Farming women play vital roles in disaster recovery and resilience

By Jane Muller, Senior Research & Policy Officer, Growcom


Following the spate of severe natural disasters in Queensland in recent years, there has been a growing focus across the business community on disaster preparedness and resilience. Our work in the horticulture industry has highlighted that many of the practical measures that should be done in a farm business to improve disaster readiness are in areas that are often managed by women.

Women who are actively involved in the family farming business can take action across a number of key areas, such as:

  • Farm administration
    • Maintain inventories of stock and equipment
    • Identify essential business information, records and procedures
    • Have key documents saved on USB drives or scanned to your smart phone
    • Keep a business emergency kit with critical data and resources in a sealed plastic container ready for a rapid evacuation
    • Ensure that essential business information and records are regularly backed up and consider options like cloud storage so that you can continue business administration from off-site if necessary
    • Identify essential hardware, software, programs – keep back-ups and re-installation procedures
  • Financial management systems
    • Businesses with a strong financial position will obviously be in a better position to weather a disaster
    • Maintaining a manageable level of debt plays an important role in disaster resilience
    • Ensure your accounting practices allow you to actively manage cash flow, regularly monitor business performance, and determine “break even” requirements.
  • Networks
    • Being able to tap into a range of networks is invaluable for both accessing information and ideas that build disaster preparedness and resilience
    • Strong networks enable people to more easily find the help they need to rebuild and recover if disaster strikes.
  • Alternate or regional markets
    • Many farm businesses are diversifying their markets as a disaster resilience strategy and investigating the potential benefits of local and regional markets. Women have been the driving force behind regional food networks in Tropical North Queensland, the Southern Downs and the Scenic Rim with efforts underway in many other places as well.
  • Keeping everyone in the family in a positive headspace
    • The stress and anxiety experienced by people in farm businesses following natural disasters can have a devastating effect on mental health and our experience tells us that the full impacts may not even become evident until 1-2 years down the track. Women need to be informed about ways to keep themselves in a positive head space and how to support family members who are suffering.
    • Have a look at this resource book for rural families, Taking care of yourself and your family. You can download the whole book as a PDF file for free – it’s easy to read and filled with excellent and practical strategies