The Otway Agroforestry Network (OAN) is a community landcare group of 250 members based in south west Victoria, that facilitates the establishment and management of multipurpose trees and shrubs on properties in ways that reflect owner needs. The result is a robust biological infrastructure that underpins the economic, environmental and social values of our agricultural landscapes. “Growing trees for conservation and profit”.
Multipurpose trees and shrubs can diversify productivity via cut flowers, native food plants, tree and native plant seed, honey, poles, Shiitake mushrooms, firewood and high quality timber. Multipurpose trees and shrubs also provide ecosystem services such as shade and shelter, reduced wind and water erosion, nutrient cycling, increased soil carbon, improved soil microbe activity, integrated pest management, greenhouse gas sequestration along with increased biodiversity and wildlife habitat.
OAN has a focus on capacity building primarily supported by a Peer Group Mentor service in which members are allocated a local, trained and experienced farmer and tree grower. Mentors assist with designing, planning and establishing farm re vegetation projects.
OAN also provides educational programs which enhance knowledge and skills and a regular newsletter which keeps members motivated, connected and networked.
OAN has 20 mentors with more than 150 mentees and operates over a broad area of south west Victoria. In order to enhance the service the NRCL has provided $75,000 since 2015 to ensure:
- Mentors are utilized effectively by establishing satellite programs in 4 specific geographic locations and communities of interest.
Mentors are coordinated by a local, more experienced mentor. NRCL funding has enabled 30 farm site visits and revegetation plans to be conducted. These have been evenly spread across the 4 geographic regions.
- Mentor training is carried out.
It is critical for mentors to share experiences, learn from each other and experts in relevant fields in order to enhance their capacity to assist farmers. Training sessions also enhance networking and enable OAN to keep connected over a relatively large area.
8 sessions have been conducted with NRCL funding including: Basic silvicultural techniques for high quality timber production; Gaining most value from well managed and sustainable farm grown trees; Disease threat for Cypress trees; Markets for forest products such as cut flowers, seed, firewood and high quality timber; Leadership skills facilitated by Leadership Victoria; Habitat hectare assessments for regenerating forests; Drying milled timber for commercial use; Californian Redwood for erosion control and high quality timber.
- Partnership with other NRM organizations are enhanced by the satellite mentor programs.
OAN has closer relationships with the Landcare Networks in our region and we are now working in partnership with them on a range of activities. Networks include:
Geelong Landcare Network; Surf Coast and Inland Plains Landcare Network;
Upper Barwon Landcare Network; Southern Otway Landcare Network and Heytesbury Landcare Network.
OAN has also had contact with WestVic Dairy and Southern Farming systems, these contacts may result in future partnerships. We currently have a funding partnership with the Corangamite Catchment Management Authority.
- Communication is maintained via a quarterly newsletter. NRCL funding has enabled OAN to produce 10 newsletters. Newsletters enable us to circulate technical and member information. With a growing organization the need to keep in touch with members is critical.
The intention for 2020 is to train an additional group of young mentors to enhance the existing operation and achieve good succession planning. This is funded by NRCL.