Results Based Payment Scheme for WaterLANDS project

LIFE IP Wild Atlantic Nature

LIFE IP Wild Atlantic Nature is a 9-year project Coordinated by the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage aimed at conservation and management of Ireland’s Natura 2000 network, with a special focus on blanket bog. The project covers over 250,000ha of Natura 2000 lands, comprising primarily blanket bogs and associated peatland habitats. In many cases lands contiguous with, but outside of, the Natura 2000 network provide an essential function in supporting the achievement of the Conservation Objectives of the sites themselves.


The primary target of LIFE IP Wild Atlantic Nature is delivery of the Prioritised Action Framework (PAF) for Ireland in general, and blanket bog specifically. The project aims to deliver benefits to associated habitats, species and local communities, in addition to being significantly climate and water quality related. Among other activities, the project is demonstrating the Results-Based Payment Scheme (RBPS) approach and developing its roll-out to deliver conservation actions on the ground. The RBPS principles that have been developed and put into practice in similar programmes (e.g. Burren Programme; Pearl Mussel Project EIP) are being used and adapted to work with and for the farmers of the northwest of Ireland.

Another key remit of LIFE IP Wild Atlantic Nature is the mobilisation of complementary funding for associated activities to conserve and restore peatlands. As part of this remit, LIFE IP Wild Atlantic Nature are a partner on a new Horizon 2020 funded project, WaterLANDS. WaterLANDS is a five-year project (2021-2026; budget €23.6m) which aims to enable an upscaling of the restoration of wetlands across Europe. LIFE IP Wild Atlantic Nature are responsible for one of the six WaterLANDS project ‘Action Sites’ at Cuilcagh-Anierin SAC.


In LIFE IP Wild Atlantic Nature the work on developing RBPS was brought forward to 2021/2022 (from original proposal to commence in 2024) to ensure full preparation for the new CAP in 2023, with the support and advice of the Department of Agriculture Food and the Marine (DAFM), who are an Associated Beneficiary on the LIFE project. It is expected that from 2023 the RBPS model will be delivered for farmers in the project areas via the CAP Agri-Environment, Climate Measures (AECMs), with full implementation due in January 2023.

The RBPS model used in Wild Atlantic Nature is a similar model that we are proposing to implement in the WaterLANDS project at Cuilcagh-Anierin SAC in order to align policy and demonstrate best practice in wetland restoration. We envisage that this site would be used as a demonstrator for RBPS roll-out and associated restoration/conservation work. It is expected that testing and demonstrating an RBPS as proposed in WaterLANDS will deliver benefits for science, policy and practice and will generate significant new learning and knowledge, as well as providing concrete recommendations for wetland restoration, through CAP and otherwise. Indeed the European Court of Auditors call for member states to go the direction of using the RBPS approach to achieve higher environmental ambition.


The Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage currently seek a contractor to coordinate a RBPS/restoration actions hybrid pilot as part of the WaterLANDS ‘Action Site’ at Cuilcagh-Anierin SAC. This role involves delivering the RBPS pilot in 2022, coordinating conservation and restoration actions from 2023-2026, monitoring and evaluating the efficacy of actions and the potential for upscaling, liaising with participant farmers, farm advisors and local community groups and working closely with the WaterLANDS project team to deliver on the project objectives across several work packages. Some communication, dissemination and exploitation activities also form part of the role. WaterLANDS is funded under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation programme under Grant Agreement number 101036484.

Payments will depend on satisfactory progress with the following deliverables to the Wild Atlantic Nature project manager or other appointed team member:
Regular short update reports to the project team;
Regular update meeting with the Wild Atlantic Nature project manager;
Successful recruitment of RBPS participants (approx. 200 farmers);
Contributions, where required, to Work Packages 2 (Engaging Communities), 3 (Aligning Governance, and 4 (Mobilising Finance) of WaterLANDS as RBPS progresses
Integrate co-created best-practice (WP5) to optimise application of measures.
Successful undertaking of RBPS advisor and farmer training;
Coordination of RBPS surveying and monitoring programme;
Verification of RBPS farm scores;
Administration of farmer payments;
Administration of supporting actions and evaluation of their efficacy;
Liaison with farmers and agricultural advisors;
Education and liaison with local communities;
Data collection, analysis and reporting documents as required by WaterLANDS Task and Work Package Leads;
Feeding into Key Performance Indicators for Wild Atlantic Nature LIFE IP complementary funding projects;
Monitoring report on efficacy of RBPS & supporting actions;
Preparation of draft guidance documents for partners, farmers and advisors on:
o Overall RBPS project
o Habitat scoring
o Supporting actions
o Finance opportunities and governance arrangements
o Engaging communities


Milestones: RBPS delivered for approx. 200 farmers (December 2022)

A Sustainable Agricultural Plan for the MacGillycuddy Reeks – Conservation and restoration of Upland Habitat in the MacGillycuddy Reeks

Total budget: 950000

Main funding sourceRural development 2014-2020 for Operational Groups (in the sense of Art 56 of Reg.1305/2013)
Project typeOperational group
Starting date2018
End date2021

The project aims to improve the economic viability of farming in the MacGillycuddy Reeks through the development of practical, achievable actions and innovative solutions to address the issues facing farmers on the Reeks.

The following objectives will be perused:

-Develop, in collaboration with landowners, innovative management interventions for the preservation, restoration and enhancement of upland habitats in a farmed, HNV landscape.

-Provide a mechanism to create a positive outreach programme and to prevent further habitat damage due to increasing recreational pressures on the Reeks through the formation of a landowner ranger system, and trail maintenance and definition works.

Activities include:

-Setting up farmer led collective farm management groups to manage the uplands in a sustainable manner.

-Establishing a landowner ranger system to manage recreational pressures impacting on the agricultural practices; habitats in the Reeks.

-Developing a Reeks mountain ewe initiative, whereby ewe lambs bred in the Reeks will produce an animal suitable for sustainable management of the habitats through extensive grazing regimes.

-Reintroducing suitable cattle breeds to manage upland peatlands; grasslands.

-Trail definition & maintenance works to manage the impact of recreational use in the Reeks; installation of sediment traps to reduce sediment input to watercourses.

Contact person: Noel Spillane

Address: South Kerry Development Partnership CLG Head Office, West Main Street, Cahersiveen, Co. Kerry

E-mail: nspillane@skdp.net Phone: 00353 66 9472724

Inishowen Upland Farmers Project

Total budget: 989500

Main funding sourceRural development 2014-2020 for Operational Groups (in the sense of Art 56 of Reg.1305/2013)
Project typeOperational group
Starting date2019
End date2023

This project aims to improve the economic sustainability of farming High Nature Value (HNV) land in Inishowen through the implementation of a range of innovative measures which also deliver on environmental sustainability by increasing biodiversity, improving water quality and combating climate change.

To achieve these goals, the project will pursue the following specific objectives:

-Provide a best practice management template to Increase farm profitability.

-Demonstrate that by adopting a whole farm approach that addresses both the economic and environmental aspects of mountain upland and improved lowland on the farm will lead better long-term outcomes.

Participating farmers will have a farm plan created using data collected from spatial mapping of their farm to:

• Integrate suitable broadleaved woodland into their improved land   to best improve the hydrology of the area.

• Plant trees and hedges to provide shelter belts.

• Incorporate clover and trial alternative legumes, apply lime to build soil fertility to reduce the use of chemical fertilisers.

• Trial red clover swards for silage production.

• Create multi-purpose ponds

• Trial experimental grazing regimes with cattle, where sheep are traditionally grazed, to establish ideal conditions for optimum management and production of biodiverse upland vegetation.

• Prescribe wetland restoration.

Contact person: 

Mr Henry O’ Donnell

Address: Drumfries, Clonmany, Co. Donegal

E-mail: henryodon@gmail.com Phone: +353 (0)862670743 /

Farming Rathcroghan Project- Sustainable Farming in the Rathcroghan Archaeological Landscape

Total budget: 984000

Main funding sourceRural development 2014-2020 for Operational Groups (in the sense of Art 56 of Reg.1305/2013)
Project typeOperational group
Starting date2019
End date2023

The objectives of this project are to:

Manage the landscape in order to sustain a viable and vibrant livelihood for its farming community.
Promote, preserve and conserve the archaeological, cultural and ecological heritage of the area.
Improve water quality and biodiversity.
Promote best practice in relation to carbon sequestration initiatives.
Devise a system of dynamic pedestrian route-ways to provide public access to the landscape.
Increase awareness and recognition amongst the general public of the significance of Rathcroghan as a farmed archaeological landscape and of the central role of its farming community in its care and conservation.

The project will actively:

Test and develop a management regime with farmers linked to the National Monument Service, State agencies and other relevant national bodies.
Test and develop innovative management solutions to sustain a viable farming economy in harmony with the cultural and ecological assets of the landscape.
Test, develop and implement best farming and archaeological practice to proactively monitor, manage, and enhance the cultural landscape in an environmentally-friendly way.

Make available, through engagement with key stakeholders, the archaeology expertise to the local farming community necessary to support the care and management of the cultural landscape.

Contact person: Daniel Curley

Address: c/o Rathcroghan Visitor Centre, Tulsk, Castlerea, Co. Roscommon, Ireland.

E-mail: info@rathcroghan.ie Phone: +353 (0)71 9639268

North Connemara Locally Led Agri-environmental Scheme

Total budget: 1424284

Main funding sourceRural development 2014-2020 for Operational Groups (in the sense of Art 56 of Reg.1305/2013)
Project typeOperational group
Starting date2019
End date2023

Ensure the long-term economic viability of hill farming in the Twelve Bens/Maumturks (TBM) area.

-Develop a landscape-based approach to recapture the historical tradition of governing local commonage.

-Establish a common set of agronomic, economic, social and environmental indicators using innovative technologies.

-Provide a mechanism to create a social farming initiative.

-Prevent further habitat damage through the formation of management groups.

-Improve the conservation status of Annex I Habitats.

-Preserve and promote the TBM regions farming and cultural heritage.

-Formulate farmer-led management groups.

-Develop a results-based scoring and payment system.

-Train participants in the use of modern technology.

-Targeted scrub removal of rhododendron encroachment by non-chemical methods.

-Develop a social farming programme.

-Develop a TBM blackface sheep initiative, whereby the indigenous blackface sheep will be maintained and enhanced. 

-Manage the impact of recreational use in the TBM through trail definition and maintenance works.

-Develop school education programmes and public outreach.

Contact person: Forum Connemara CLG

Address: Ellis Hall, Letterfrack, Co. Galway

E-mail: info@forumconnemara.ie

Phone: 095 41116

Locally Led Scheme for the Conservation of the Hen Harrier

Total budget: 1,100,000

Main funding sourceRural development 2014-2020 for Operational Groups (in the sense of Art 56 of Reg.1305/2013)
Project typeOperational group
Starting date2017
End date2023

The project aims to sustain viable Hen Harrier (HH) Populations in an economically and socially sustainable model by recognising and valuing ecosystem services as an output from the farm. To achieve this, the project will pursue the following objectives:

Ensure the sustainable management of HNV farmland in the most important areas for HH, with an emphasis on providing habitat for HH and other wildlife that share this landscape;

Promote a stronger socio-economic outlook for upland areas;

Develop an effective model for future sustainable management of HH areas.

Foster positive relations through locally-led solutions between communities and the relevant Govt Dept.

The project activities are:

Designing and implementing a conservation programme in 6 Special Protection Areas designated for breeding Hen Harriers.

Incentivising farmers to enhance the habitat value of their designated lands.

Supporting measures that facilitate habitat enhancement.

Recognising the farmer’s role in delivering defined conservation objectives.

Carrying out annual surveys of breeding Hen Harriers to inform advisory and training services.

Working with Government Departments to minimise negative impacts arising from disturbance and habitat loss.

Co-ordinating the delivery of landscape level actions to reduce the risk to the Hen Harrier from predation and wildfire.

The Hen Harrier is a rare, ground nesting bird of prey, adapted to open moorland and marginal grassland habitats. The semi-natural habitats that the Hen Harrier depends on however have decreased in area over the last 40 years, as demographic, economic and regulatory factors have driven changes in land use. In fact, within the SPA network the breeding population of Hen Harrier has declined by 27% since 2005. The national Hen Harrier now only stands at an estimated 108 – 157 pairs.

Contact person: The Hen Harrier Project Ltd.

Address: Unit No. 2 Oran Point, Main Street, Oranmore, Co. Galway

E-mail: fergal.monaghan@henharrierproject.iePhone:  00 353 91 792865

http://www.henharrierproject.ie/

http://www.henharrierproject.ie/payments.html

Click to access HHP_HH_Monitoring_2021.pdf

Blackstairs farming Futures (BFF) Sustainable farming project in the Blackstairs Mountains

Total budget: 1,500,000

Main funding sourceRural development 2014-2020 for Operational Groups (in the sense of Art 56 of Reg.1305/2013)
Project typeOperational group
Starting date2018
End date2023
Project statusOngoing

Objective of the project : 

The project objective is to adopt innovative approaches to add value to the Blackstairs hill farming system whilst simultaneously improving habitat condition.

The Blackstairs Farming Futures (BFF) EIP pilot proposes to develop and trial four innovations:

A Results Based Agri-Environment Payment Scheme for upland habitats and commonage land.

An effective commonage governance model for Ireland.

Habitat management for red grouse and wider upland biodiversity by commonage farmers in the Blackstairs.

Wider community engagement in the environment, culture and tradition of farming in the Uplands.

The project activities are:

Results Based Element – Rewarding good habitat condition on semi-natural habitats using a scoring system based on results indicators.

Complementary Actions – trialling best practice techniques where needed to improve habitat quality to including targeted fencing; Bracken control; Targeted grazing aids; Scrub Management; Invasive species control; Possible re-introduction of cattle; Managed burning programme; Nest protection; Improved access; protection and enhancement of cultural features.

Training and awareness-raising – Available to all potential participants and farm advisors on an on-going basis; wider public engagement and dissemination.

The Blackstairs Mountains SAC extends to 5,000 ha of open mountain on the border of counties Carlow and Wexford. It contains 17% of Ireland’s European Dry Heath habitat. Research carried out for the Blackstairs Farming Group in 2015 confirmed only c. 50% reduction in farm holders under the age of 44 in Electoral Districts surrounding the Blackstairs Mountains. Data on farm viability indicates a high proportion of unsustainable farms in the Blackstairs area. This combination of an aging farmer population and low farm incomes pose a threat to the achievement of favourable status of the semi-natural habitats and associated species in the Blackstairs Mountains SAC. The project objective is to adopt innovative approaches to add value to the Blackstairs hill farming system whilst simultaneously improving habitat condition. Additional information: 

The expected results and practical recommendations from the project are:

High quality peatland habitats with enhanced carbon sequestration

Maintenance and improvement of associated semi-natural habitats

Improved habitat conditions for red grouse and other upland bird species

Increased resilience to climate change

Improved water quality

Improved soil quality

A developed RBAPS which can be applied to other similar upland peat habitats

A workable model for commonage governance and management in Ireland

An empowered, engaged and innovative hill farming community seeking to develop other projects of common interest to sustain their community and way of life

Greater awareness of the value of hill farming and of biodiversity on the mountain

Wider social cohesion and community benefit

Improved upland farm viability

A range of guidelines will be produced from the project providing practical recommendations on all of these results to support replication.

Contact person: Blackstairs Farming Group

Address: Martin Shannon, Rathanna, Borris, Co Carlow

E-mail: martinshannon160@gmail.com

Protecting Farmland Pollinators

Total budget: 1,194,679 Euro

Main funding sourceRural development 2014-2020 for Operational Groups (in the sense of Art 56 of Reg.1305/2013)
Project typeOperational group
Starting date2019
End date2023
Project statusOngoing

https://ec.europa.eu/eip/agriculture/en/find-connect/projects/protecting-farmland-pollinators

This project aims to develop a flexible mechanism that encourages all farmers to make their farm more pollinator friendly in a way that will not impact on productivity. It will:

-Test the effectiveness of a range of pollinator measures across farmland of different types and identify those that are most cost-effective.

-Examine the impact of these pollinator measures on broader biodiversity.

-Based on the pollinator measures, develop an innovative farm-scale scoring system to quantify how pollinator-friendly the entire farm is as a land parcel.

-Develop a simple results-based payment method that encourages and assists farmers in attempts to improve their overall farm-scale pollinator score.

Description of activities : 

-Assess all participating farms for existing pollinator habitat and determine an initial baseline farm-scale pollinator score (year 1).

-Fully monitor all participating farms for pollinators and broader biodiversity (year 2).

– Score all participating farms annually and explain to farmers what simple actions they can take to improve their score. Farmers will be paid annually depending on their score and the amount and quality of habitat they create (Years 2-5).

-Fully monitor all participating farms again for pollinators and biodiversity (year 4).

-Full critical review and future recommendations (year 5).

Pollinators are important to farmers who grow pollinator dependent crops, to those who want to grow their own fruits and vegetables and for the health of our environment. Farmland has experienced wide-scale loss of wild pollinators over the last fifty years however. In Ireland, one third of our 99 bee species are threatened with extinction. To address this issue, the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan (AIPP) was published in 2015. For the AIPP to be successful, it requires small changes to how we manage the entire landscape to ensure it is a place where bees and other insects can survive and thrive. Farmers are at the heart of the solution, and it is imperative that realistic mechanisms are developed that will encourage and support farmers in protecting farmland pollinators.

This project will test pollinator measures in the Irish context and use these to develop an innovative and scientifically rigorous farm-scale scoring system that uses a habitat-matrix approach to quantity how pollinator-friendly the entire farm is as a land parcel. This would enable all farmers to understand how pollinator-friendly or not their farm currently is, what simple, low-cost actions they can take to change this, and to work towards improving their whole farm for pollinators and other biodiversity in a measurable way that does not impact on productivity.

Contact person: 

Dr Úna FitzPatrick

Address: National Biodiversity Data Centre, Carriganore, Co. Waterford

E-mail: ufitzpatrick@biodiversityireland.ie

Phone: +353 (0)51 306240

Related research

NPWS Curlew Conservation Programme

The Curlew Conservation Programme involves locally based teams of advisors, community engagement and nest protection officers, working closely with landowners and other local interests, to protect Curlew nesting attempts and to improve habitat quality. The programme places the landowner and the birds at the centre of all considerations, with key goals of giving the Curlews a better chance of rearing chicks and stopping the population sliding further towards extinction.

The annual report for 2021 of the Curlew Conservation Programme is now available. The annual reports for 20202019, 2018 and 2017 are also available.

The programme is funded by the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage and the Department of Agriculture, Food & the Marine.

In 2021, the Curlew Conservation Programme focused on nine of the most important areas in Ireland for breeding Curlew, including the Stack’s Mountains in Kerry, Lough Ree, Roscommon/Mayo, Leitrim, North Monaghan, Donegal, Lough Corrib, Slieve Aughties and Laois/Kildare. In each of these areas, local teams surveyed for Curlew, engaged in nest protection efforts and liaised with landowners. Funding was made available for landowners and communities to engage in efforts on the programme, including habitat improvement works.

Ireland map showing curlew action teams

https://www.npws.ie/farmers-and-landowners/schemes/curlew-conservation-programme/contracts-2021/areas