I got a mention from an interview I did on ABC Rural about our land-use future in the Tropics. Well worth a read how a new Industry will use new methods of land use we call Savannah Enrichment. The WA Government recognizes the future of horticulture using indigenous species with immense prospects.
The big advantage in the case outlined here, is to use land which is a Water Reserve for the town of Broome. No land clearing on a large scale. The Broome region is at the Western end of the Savannah Way, a belt of woodlands that stretches right across the north of Australia between the desert regions to the south and the mountains, tablelands and rainforests to the north:
A major plantation of Kakadu plum trees, also known as gubinge, is set to be established on the outskirts of Broome thanks to a unique land deal between the WA Government and a local Aboriginal corporation.
More than 600 hectares of State Government land, will be leased at no cost to the Mamabulanjin Aboriginal Corporation (MAC) to establish a native fruit tree orchard.
Water Minister Mia Davies said this was the first lease of its kind to be signed by the Water Corporation.
“I’ve asked the Water Corporation to identify opportunities for them to go beyond compliance, so being a good community member, and this partnership with MAC will be a step towards creating employment, economic, environmental and social benefits for Aboriginal people,” Ms Davies said.
“The project paves the way for a new industry producing native foods, using a blend of traditional and modern horticulture techniques that are chemical free, water efficient and environmentally sustainable.”
Gubinge trees to be planted first
Chief executive of MAC, Neil Gower, said a number of Indigenous plants were being considered for the site, but gubinge trees would be planted first.
He said it would not be a traditional orchard, with the gubinge trees being planted in a style known as savannah enrichment.
“We plan to be environmentally sensitive in terms of how we develop the orchard,” he said.
“We’ll be using a method called savannah enrichment, which is basically planting the native trees within the existing bush, of which there’s a number of advantages to doing that, especially around pollination.
“There is however some fire risk in doing that and we will need to make sure there are fire breaks in place before we start any mass plantings.”
Mr Gower said the site could become Australia’s biggest commercial gubinge plantation, but a lot of marketing, research and development was still needed.
“While others may be rushing in [to the gubinge industry], we’re treading carefully,” Mr Gower said.
“And we want to do the acceptable thing by the native title groups across northern Australia, who we’ll potentially be going into partnership with when we look at a processing plant.
“There’s not enough fruit in the wild harvest [to meet demand] and so this is why we’re looking to plant gubinge trees en masse through the savannah enrichment style, to create the tonnage and potentially meet the demands in the next two to three years.”
If all goes to plan, about 10,000 fruit trees, mostly gubinge, will be planted on the site by early 2018.
The WA Government said the land would be leased to MAC at no cost for the first several years, and the agreement will be revisited once the operation becomes commercially viable.
Commercial opportunities for various bush tucker plants
Tom Harley, a native tree consultant to MAC, said the commercial opportunities for a large-scale native orchard were huge.
He said there was growing demand for gubinge, but also other local plants such as pindan walnut, wild mango and native pear.
“The commercialisation of these plants has been very difficult in the past, but that’s changing, and there are companies like Ernst & Young that are looking at various investments [like this],” he said.
“I’ve been talking to some people in the east who are very interested in doing ethical, Indigenous investments.
“We feel that with pindan walnut, when it opens commercially, there’s no holding back — it [demand] could be enormous.”
These species have extraordinary health benefits, and the ‘Plum’ can be an alternative to chemical preservatives in food. Investigative work is still being carried on at a number of Australian Universities.