Student - December 6, 2018

Do Tasmanian farmers want to irrigate?

Femke Janssen

Who? Mees Arkesteijn, MSc student of International Land and Water Management
What? Thesis research on the impact of agricultural policy targeting irrigation
Where? Hobart, Tasmania

‘Tasmania wants to earn more from agriculture. The main focus of the agricultural policy is therefore on improving irrigation so that higher value crops can be grown too, which are more water-dependent. For my thesis, I looked at the potential consequences of that policy between now and 2050. I talked to farmers to find out what they think of the plans.

Predicting backwards

For the interviews I used the ‘backcast’ method, which involves looking back from a predicted future point on how you would have got there. If you use the forecast method, people often extrapolate from how we do things now, which gets in the way of creativity. The backcast method proved suitable for identifying potential advantages and disadvantages. The farmers believed that improved irrigation could be economically attractive, but they were scared of becoming dependent on the irrigation system. And for some farmers it was also difficult to make such a big about-turn. Lastly, it would change the landscape drastically, which doesn’t always please local residents.

Into the bush

I was able to stay with a family for the first three weeks. That was very nice; I felt just like their son. Eventually I found a room closer to the university. I didn’t have a lot of contact with my housemates, but spent more time with my supervisor, who is doing his PhD in Tasmania. I went out a lot with him and his friends, taking a tent and going into the bush by car. There is still a lot of primeval forest in Tasmania, and it was great to see that. 


In terms of culture, Tasmania is like America. People higher up the hierarchy are sticklers for detail, so they watch what they say. Something else I realized was that people are quick to show enthusiasm and say yes, but then they forget an arrangement just as quickly. People are very friendly to each other and treat each other as one big family, but at the same time, professionally, everyone does their own thing. Collaboration is not really the norm there yet.’