Decades of Disasters – The Inspiring Resilience of Primary Producers in Australia
What – or who – comes to mind when you think of resilience?
The primary producers of Australia are an inspiring example.
Australia is no stranger to natural disasters, with a long history of bushfires, floods, earthquakes, storms, cyclones and landslides.
And according to the 2020 report of the Bushfire Royal Commission, natural disasters in Australia will continue to become increasingly complex, increasingly unpredictable, and increasingly difficult to manage.
While primary producers make a living by putting food on our tables, the incredible challenges brought about by natural disasters mean they often face difficulties putting food on their own tables.
The Impact of Natural Disasters on Farming Communities
On a recent call, Mitch Witherington of Worthy Cause Drought Angels, brought the B1G1 Team on a journey to explore what droughts, bushfires, floods, and mice plagues mean to the primary producers in Australia and their families.
Learning what the primary producers had to – and continue to – go through was a truly eye-opening and heart wrenching experience. So much so, we felt it was important to share some of their stories with you here today.
The droughts that began in 2014…
Did you know that a farm requires 4-7 consecutive years of productive seasons to recover from just 1 year of drought?
Since 2014, Western Queensland has battled an intense drought. And even now, 44.9% of the total land area of Queensland is still drought-declared.
As a result, many farms remain generations away from recovery.
“The decisions that you make in a drought can make or break you. And those decisions aren’t just once a month. Those decisions come daily. And that’s when we see the real mental strain on what’s going on out here.” - Jacqui Tickell, Farmer and Vet
A country on fire in 2018 and 2019
In 2018, Australia faced unprecedented bushfires.
These fires destroyed millions of hectares of bushland, and decimated entire crops, property and farmlands.
Farmers like Maria from Adelong, NSW, lost a lifetime of cattle, fencing, acres of land, and almost her home.
The mice plagues of 2020 and 2021
After years of drought and devastating wildfires, things seemed to be looking up when a period of heavy rain boosted plant growth, enabling farmers to begin storing produce in silos and prepare for any difficult seasons ahead.
However, primary producers in the southern and eastern agricultural regions of Australia suddenly found themselves deep in a months-long mice plague.
This infestation of thousands of mice destroyed their homes, crops and even their carefully stored grains and supplies in their silos.
In the video below, Tiff, a farmer in NSW, shares her devastating experience.
The 2022 floods
In 2022, the floods came, destroying family homes, farming equipment, crops, and even washed away livestock.
"The sad and untold fact is many farmers impacted by floods and other natural disasters can take 5 or more years to recover from the financial, physical, and emotional devastation. Some never recover." - Drought Angels
Where Drought Angels Come In
Beyond the immense financial and physical tolls of these natural disasters, the ongoing issue that arises is the mental health of the farming communities.
According to a 2021 Australian study on farmer suicide rates, 1 farmer commits suicide every 10 days. And each year, the average suicide rate amongst farmers is almost 59% higher than non-farmers, a number which increased to 94% in 2018.
"I just simply believe that the people who put the food on the table and the clothes on our backs should never have to struggle to feed and clothe their own families." - Tash Johnston, CEO and Founder of Drought Angels
Drought Angels provide critical support for farmers during these challenging times, including financial assistance, food hampers, care packs, a listening ear, regular well-being phone check-ins, and referrals to other support services.
Through their Angels on the Phone program, farmers are able to reach out for much-needed assistance. Their Angels on the Road program also allows the Drought Angels team to visit the families in-person, bring supplies, and determine if additional forms of support can be provided.
Since 2014, Drought Angels have supported 8764 people, 4649 primary producers and 1318 communities.
And since Drought Angels joined B1G1 as a Worthy Cause back in 2020, the B1G1 Community has created an incredible 20,138 impacts across their amazing projects, providing food, fuel, and essential care packs to farmers in need!