Mowanjum: Harnessing water for economic growth

The Mowanjum Aboriginal Corporation just outside Derby in the Kimberley is lifting the productivity of its cattle breeding operations. The community’s 55,000 hectare cattle station is prime grazing land with the capacity to produce high-quality beef for domestic and export markets.

Improved access to water supplies is key to the community achieving its aspirations—the property needs dry-season feeding capability which requires reliable irrigated water supply.

The community has an initial production target of raising 10,000 to 15,000 head of its own branded cattle for markets and wants to agist stock for other Aboriginal stations.

Successes are already on the board: Mowanjum has installed a trial $3.6 million pivot irrigation system that uses underutilised groundwater to grow fodder crops on a 38 hectare area. It has developed a stand and graze beef operation through the trial which has exported cattle via the port at Broome and is planning to extend the project.

The Mowajum trial is a model for other pastoral stations in the Kimberley. Crop research, irrigation data and herd analysis from the project will inform the growth of other pastoral operations in the north so the region can capitalise an expanding global beef market.

“Our pastoral station is providing an innovative model that other farmers can learn from, including other Indigenous-owned pastoral stations,” Steven Puemorra, Chairman of the Mowanjum Aboriginal Corporation says.

“Mowanjum continues to improve and seek out new opportunities for growth to cement and build on our achievements and we are looking forward to a bright economic future,” he says.

Mowanjum CEO Stephen Austin says the irrigation project offers more employment and greater self-reliance for the community.

“This can open up new activity and create more jobs for Mowanjum and that’s what we need,” he says.

Image: Trainee stockman Ashton Lockyer and Mark Laylay, Mowanjum, WA. Photo: Danella Bevis, © The West Australian.

Published: 16 October 2017