A pilot scheme where 15 farmers from the Glenroe and Ballyorgan areas worked with Ballyhoura Development CLG to improve biodiversity on their farms has been hailed as ‘a positive story’ and a possible model for future larger-scale EIP (European Innovation Partnership) funded schemes.

The 12-month Parish Habitats And Biodiversity (PHAB) pilot, which was extended to 15 months, and managed by Ballyhoura Development CLG, saw 15 farmers plant 1,550m of hedgerow along with 95 fruit trees and 140 native trees; spread 585 tones of lime to reduce fertiliser use, install 15 owl boxes, 35 bird boxes and 3 ponds, as well as putting in 3 pasture pumps and 1 solar pump to help protect waterways. A project team helped each farmer to draw up a farm plan appropriate to their land, and farmers were given financial compensation for all the measures they introduced.

Ballyhoura Development officer John Hassett, himself a farmer, speaking at a presentation on the project on the 28th of September in The Firgrove Hotel, said that everyone had learned a lot from the pilot and that a similar model could be brought in to cover a much larger geographic area. "In the next CAP there will be €36.5 million to support farmers to put measures like these in place,” John Hassett said. “We’re looking at the opportunities that communities and farmers can leverage from the new emphasis on biodiversity and sustainability in the CAP.”

He said there was a will amongst farmers to make positive changes that improve the ecology of their land. "Farmers are the custodians of biodiversity in their communities,” Mr Hassett said. “All the farmers I met are very cognisant of the health of their land. It’s not in our interest to damage the land we live on.”

Continuing, he said: "Over the past 100 years, a strain has been put on the environment by policies of intensification. Now we’re pushing our environment to its limits. Down the line, the days of cheap oil and cheap fertiliser will be gone and instead of being dragged kicking and screaming, it’s in farmers’ interests to learn to work in ways that benefit the environment.”

(As per article published in The Avondhu, Ellie O'Byrne)

PHAB is a collaborative project, led by Ballyhoura Development, in partnership with Glenroe-Ballyorgan Community Council, Ballyhoura Heritage & Environment, Teagasc, the Local Authorities Water Programme, the Technological University of the Shannon (formerly Limerick Institute of Technology), and the Irish Farmers Association.

To find out more about the project, follow the below link:

The Parish Habitats and Biodiversity (PHAB) Project