Burren Farming for Conservation Programme (BFCP)
The BFCP is an Article 68 scheme which builds on the lessons of the previous BurrenLIFE project. The BFCP is fundamentally an environmental programme, which targets the delivery of a range of environmental benefits, in particular the production of species-rich limestone grasslands and the improvement of water quality.
The Programme aims to support high environmental value farming in the Burren, continuing and mainstreaming the findings of the BurrenLIFE Project (2005-2010). The Programme is a voluntary one and is open to all farmers, who farm in the Burren region in north Clare and south Galway.
As almost 350 farmers applied for entry into the BFCP in May 2010, all applicants had to be scored on environmental criteria. Improving the habitat quality scores over time is central to the ethos of this innovative output-related First Pillar scheme.
The methodology used in the BFCP was developed in the BurrenLIFE project, which investigated the management requirements of the Burren's priority habitats and developed a model for sustainable agriculture in the region. This five-year project (2005-2009) was the first major farming for conservation project in Ireland.
An important factor in its success was that it brought together all the relevant stakeholders: researchers, farmers, conservation and agricultural authorities. Important principles include the adoption of practical, local solutions to management problems and the rigorous monitoring of the agricultural, environmental and socio-economic impacts of these management changes.
A presentation by BFCP staff, led by EFNCP director Brendan Dunford, to a joint hearing of both houses of the Oireachtas gives an excellent introduction to the approach used on the Burren.
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