Maintaining Social Capital

Looking at the issue of maintaining the social capital of local Landcare into the future

Maintaining Social Capital

Looking at the issue of maintaining the social capital of local Landcare into the future

Local Links - Stronger Communities -


The issue

Our community is largely rural, old fashioned and disconnected from any major centres. Landholders generally manage land in conventional ways without seeking much improvement or innovation. Concerns for “the environment” are considered suspicious and counter to the interests of farmers. It has been difficult for Landcare to connect with this community, or to motivate landholders to act on non-production issues, such as riparian weeds, cane toads, tree weeds, gully erosion and sustainable forestry harvesting.

The solution

Building a social licence to operate in this community has come about by: persistence (25+ years of living and working locally); achieving funding for large projects based on subcatchment plans involving all landholders, and focussing on weed control and provision of improved stock watering; working with all stakeholders and particularly with private land owners for on-ground results; not having a membership base but seeing the whole community as “members” of interest; employment for indigenous and non-indigenous local community members and using local contractors; using the Landcare presence to campaign on local issues; balancing Landcare outcomes to the local ethic.

The impact

Credibility is hard won in rural communities, but possible, with sensitivity and a commitment to results. In our low socio-economic area, UCCL has created real jobs, employing local community members for over 25 years. UCCL has established strong relationships with the Aboriginal communities of the area, and Aboriginal workers have been employed continuously over 15 years. The Landcare presence has built a reputation as an employer, a local go-to relating to land management and a conduit to technical information.

Over the last three years, the opportunities for larger project funding have reduced, with funding now focussed on larger partnerships, higher populations or technology/ innovations in industry. There are no partnership opportunities in the remote low population region and limited opportunities for in kind contributions. UCCL is thus unable to effectively compete in this new investment scenario, despite a long history of delivering successful onground outputs.

So, whilst the Landcare office still operates, it is living on pre-built capital, both financial and social, as the actions and outcomes fade from present relevance and the reputation becomes years old. In the last 3 years the Landcare office has made redundant four of its five Aboriginal workers. Enquiries and engagements with community have reduced, as have connections with government agencies operating with reduced resources.

To maintain Landcare credibility and hard-won social capital in rural-remote ageing and disadvantaged communities is a hard ask in the current investment scenario.

Key facts

  • Community engagement is motivated by real outcomes
  • Community engagement requires some real offering to landholders
  • Community capacity in NRM cannot be built in isolation
  • For Landcare to be effective in rural communities, we need to connect to our community and to continue to build that connection
  • Landholders are not automatically motivated to Landcare outcomes or engagement
  • Engagement needs to be current, relevant and appropriate to business and personal needs
  • Investment criteria need to effectively account for regional variations