Cane Changer brings down the barriers

Knowing ways to drive change at heart of Cane Changers' success


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Sugar technology conference participants hear testimonials from participants who have benefited from the Cane Changer program.

Sugar technology conference participants hear testimonials from participants who have benefited from the Cane Changer program.

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Reducing barriers - more so than offering encouragement - has been the driver bringing about the greatest rate of positive change in the cane industry.

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Reducing barriers - more so than offering encouragement - has been the driver bringing about the greatest rate of positive change in the cane industry.

Behavioural scientists working with Canegrowers on the Cane Changer program Dr John Pickering and project manager Toneya McIntosh reported on this and other findings at the Australian Society of Sugar Cane Technologists conference in Toowoomba.

"One of the things we found interesting is that when people really want to change behaviour, the first thing you think of is to give them more of something to encourage them to do this thing," Ms McIntosh said.

Using psychological learnings, she said they thought more about what could be done to reduce some of the barriers to practice change.

"If you do that, you see the shift," she said.

An example of this that they found in the cane industry was that when they talked to growers, they often said they had been asked to change many times.

"They've done it but what they've gotten in return is nothing.

"So what they've found is that even though growers have been making changes over many years, there wasn't any recognition for it so eventually they learn, what's the point."

Ms McIntosh said that was where the Cane Changer slogan - setting the record straight - came from.

As a variety of participants testified via a video played at the conference, the program meant they were finally being acknowledged for the work they had put in to water and sediment run-off.

"The report card's come out and we've still got a lot of work to do but we're all talking about it positively, which is a good thing," one participant commented.

Read more: Cane Changer for Growers

It was in July 2017 that then-Environment Minister Steven Miles recognised the decades of grower investment in environmental outcomes when he signed off on Cane Changer, described as the state government's commitment to the sugarcane industry.

Since then, 661 growers have been engaged across six growing districts in the Wet Tropics via 230 different workshops and training activities.

According to Ms McIntosh, they've helped deliver up to a 1000 per cent voluntary participation increase in the best management farming practices program, along with 271 new benchmarks and 151 new accreditations.

"One of the things we've seen is that each district's been different," she said.

"We started in Innisfail. They've been really strong supporters of the project and we've worked really closely.

"We realised really early on in Tully that there was this really innovative variety management group there and we knew these were the growers we wanted to talk to."

Some 246 growers have signed a Cane Changer commitment.

Ms McIntosh said they also realised that change was for everyone and so they'd worked with the MSF staff and with their extension officers on behavioural skills.

"What that culminated in was this uptake - in the Wet Tropics you can actually see the rate of change as opposed to some of the other geographical regions," she said.

"It's not just us working; there has been a really big push of projects and we've seen this incredible uptake.

"It's really powerful, the change that's happened over the last couple of years."

Dr Pickering told the conference that if there was one thing he wanted to leave them with, it was that behavioural science was a potentially powerful tool with respect to adoption in agriculture.

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