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Representation in Ireland

Nurturing Nature: how the EU is helping farmers in East Cork to restore nature, one field at a time

Nature is one step closer to being restored in the picturesque Bride Valley in north-east Cork and west Waterford thanks to an innovative EU-funded agri-environmental pilot project.

Serving as a beacon of inspiration for similar endeavours country-wide, the BRIDE (Biodiversity Regeneration in a Dairying Environment) project, launched in 2018, covers the River Bride catchment area. Its primary objective: to conserve, enhance and restore habitats in intensively farmed lowland areas.

The project rewards farmers with a results-based payment scheme. Each farm's habitat underwent meticulous assessment and grading based on its quality. Subsequently, a flat fee of €2,000 was allocated, with higher-quality habitats meriting higher payments.

Participating farmers embarked on a journey of conservation by setting aside small parcels of land for the creation of ponds, nurturing native woodlands and planting hedgerows.

Donal Sheehan, the project manager, noted:

"We had 48 farmers – 19 dairy farmers, 15 beef farmers, 5 tillage farmers with the remaining 9 coming from sheep and equine backgrounds”.

Initially endowed with €1.1 million in funding, jointly provided by the European Union and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine through the European Innovation Partnership - Agriculture and Innovation (EIP-Agri), the project gained traction.

A side project, dubbed 'Farming With Nature,' received a €150,000 boost from EIP-Agri and the Department of Agriculture. This initiative enabled farmers to assess biodiversity on their land, using the Farmland Biodiversity Index to gauge habitat quality and quantity.

A novel certification mechanism was introduced, rewarding farmers maintaining 10% of their land as Biodiversity Managed Areas (BMA) with the potential to cultivate a "Farmed With Nature" brand. Farms bearing this designation could feature prominently on supermarket shelves, sporting a pioneering biodiversity label — the first of its kind in Ireland.

Mr. Sheehan attributed the project's triumph to the indispensable EU funding and the autonomy entrusted to them for its execution, affirming:

"BRIDE Valley wouldn’t have gone ahead without EU funding and the best part was the level of trust given to us to carry it out".

While the scheme has recently concluded, its legacy endures. A source of inspiration for future endeavours, the project has left a lasting impact. As a parting gesture, eleven schools in the Valley received Barn Owl nest boxes in late 2023, igniting children's curiosity and fostering a commitment to biodiversity conservation in the years ahead.

More information

Bride project website

European Biodiversity Portal - Ireland 

EIP-Agri: BRIDE - Biodiversity Regeneration in a Dairying Environment