Farmers Work to Resolve Environmental Challenges in the Burren

The Burren is a unique area in North Clare, known for its abundant biodiversity and rich heritage. It provides the context for a fascinating account of the Burren Life Programme, provided here by Dr Brendan Dunford, its programme manager and a key player in its development. It provides the history and development of an approach to agricultural management which protects and enhances natural habitats and biodiversity. NESC is grateful to Dr Dunford for documenting the programme here.

The development of Burren Life, as documented in this paper, can be an input to thoughtful reflection and discussion on environmental policy, social innovation and agriculture.  The account seems of particular value as an exemplar project on how it is possible to successfully integrate environmental concerns with economic and social factors as they are experienced at ground level by local farmers.  It is a fascinating case of how environmental policy, set initially at a high level, the EU, can prompt local action and innovation and, ultimately, some revision of the overall policy approach and enrichment of the very concept of nature conservation.  It also provides deep insight into the practicalities and conditions of any social innovation project – in which it is possible to see the necessary combination of creativity, leadership, emerging networks, expertise and research, with financial and technical supports at critical junctures. Finally, the Burren Life programme should prompt discussion on the role of farmers in environmental protection and how they might be further supported to strengthen Ireland’s biodiversity. Brendan Dunford notes in his conclusions, ‘though still in its infancy, this approach of viewing farmers as a conservation resource, and trusting and investing in them, has worked well, encouraging a welcome diversity of responses at field and farm level while delivering a marked overall improvement in the area over time’.