The RBAPS project was a three and a half year project in Ireland and Spain working with farmers and stakeholders developing ways to reward farmers for delivering biodiversity on their lands.
The key element of results-based method of delivering payments is that the amount of money paid to the farmer, reflects the quality of wildlife (biodiversity) that is delivered on their farmed land.
Result-based agri-environment payment schemes (RBAPS) award payments to farmers on the basis of the quality of the desired environmental outcome that is delivered. This contrasts with the standard ‘prescription-based’ model, where payments are awarded for complying with certain conditions, whether prohibitions or mandatory actions. For example, in a prescription-based agri-environment scheme (AES), a species-rich grassland option might specify certain grazing &/or mowing dates, livestock pressure, fertiliser and herbicide use, with the same payment made irrespective of the subsequent ecological quality of the grassland.
With result-based schemes, the habitat condition is scored (e.g. on a scale of 1-10), with the highest payment awarded to the best quality habitat. Assessments are based on objective assessment criteria (indicators), which are chosen to reflect the overall biodiversity and ecological integrity of the habitat while also responding to agricultural management practices. This method is based on the Burren model developed with farmers, farming representatives and ecologists (Parr et al. 2010).
Result-based schemes may involve payments awarded solely on results achieved or may be a blended model with payments for ‘non-productive investments’ which support the delivery of biodiversity (e.g. removal of scrub encroaching on species-rich grassland; or creating a chick feeding area on important wading bird habitat); and can be complemented by some prescriptive elements where necessary.
By linking payments to assessment criteria (which indicate the quality of the biodiversity) RBAPS make it financially beneficial for participating farmers to gain an understanding of the conditions needed for delivery of the biodiversity. This creates a new market for biodiversity; where those farmers who better deliver market requirements can be better rewarded.
For species-rich grasslands, in both Leitrim or the callows flood meadows, farmers are not required to carry out any specific actions (although they can choose to, if they want to improve the condition of their fields) and there are no prescriptive management requirements; farming is left to the farmer!
Instead we are developing scoring systems where each field is given marks out of 10 based on the environmental condition of the field and the higher the marks the higher the payment for the field.
For breeding waders, on the Shannon callows, wet grazed fields are scored on the basis of their suitability for the breeding wader birds that nest on the callows in the summer. These birds require the right height grass for building nests and suitable wet, muddy areas for the chicks to feed. Advice will be given to farmers on how best to achieve the best conditions (and highest payment) for the breeding birds while also continuing their farming practices.
This project is funded by the European Commission with co-funding by project partners and with support from The Heritage Council, Teagasc and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.
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