Inishowen Uplands EIP Final Conference Demonstrates a Whole Farm Approach to Sustainable Farming

Apr 11, 2024 | EIP-AGRI

CAP Network Ireland was delighted to participate in the final conference of the Inishowen Uplands EIP which took place on the 2nd of April 2024. The event, which was held in the Ballyliffin Hotel, provided an opportunity to showcase the main results and findings of the five-year project which set out to improve the profitability of farming in Inishowen, Co. Donegal, while delivering on environmental objectives and flood mitigation.

Opening the conference, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, acknowledged the efforts of the 25 participating farmers who have contributed to the success of this project. He then took the opportunity to elaborate on the European Innovation Partnership for Agricultural Productivity and Sustainability (EIP-AGRI) initiative.

“The idea behind the European Partnership initiative is to trial new ideas and actions that would not have been adopted before to see how they’d work for farmers in terms of results and profitability. It’s been good to watch the scheme evolve and see the participation of the farmers in terms of their buy-in.

“I certainly hope all of you found it worthwhile, productive and a good learning process. Your learnings and the EIP scheme’s outcome will help to form national policy as well.”

He continued:

“The different things the farmers have learned through the EIP schemes can be taken on board as part of wider national schemes such as ACRES and others that will evolve over the next number of years. The aim is to incorporate what is working, scale it up and spread it out in a way that has a wider impact on more farms. Hopefully, this will provide a new way of delivering income for farmers as well.”

The five measures rolled out as part of the Inishowen Uplands EIP, which were funded by the Department of Agriculture, Food and The Marine under the Rural Development Programme are: (i) the addition of agro-forestry on the farm, (ii) introducing cattle to the uplands, (iii) the use of diverse swards, (iv) the use of red clover swards, and (iv) the creation of ponds on the farm.

Daniel Bennett, of the CAP Network Ireland team (pictured above), was invited to offer his reflections on the Inishowen Uplands EIP project and the final conference as a whole from a national perspective.

Daniel began by highlighting the key role of CAP Network Ireland in supporting sustainable agriculture and rural development – in particular with regard to the promotion of networking, innovation and funding opportunities under the CAP Strategic Plan. CAP Network Ireland’s role in disseminating the aims, objectives and results of EIP-AGRI Operational Group projects throughout the country was also stressed.

Next, Daniel acknowledged the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, for taking the brave step a number of years ago to establish Operational Groups in Ireland. Without this step, the successes of the Inishowen Uplands EIP, and many other projects, would not have been possible.

Drawing on his own personal experience of visiting an Inishowen Uplands EIP Open Day and Farm Demonstration back in July 2023, and after hearing the perspectives of many of those involved in the project throughout the day’s proceedings, Daniel said:

“Each of the 5 measures implemented as part of the project have clearly brought their own unique opportunities and challenges, but that in many ways is the beauty of the EIP-AGRI initiative – projects are encouraged to trial new things, so that if something works first time around, it can be deemed a success, but if it does not, it can very much be viewed as a lesson learned.

“It is clear that this project has had a significant impact at local level. It has been bottom-up in nature, led by farmers who are passionate about the future of farming and the environment in their own local communities here in Donegal. A lasting legacy of the Inishowen Uplands EIP will no doubt lie in the networks formed and the people that have been brought together – many of whom are in this room today.”

Daniel concluded by reiterating the continuing role of CAP Network Ireland in promoting and disseminating the many innovations that emerge from EIP-AGRI projects.

“I personally sense that there is a real willingness to continue with the good work undertaken to date by projects such as the Inishowen Uplands EIP. We look forward to disseminating the final project report and recommendations via the CAP Network Ireland website and social media channels following this conference,” he added.

The final conference of the project coincided with the launch of the ‘Inishowen Uplands Farmers Handbook’ which is a user-friendly guide to sustainable circular farming systems in Inishowen. This publication describes the measures that have been implemented during the project, thus creating a working template for farmers to follow in future.

For more information on the Inishowen Uplands EIP, visit the project website.

Image source: Clive Wasson / Inishowen Uplands EIP

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