Australia is the world’s driest inhabited continent. Almost 70 percent of the mainland is arid or semi-arid, receiving less than 19.7 inches (500 millimeters) of rainfall annually. Drought is often endemic, but the current condition is one of the most severe in modern history. Drought has devastated cattle ranches, sheep farms, and swaths of arable land across Australia’s vast outback, or bush, as it is commonly known. It was these conditions that led the Aussie couple Meg and Ollie Clothier to dedicate the year 2020 to help farmers across their vast country.
Mr. Clothier is a fully qualified boilermaker and Mrs. Clothier is an occupational therapist in Broken Hill, New South Wales (NSW). They come from farming families in the Orroroo and Lucindale regions of South Australia. Naturally, they had an innate connection with farming.
South Australia (SA), NSW, and Queensland (Qld) suffered through a devistating drought, with the annual rainfall being less than 2 inches (50 millimeters) in 2019. Farmers were in distress. The couple planned on a year-long journey volunteering to caretake for the drought-stricken farmers across Australia, to give them a much-deserved break.
The Clothiers published the plan on their Facebook page “Two Young Nomads.” They called it a “year-long honeymoon” and they started their odyssey just before Christmas 2019. The young nomads spend an average of 10 days on each farm. They used their time cleaning troughs, checking windmills, fencing, and looking after the family pets. All they asked for in return for these services was a place to stay and fuel to reach their next destination.
Average temperatures it seems are surging across the globe. According to the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES), the shift to hotter and drier conditions over the period 2000 to 2019, relative to the period 1950 to 1999, has adversely affected the profits of Australian cropping and livestock farming.
“Average temperatures have increased by about one degree since 1950, while recent decades have also seen a trend toward lower winter season rainfall, particularly in the southwest and southeast of Australia,” ABARES Senior Economist Dr. Neal Hughes said in a report providing analysis on the effects of climate variability on Australian cropping and livestock farms.
The compounding impact of drought conditions resulted in low production, reduced livestock numbers, and high fodder costs, according to a government report. On the country’s east coast, drought has affected 49 percent of its primarily grassy agricultural land and driven cattle slaughter up by 17 percent. In the temperate southeast, one-third of dairy farms are projected to lose money this year. The average farm business profit on broadacre farms of New South Wales in 2019–20 is the lowest recorded by ABARES in over 40 years.
Covid-19 break in April
The interesting story of these “two young nomads” soon got widespread appreciation from online media. However, after about four months and 9,000 miles (14,500 km) across Qld, NSW, and SA, the COVID-19 pandemic started spreading in Australia. The government imposed a lockdown on the country to curb the spreading of the virus. This forced the Clothiers to put their plans on hold as they self-isolated at Ollie’s family property in the South East, during the lockdown. But they did not abandon the plan altogether.
Later, when restrictions were lifted, the Clothiers resumed their journey. Currently, they have clocked up more than 21,000 miles (35,000 km) as volunteer caretakers. Presently, they are planning to finish their journey before Christmas 2020, by covering the last farm in Australia’s Northern Territory.