Over many millennia, Ireland has evolved as a farmed landscape. Recent changes in farming, particularly on some of our more ‘marginal’ lands, pose significant threats to the biodiversity, culture and communities in these areas. Once lost, some of these values are irreplaceable. Building on research carried out during his PhD, Brendan Dunford began to craft a plan to protect farming and biodiversity in the Burren, creating a new paradigm for the relationship between farmers and their land, and securing a five-year grant of €2.2 million to execute his ideas in the region. This has led to a landscape-wide programme for the Burren which places farmers at the creative center of maintaining and protecting their land. The potential of such a targeted, farmer-led programme for other threatened landscapes in Ireland and beyond is enormous.
The Irish countryside has been shaped by farming for thousands of years, resulting in a rich tapestry of fields and hedgerows, archaeology and wildlife, prized by local communities and tourists alike. The unprecedented level of change in farming in recent decades has however distorted the traditional ‘balance’ between people and their place. This has resulted, for example, in the intensification of farming in fertile lowlands and, inversely, in the reduction in activity in other, more ‘marginal’ areas such as uplands. Such changes have of course impacted profoundly on the natural and cultural values of these places, usually – though not always - in a negative way. Rafts of legislation have been enacted and new agri-envt schemes have been introduced to address the resultant problems but the largely top-down, one-size-fits-all approach has alienated many farmers and has failed to address the loss of farmland biodiversity. Meanwhile, many rural communities, so integral to the character and health of some of Ireland’s finest and most visited landscapes, are struggling to survive.
Brendan views farmers as not just producers of quality food but also as a key resource in sustaining the health of our countryside. But these farmers must be afforded the resources, the flexibility and the trust to deliver on this potential. With his Farming for Conservation Programme, farmers lead in the development and the delivery key conservation actions on their farms and are rewarded for this. This approach has successfully blended the disparate and often contrarian fields of agriculture, conservation, heritage and tourism to place farmers at the center of land stewardship and create financial incentives for environmentally-sound landscape management. Based on years of research and farmer input, Brendan and his team have designed a payment system to reward farmers for the delivery of public goods such as biodiversity and clean water, as well as co-funding necessary conservation infrastructure such as stone walls, water supplies and access tracks.
The importance of pastoral farming to the biodiversity of the Burren was clearly demonstrated in Brendan’s PhD. The subsequent 5-year grant from the European Commission allowed Brendan and his team to test some new ideas on 20 pilot farms (2,500ha) resulting in the development of an innovative blueprint for sustainable farming in the Burren. The success of this work in protecting biodiversity, the very positive cost-benefit analysis, along with the strong support of the farming community, led to the Irish Department of Environment to match funding with the Department of Agriculture to implement the program across the Burren. Roughly 150 places were allocated as part of a competitive application process (c.400 applicants) and a new, streamlined one-page farm plan template was created (typically farm plans are 30 to 40 pages). Farmers are paid an average of €6,000 per annum if they complete a number of self-nominated conservation works, but almost half of this payment is based on the quality of their grassland management, with each field scored on environmental criteria based around landscape, biodiversity and water quality values. The high level of farmer input in designing plans and of flexibility in managing their land, along with the output-based payment system have proven very popular amongst farmers and has resulted in an exceptionally high standard of work – all for less than €100/ha of prime European habitat.
9 weeks ago Greg Marsh said: Wow - amazing project - the presentation is so clear, precise and well thought out. Beautiful video too. I wish you all the success and ... about the Changeshop BurrenLife. - 了解详情 >