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Blue Dot project will improve the environment and its water quality

A five-year pilot project recently launched under the IRD Duhallow rural development group will develop a farmer-focused approach to simultaneously supporting local agriculture and enhancing the freshwater environment. Working closely with farmers in the North Cork catchments of the Rivers Allow, Dalua and Owenanare – which are home to a variety of rare and protected species, including otter, salmon, lamprey, kingfisher and freshwater pearl mussel – a results-based payment scheme will reward sustainable agricultural practices.

In recent years, there’s been a gradual decline in water quality, with the main threats coming from industrial and domestic waste water, forestry and agriculture. The programme aims to encourage economic growth in the region, providing a source of income to farm families who farm in a manner which enhances river ecosystems, safeguarding the environment and preventing pollution in rivers and lakes.

The rolling and wooded Duhallow countryside has a mixed range of farming including dairy and beef, sheep and horse-breeding and forestry. IRD chief executive Maura Walsh, speaking at the launch, highlighted the role of farmers as custodians of the landscape. “The promotion of sustainable farming along with maintaining the maximum number of farm families in the region has always been the priority of IRD Duhallow,” she said and she explained how the project was conceived in consultation with the local agricultural community and national experts. The project will build upon the lessons learned from previous IRD Duhallow LIFE projects.

Working closely with 100 farmers in the catchment, the project will develop farm specific solutions to water quality and biodiversity issues arising in the catchment. With the essential input of participating farmers, farm plans will develop innovative solutions to mitigate the pressures of agriculture on the rivers. Measures undertaken will be designed in such a way that farm productivity is not compromised, generating an economically and ecologically sustainable model farming in Blue Dot catchments.

Maura Farrell of the National Rural Network said the project takes a highly innovative approach to enhancing and restoring freshwater habitats on farms in the South of Ireland.  “Led by IRD Duhallow with a high level of engagement from the farming community, scientific partners, and advisory specialists, this project can play a leading role in directing environmental action on waterways into the future,” she added.

What are Blue Dot Catchments?
The Blue Dot Catchment programme has been suggested by the Irish Government as a means of encouraging local communities to manage their rivers in a sustainable way. The Blue Dot standard will certify the quality and status of rivers, streams and lakes. The Blue Dot programme has not yet been trialled and the Duhallow Blue Dot project will serve as a pilot scheme through which innovative techniques for the improvement of the river will be established and implemented by the farming community.

Results Based Actions & Payments for Participating Farmers.
The project aims to address the pressures of agriculture through the:

(1) reduction of pollutant generation through nutrient and livestock management,

(2) stopping mobile pollutants reaching the river and

(3) restoring degraded habitats.

Appropriate actions will be designed based on consultation with each farmer, and farm specific plans will be put in place. Participating farmers will select a number of actions designed to enhance the river ecosystem and will be financially rewarded to reflect the success of their actions. The project will continue for a duration of five years with a target of 100 farmers participating in the programme.

At the Ploughing Championships last week, the Environmental Pillar echoed what is happening in Duhallow by calling for a policy that protects nature while rewarding farmers who work close to nature.

Source – Irish Independent

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