From left: Paddy Malone and Caroline Lalor, both FarmPeat team, Minister of State Pippa Hackett, Emma Byrne, FarmPeat, and Brian Sheridan, landowner in Clara.

Farmers near local bogs join new environmental programme

Some 42 farmers in the midlands, including many in South Roscommon, are to take part in a new project for farmers who manage lands that surround some of Ireland’s finest remaining raised bogs.

The FarmPEAT project was launched on Thursday in Clara by Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine Senator Pippa Hackett

The project is developing a locally-led, innovative, results-based farm scheme for farmers who manage lands that surround some of Ireland’s finest remaining raised bogs.

The eight bogs involved include two in South Roscommon, Ballynamona Bog and Corkip Lough (between Bridswell and Castlesampson) and Clonboley Bog, which includes a cluster of bogs near Ballydangan and Taughmaconnell. There are also five predominantly in Offaly, Clara Bog, Daingean Bog, Ferbane Bog, Raheenmore Bog and Umeras Bog (on the Kildare/Offaly border) and Cloncraw Bog near Tyrrellspass.

The programme will bring together farmers, farm advisers, scientists, and researchers to deliver a targeted landscape level intervention which places the farmer at the heart of the process.

It will reward farmers by increased payments based on higher scores, indicating higher environmental quality.

Organisers say it is hoped that this programme will form a basis for future agri-environmental schemes in these areas.

It is the latest in series of European Innovation Partnerships Initiative (EIP) projects funded by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) under Ireland’s Rural Development Programme (RDP) 2014-2020. In total, the Department has committed €64 million to these EIP projects over the lifetime of the RDP.

Speaking at the launch Minister Hackett said: ‘It’s encouraging to see work beginning on these inland bogs. Raised bogs represent one of the most valuable natural ecosystems in Ireland and the appropriate management of adjacent agricultural lands that surround them can play an important role in maintaining and enhancing their long-term conservation value.’

Commenting on how the work will be undertaken, the Minister continued: “The project will work with local farmers to design and trial a programme especially adapted to the local landscape. It will reward farmers for improved management of habitats on peat soils along with other important landscape features such as eskers, field boundaries and watercourses. All of that will I believe combine to deliver enhanced environmental outcomes.”

Caroline Lalor, the Project Manager added: "We are delighted with the interest that local farmers have expressed in the Project. We are offering 42 farmers a contract for the first year and are planning to offer additional places next year.

Thanking those involved Minister Hackett concluded: “As we strive to reach challenging climate change targets, the work planned here will help Ireland transition towards more sustainable use of our peatlands."

The FarmPEAT Project is funded by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and has a budget of €1.2 million and will run for two years. The programme is being run by the Project Team, which is based in Moate.

The sites were selected in order to represent the geographic spread of raised bogs in the midlands and also, at some of the sites, to allow for the FarmPEAT Project to support already completed restoration work and research conducted on the high bogs themselves. In addition, it was important when selecting the sites to choose raised bog sites that have a significant proportion of agricultural land surrounding them.