and they don’t necessarily have to go ahead and register projects or turn it into a marketing opportunity. They can just apply this knowledge to improving their work practices,” she said.
“Being quite a new concept, it will give them (participants) an advantage in being able to start an account for the assets they have, and natural capital accounting is going to become more important as we go forward in the future.”
“And by having these measurements and accounting methods provided today, they’ve got some data there ready to go.”
The training demystified the complexities of NCA.
“The resounding message I got from landholders out in the paddock was the idea of measuring these things was not nearly as difficult as they imagined when they were looking at the theory,” Julie said.
Jack O’Connor, from the 8,000ha cropping and Merino ewe enterprise ‘Oxton Park’ at Harden, said he undertook the training to be on the front foot to safeguard his business and to ensure actions were climate and environmentally positive.
“The main thing I found the most beneficial was just breaking down the different methodologies and being able to identify which is going to be our best first step to take as Oxton Park, as a company, and just to nail down our goals and what we want to achieve over five, 10, 20, 30 years through the program,” he said.
Doug Murchison, who purchased a 460ha property at Taylor’s Flat three years ago, said he attended the event to research techniques for measuring land improvement.
“I intend to go down a path of certification because it’ll just be a systematic way that I can achieve what I wanted to achieve,” he said.
“This way, I can get a register and look at the ways to measure our achievements in altering the existing conditions of the property or enhancing the biodiversity outside of it as well, particularly in the wildlife corridors, shelterbelts, etcetera.”
Feedback from workshop participants was overwhelmingly positive, and they reported that the field demonstrations and practical explanations of how to implement natural capital accounting methods gave them the confidence to explore engaging in emerging environmental markets. Building on their success, Landcare Farming and Accounting for Nature subsequently hosted two pilot training days on natural capital accounting with landholders and landcare groups, and based on the learnings and feedback from these training days plan to conduct more training days in future.
The Landcare Farming Program is a joint partnership between Landcare Australia and the National Landcare Network, funded by the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program to strengthen the connection between landcare and Australian agriculture.