‘No one is leading farmers on this’
With the right knowledge and resources, Donal Sheehan believes farmers can serve as friends of the environment. Driven by his passion for nature, the Corkbased dairy farmer has incorporated various measures such as bird feeders, rainwater harvesting systems and pollinator corridors into his farming practice.
Sheehan notes that a lack of both knowledge and financial incentives can serve as barriers to some farmers who want to move to more sustainable practices.
“There is a huge appetite from farmers. They want to do it, but there’s no one leading them,” says Sheehan, who is based in Castlelyons.
One way he hopes to tackle this issue is through locally-led projects. Sheehan is currently the project manager of the BRIDE (Biodiversity Regeneration In a Dairying Environment) project in the Bride Valley in east Cork.
This project — which was selected by the Department of Agriculture and the EU under the European Innovation Partnership (EIP) funding programme — rewards farmers who protect important wildlife habitats on their farmland, such as hedgerows, bogs, woodland and ponds.
Over a five-year period, the wildlife on these farms will be assessed and farmers will be rewarded on a unique results-based payment system, i.e. one that sees higher payments for higher wildlife gains.
The project, which is one of our first to focus on intensive farmland, was designed by local farmers for local farmers.
“This is for habitats, species and people in the Bride valley. If farmers can focus on their own immediate area, you will get better buy-in from others as it’s local and people will feel the effects locally,” he says, adding that much of the farmland by the Bride riverbank is an SAC (Special Area of Conservation).
“This is one way we can solve the many environmental issues.”