Over the past five years, farmers participating in the Burren Life Programme have received €4.6m in payments for their role in the improved environmental health of the Burren.
Figures provided by Burren Life show that €2.1m of those payments were for “the management of species-rich grassland” where the Burren’s famous flowers grow.
Burren Life director Brendan Dunford said that “the signs are very positive” for the programme securing an extension beyond December.
Mr Dunford — who earlier this year gave Prince Charles a tour of a Burren farm — said that the goal of the programme is that every farmer in the Burren who wants to be included will be included.
There are currently 160 farmers participating in the scheme, covering 45% of the protected areas in the Burren. Dr Dunford said it is the programme’s ambition to include 100% of protected areas such as Special Areas of Conservation (SAC).
Mr Dunford said that the programme has had “a phenomenal impact” on the Burren landscape “and the environmental health of the Burren is increasing year by year”.
The objectives of the Burren Life Programme are:
- To ensure the sustainable agricultural management of high nature value farmland in the Burren;
- To contribute to the positive management of the Burren’s landscape and cultural heritage;
- To contribute to improvements in water quality and water usage efficiency in the Burren region.
Mr Dunford said: “The Burren Life will leave a fantastic legacy and it has proven to be a very good value for money model — and we believe it is the best model around.”
Mr Dunford revealed that since Prince Charles’s visit, Burren Life has been “inundated” with visits and queries over how Burren Life is implemented.
Mr Dunford said that Prince Charles “was very impressed by the work the farmers are doing here as part of the programme”.
The agency’s annual report for 2014 shows that €1m was paid out to farmers last year. That included €494,686 to farmers for “the management of species-rich grassland”.
Of the €1m paid out, the average payments to farmers totalled €6,618, with the top payment at €15,000.
The programme is jointly funded by the Departments of Agriculture and Arts and Heritage.
Mr Dunford said: “The programme has a lot of support at national and European level and we would be hopeful that a five-year programme through to 2020 will be put in place.”