Commonage case studies to inform debate on Ireland RDP 2014-20 proposals
Commonage is a major component of the farm area of many farms in upland areas of Ireland covering approximately 440,000 ha of land. These areas deliver significant benefits not only for the livestock farmers who live there but also in terms of public goods. Through Irelands Draft Rural Development Programme (RDP) there is the possibility to support and enhance the delivery of these public goods through targeted support measures.
The practicalities of the RDP proposals have been the subject of considerable public debate. Many farmers have said that they see the proposed approach to implementation as a barrier to participation rather than facilitating positive management.
The issue is further compounded by eligibility issues on commonages for CAP support under Pillar I. Currently there is no clear guidance on eligibility rules for commonages and there is a danger that narrow interpretation of eligibility rules may lead to loss rather than enhancement of biodiversity and associated public goods.
This report aims to feed actual examples from across Ireland into the discussion and to draw out some key issues which policymakers might address to ensure the measures can be implemented effectively.
Six case study areas were selected in counties Mayo, Galway, Sligo, Donegal, Kerry and Wicklow, covering many of the wide variety of circumstances found across the country (management practices, degree of actual use by active farmers, amount of dormant shares belonging to inactive shareholders, etc.).
This report proposes a 12 point implementation strategy for proposed RDP measures on commonages. It must be recognised that the recommendations in this report are an interim solution working towards a trajectory of sustainable management of the commonage resource in Ireland. The next step requires the development of a more results orientated approach to agri-environment schemes, something which on commonages especially requires a good deal of preparatory work.