The Burren is best known for its bare limestone landscape, rare flowers and iconic archaeological sites. But many people forget that the Burren is a living landscape, home and workplace to thousands of people. The health of the Burren landscape is closely linked to the health of its communities — without farmers for example the condition of the region’s habitats soon changes, usually for the worse. Burren Life is conscious of this relationship and has invested heavily in the social and economic wellbeing of the community, either directly through its funding programme or indirectly through its support of local community initiatives.
The Burren Life programme has had a major impact on the social and economic status of the 160 farms currently involved and indeed across the broader Burren. The direct investment of c.€5m of public funding in its first five years leveraged significant additional funds through co-funding by farmers. Furthermore, much of this funding is locally recycled through local service and product providers, from local shops to contractors. The introduction of the programme has contributed positively to social wellbeing and inclusion within the Burren farming community through the presence of a local office, annual training events and better engagement with small scale tourism initiatives.
Direct Financial Impact
From 2010 to 2014, the Dept. of Agriculture, Food and the Marine issued €4.935m in payments to farmers participating in Burren Life (the ‘BFCP’). The estimated annual average payment to farmers was €6,600, or €33,000 per farmer over five years. An additional estimated €1.335m was invested by farmers themselves through the co-funding of farm actions and infrastructure over these five years. In addition to this, a 4–5 person project team was located in a dedicated, community-owned office in the centre of the Burren, bringing additional revenue to the area.
Indirect Financial Impact
Much of the Burren Life funding is recycled locally, bringing additional benefits to the local economy. Many farmers hire contractors, mostly from within the community, to carry out farm works. When purchasing goods relating to Burren Life, most farmers use local suppliers (this is borne out by a review of receipts provided). A number of farmers have embarked on small scale tourism enterprises (e.g. www.farmheritagetours.com) some as part of a newly emerging ecotourism network (www.burren.ie). The additional ‘value for money’ generated by the investment of Burren Life was emphasised in a NUIG report from 2004 (see Publications).
Direct Social Impact
The Burren Life office is situated in Carron and has an open door policy for local farmers, including those not participating in the programme. The access, support and ‘empowerment’ provided by this office is very important to local farmers. Annual training events are held for programme participants, and these events are invariably well received as peer learning and socialising opportunities. Burren Life has a policy of supporting local farmers to tell their story to visiting study groups, as they are excellent proponents of the work taking place.
Indirect Social Impact
The work of Burren Life in supporting local farmers to be conservation leaders has had a very positive impact on the self-esteem of the farming community.
Burren Life has been an active supporter of a number of significant local initiatives to celebrate and support the local farming community and the Burren itself, including: