Farming for Conservation

This Entry has been submitted.

Farming for Conservation

Ennis, Ireland
Organization type: 
Project Stage:
$1 million - $5 million
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Farming for conservation entails a new paradigm: shifting the focus away from protecting the environment from farmers, to investing in farming as a way to enhance the delivery of a wide range of public goods and services. It is highly innovative in terms of the measures adopted, the simplicity of approach and the output based payment system. It has been piloted in a highly complex protected landscape of the Burren and has proven envirnmental, agricultural and socio economic benefits.
This is a highly efective model, the principles of which can be translated to any farmed landscape but the details of which require local research and adaptation.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

The decline in traditional farming practices in many 'marginal' (upland, wetland etc) agricultural landscapes in Europe has led to a decline in rural communities, biodiversity, cultural heritage and ecosystem services in these areas. A new paradigm must be found which reimagines 'farming' in these areas as an esssential management tool through which a rich array of public and private goods can be generated. This paradigm will require new partnerships between scientists, farmers and policy makers and innovative output based support systems which can recognise the often hidden value of the public goods produced by such farming systems.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

This solution places the farmer at the centre of the 'conservation' picture, the leader in the conservation of his/her local landscape. It is based on a few simple principles: 1. Farmer led: rather than telling the farmer what he/she has to do, we ask them what needs to be done (while clearly communicating what outputs we ultimately want) 2. Payment for delivery: every farm is unique and is managed in a slightly different way: this diversity should be supported and celebrated. Farmers must be allowed the flexibility to exercise their management skill and experience to deliver agreed outputs and bepaid accordingly 3. Farmer support schemes must be as simple and clear as possible and entail minimum bureaucracy. 4. Peer learning and field based learning are required to support farmers needs.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

The Burren Farming for Conservation Programme has successfully piloted this approach in a high-heritage value landscape in the west of Ireland called the Burren. Over the past three years the BFCP has worked with 160 farmers on 15,000ha of land with an annual budget of 1m euro. The BFCP is composed of two main measures. The first measure offers co-funding to farmers to undertake a farmer-noiminated seried of (individually costed) tasks which will help improve environmental management on thefarm. These include scrub control, fence repair, water provision etc. The second measure pays farmers for the quality of environmental management year on year. A simple field based scoring system (0-10) is used to determine the 'environmental health' of the field and the farmer is paid accordingly. He/she has complete flexibility in how this is done, we simply offer guidelines and assess the impact. We also offer proven solutions to farmers to help avoid damaging the environment - for example the use of targeted concentrate feedstuff for outwintering grazing animals which improves forage uptake (thus enhancing biodiversity and reducing fire risk) while reducing the need for more polluting forms of imported bulk fodder. Using this twin track approach we have acheived high success rates at significantly reduced cost, improving environmental, agricultural and economic performance among participants while guaranteeing value for money to the taxpayer that funds this.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

This programme is currently funded through public funds (the Common Agricultural Policy) so the market is the general public. Currently this approach has not been adopted elsewhere but is being explored by a number of other regions in Ireland and the EU. Main challenges would be stability of funding as this does require sustained public funding if it is to scale (public funding currently spent on poor-performing agri-environment programmes).


Here's a project we are working in Ireland where we are supporting farmers to lead in the conservation of their landscape. Its based on simple concepts including output based payments. I wonder are there any similar approached being adopted out there?