HNV farmland as a future strength for Ireland
EFNCP is collaborating with the Heritage Council of Ireland by building on the work of existing studies (e.g. the Burren Life project, the HNV farmland pilot in Connemara and the Aran Islands, the BioUp research project in Kerry and the Irish Uplands Forum work in Sligo/Leitrim and south Leinster) to develop a ‘next step’ approach using the HNV farmland concept which can be used by policy makers for assessing the needs of and delivering support to HNV farmland in the RDP post 2013.
For all these areas there also is a wealth of other research work carried out by the universities of Cork and Galway (including the transnational LACOPE project Teagasc, the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the Heritage Council).
The EFNCP project is building on this work and will use case studies in each area as a means to identify threats, opportunities and practical solutions for HNV farmland. This will involve working closely with interested parties, government bodies, the farming community and local community groups.
To achieve this, the work will closely follow the successful methodology used in the Burren Farming for Conservation Project (BFCP). The BFCP core principles are the development and implementation of practical, local solutions to management problems. 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.
The project is taking forward the HNV concept in Ireland and answer some of the more technical issues around HNV farmland policy, particularly in relation to the development of HNV farmland indicators under the EU Common Monitoring and Evaluation Framework (CMEF).
Although the HNV farmland concept has great potential in Ireland, it has not as yet been fully incorporated into Rural Development Policy. The project is catalysing this process by demonstrating at a local level how it can be done, as well as shedding light on some key technical issues, which will have to be faced at a national level.
The first consultation on the shape of the next RDP was launched in late 2012. Along with longstanding colleagues issued a response on HNV farming and collaborated with a range of NGOs, in an initiative led by Mountaineering Ireland, to write a separate response specifically relating to the uplands.
Some project activities:
The first activity of the project was the holding of 3 workshops on the Aran Islands. After an introduction to the project, the farmers described the factors making it difficult for them to maintain their low-intensity agricultural activity. After the workshops a HNV farmer representative group was established on the islands. A further visit to the Burren by some of the island representatives took place, improving their knowledge of BFCP. Draft costings were completed along with a gap analysis to identify where further information was required, summarised in a report (3.040 KB).
Further work will involve working with the island community to finalise a project which will help maintain and support High Nature Value Farming in the Aran Islands and increase the awareness of the farming community of the importance of the conservation resource they are maintaining. The HNV Farming characteristics are visualised in a special HNV Panorama Aran Islands.
A High Nature Value farmland case study (478 KB) was completed for the Iveragh Peninsula in Co. Kerry based on desk research, stakeholder interviews and consultation meetings. The study highlights the problems facing farmers in the area and how this was affecting the quality of some NATURA 2000-sites. The report makes recommendations as to the next steps in developing support for HNV Farming in the area. Further work in 2011 will involve working with the farming community and other stakeholders in producing a targeted scheme which will help sustain farming activities in the area and maximise one of Ireland’s biodiversity hotspots. Further information on the South Kerry case study area is available in a book reporting the BioUp project (28 MB).
The initial phase of the work in North Connemara involved reviewing the existing academic work carried out in the area and establishing contacts with the farming community for future development work. The Irish Uplands forum had investigated the socio-economics of the area and a range of studies by NUI Galway, the Heritage Council and the LACOPE project had extensive work on the ecological aspect of the area with the latter investigating the role of agricultural systems and the likely vegetation successions of grazing cessation.
By engaging with the farming community through locally held meetings it was possible to relay some of the results and conclusions of this work so that they can realise the important role of low intensity farming in nature conservation. Future work will involve liaising with the farming community and helping them develop the framework for a project that has the potential to achieve sustainable land management, support viable rural communities and achieve economic viability for HNV farming.
The work was reported in part in a presentation in the Teagasc biodiversity conference in 2011.
The work of the authors, in common with the work of the HNV officer for Ireland, Patrick McGurn, was supported by EFNCP through the 2010, 2011 and 2012 DG Environment work programme.
In June 2012 IT Sligo in partnership with EFNCP has completed a week long training programme in Scotland and Northern England. The aim was to raise the capacity in common land policy and management of professionals involved in knowledge transfer and rural development.
The current project builds on a the Forum’s past work in Ireland, including two major pieces of consultancy work and a landmark conference in the Burren in 2000.
Assessing the potential impact on the Natural Heritage of the mid-term review of the CAP (2004)
This project was conducted under contract from the Irish Heritage Council and involved the Forum working in collaboration with a freelance economist and a landscape character expert.
Reference farms in HNV farmland areas in Ireland were used to examine both the economic and non-economic drivers which will influence farmers' responses to the reform. Information was collected through a combination of interviews and a workshop.
The conclusions are summarized in a poster
A review of the CAP Rural Development Plan 2000-2006: Implications for Natural Heritage (2002)
Within this project EFNCP assessed the likely implications for farmers and the environment of a shift to new payments under the new RDP in Ireland. It was commissioned by the Irish Heritage Council.