The Sustainable Sugarcane Farm Management System (SUSFARMS®) is a farming system designed to encourage sustainable, responsible sugarcane production through the implementation of better management practices (BMPs). These BMPs are designed to reduce negative impacts on the environment, comply with legislation, maintain a high level of social responsibility and assist in ensuring financial sustainability. Each legal requirement or BMP within SUSFARMS® is expressed as a MEASURE thereby making it possible to assess the extent of implementation of these BMP’s.
The SUSFARMS® Progress Tracker contains a complete list of all legal requirements and BMP’s and can be used to track progress over time. The MEASURES that are contained within SUSFARMS® are:
- PRACTICAL – involving experience rather than just theory
- WORKABLE – directed to ensuring the practice is achievable
- SUSTAINABLE in the long term
- ACCEPTABLE to legislators, environmentalists and growers, and
- Have the capacity to be used as an EXTENSION TOOL.
BMPs are based on knowledge derived from scientific studies, or in the absence of such data, on best available knowledge and may require upgrading as new technology, thinking and methods are developed. SUSFARMS® is in keeping with the worldwide trend towards sustainable agriculture and in keeping with South Africa’s strategic plan for agriculture and the Department of Agriculture’s policy on agriculture for sustainable development.
The SUSFARMS® framework was developed as a four-tiered set of principles, criteria, indicators and verifiers. This framework provided a mechanism for the articulation and acknowledgement of relevant international and South African legislation as well as sugar industry standards, which can be applied by means of better management practices. Three main principles make up the main framework of the SUSFARMS® system. They are:
- PROSPERITY This embodies the economic principle whereby economically viable sugarcane production is maintained or enhanced.
- PEOPLE This embodies the social principle whereby the rights of employees, suppliers/contractors and the local community are upheld and promoted.
- PLANET This embodies the environmental principle whereby natural assets are conserved, critical ecosystem services are maintained and agricultural resources are sustainably used.
In attempting to attain each of these principles, sugarcane agriculture should ensure that the attainment of one principle does not neglect another principle. For example, in pursuing the principle of “prosperity” (i.e. improving profitability), one should not neglect the environmental principle of “planet” and allow negative impacts on the biophysical environment.