EIP funding in the current Rural Development Programme is raising the profile of how farmers can help biodiversity around the country.
At the latest EIP launch, for the national Freshwater Pearl Mussel conservation programme, Michael Davern told the farmers of Ardgroom how their counterparts in the Burren, Co Clare, are being remunerated for looking after the environment, and re-implementing ancient farming practices for financial reward.
Davern has 20 years experience as a farmer of working alongside environmentalists.
He spoke of “farming for conservation”, and said that EIP schemes empower local people.
He also spoke about the benefits of working alongside government bodies, including the National Parks and Wildlife Service, and Teagasc.
The freshwater pearl initiative rewards farmers for maintaining and managing lands, ensuring that drained lands are clean and silt-free, which sustains the pearl mussels, a population ptherwise sensitive to change.
Project Manager Dr Patrick Cushell spoke of “high-nature value farming”, stating that “Society values clean water, and should we not pay a reward for the maintaining of it?”
Pearl mussels attach themselves to trout or salmon gills until they are a year old, before dropping off to submerge in gravel and sediment.
After five years, when strong enough to withhold the strength of the river, the mussels emerge as adults. But if siltation in the surrounding landscape creates a coat on the gravel bed of the lake or stream, it destroys the natural habitat of the mussel. Farmers who dig the soil, or cattle who poach the riverbank, compound this problem.
At the launch, Agriculture Minister Michael Creed spoke of the nation’s children who recently marched to increase awareness around environmental protection.
He said: “This is the way forward”.
With his Department expecting a 40% increase in environmental initiatives and climate action initiatives, he said the Pearl Mussel Project and other EIPs are “cutting-edge”.
The onus is on us as a nation to be environmental custodians who will pass land on in as a good a condition as possible. EIPs are an incentive for farmers to participate in this endeavour.
A five-year contract for partnership in the pearl mussel project is currently on offer. Next Tuesday, April 30, is the deadline to submit Expression of Interest Forms.