Farmers delivering environmental benefits on a landscape scale

 Farming for nature and bringing our protected landscapes under favourable management is more important than it ever has been. The Ulster Wildlife EFS Group provides farmers with the necessary support and guidance to enable them to do just that.

"It’s incredible to be educated about the huge abundance of native plant and animal species that rely on our farmland habitats which need to be managed in the right way" - Trevor Irwin, EFS Group member and Fermanagh farmer

Leading by example through their proactive approach to wildlife protection, habitat enhancement, and climate change mitigation, farmers working in partnership with Ulster Wildlife are finding sustainable solutions to farmland management that address current environmental issues.

Over the past few years, farm business decisions encouraging a renewed sense of purpose have risen up the agenda with the focus now shifting towards nature-friendly farming. Topics such as water quality, soil management, ammonia emissions, carbon capture, and storage are of greater importance to us all.

Many farmers have already taken the opportunity to join Ulster Wildlife’s Environmental Farming Scheme (EFS) Group, co-funded by DAERA and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development through the Rural Development Programme. This Group is led by facilitators specialising in all types of farmland habitat adding expertise to farmer knowledge and membership has now reached 250 farmers, primarily based in counties Fermanagh & Tyrone.

The current COVID-19 crisis has meant that social distancing is required to be the norm, however, this hasn’t stood in their way. Facilitator Stephen Duggan commented, “We are still providing farmers with as much support and guidance as possible. We are communicating with our members directly on a one-to-one basis via telephone and email so they will receive all the necessary updates and scheme information. We have also begun piloting the use of online video conferencing to deliver group workshop sessions and presentations, so you’ll be able to join in from the comfort of your own home!”

Attendance at Group events has been extremely encouraging with interesting discussions, debates, and sharing best practices. Group member and Fermanagh farmer Trevor Irwin said, “It’s incredible to be educated about the huge abundance of native plant and animal species that rely on our farmland habitats which need to be managed in the right way. It’s also been a great opportunity for me to meet more farmers in my local area, who are keen to participate and learn.”

Aidan McGovern, a sheep farmer on the Marlbank Loop added, “EFS is a way of ensuring a guaranteed income stream on the farm at a time of uncertainty and it demonstrates that we are following best practice in managing our land sustainably. Having the support and guidance provided by the Ulster Wildlife EFS Group throughout has been a real plus in allowing us to do that.”

Tranche 4 of DAERA’s Environmental Farming Scheme Higher Level is going ahead as planned this year with a selection of farm businesses recently notified that their application in the springtime has been successful. If you are one of these individuals who has applied to EFS Higher this year or if you farm on a designated site or priority habitat and want to learn more about what options are available, Ulster Wildlife would be delighted to welcome you into their EFS Group.

For further information contact Group Facilitators

Stephen Duggan stephen.duggan@ulsterwildlife.org / 07739 700 793

Giles Knight giles.knight@ulsterwildlife.org / 07703673220.