Aboriginal farmers in Western Australia sow the seed for carbon credits and land restoration

Between mining companies’ carbon offsets and farmers’ land restoration projects, the market for native tree seedlings is booming and seed suppliers are having difficulty keeping up.

In Beverley, south-east of Perth, native seed farmer and Ballardong Noongar man Oral McGuire is working to meet that demand by fusing regenerative and traditional land management practices.

“Today there is a significant — 50 per cent or more — shortfall [of native tree seed],” he said.

“We’re already at risk of not fulfilling what is needed for carbon offsets or rehabilitation projects.”

For 14 years he has been planting trees on his Beverley farm, employing local Aboriginal people to harvest seeds for future plantings.

In that time, more Australian landholders have started planting trees to earn carbon credits, offset emissions, and reap the benefits of tree cover on farms.

A man looks out at trees on a farm from on top of a hill
The trees planted on Oral McGuire’s farm offer a stark contrast to the cleared farmland on neighbouring properties.(ABC: Angus Mackintosh)

From small seeds

Mr McGuire is a director at the Noongar Land Enterprise (NLE) Group, an Aboriginal farming collective that runs a tree seedling nursery using seeds from his farm.

Seeing the demand for native seed, the NLE is now planning to triple the nursery’s output.

two men talk in a nursery full of tree seedlings
David Collins (right) manages more than 50 species of native tree seedlings grown at the Boola Boornap nursery in WA.(ABC: Angus Mackintosh)

“This year we’ve actually planted one million cells [of native tree seed] and we’re looking to bump that up to at least two-and-a-half, three million,” production manager David Collins said.

Once grown into seedlings, those trees are sold and, in many cases, planted by Noongar rangers elsewhere in Western Australia’s Wheatbelt region.

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