Changes in the Management of the Irish Uplands: A Case-Study from the Iveragh Peninsula
European upland landscapes are of high natural and cultural value. In this paper we present a case study, set in the Irish uplands. We highlight the complex links between ecology, farming systems, the policy environment and the local socioeconomic and cultural context. Given the current low economic returns from hill sheep farming, pluriactivity and multifunctionalism are increasingly necessary farm household coping strategies. We argue that the part-time farming model has land use management and ecological implications for the uplands. Overall we find that within the social-ecological system studied, farming households are adjusting to changing circumstances rather than exiting the sector en mass. We conclude that effective policies for the conservation and management of the uplands, requires a cross-sectoral approach that can take account not only of environmental criteria, but also land managers socio-economic objectives.
High nature value (HNV) farming and the management of upland diversity. A review
High nature value (HNV) farming systems play a crucial role in the conservation of biodiversity across large tracks of the European countryside. The socio-economic viability of these low intensity farming systems is in question, with many facing the stark choice of either abandonment or intensification. This review paper explores the concept of HNV farming and examines the links between grazing management and biodiversity conservation in European HNV upland environments. The paper ends with an analysis of the implications of European agricultural policy for HNV farmland, along with future trends and challenges for HNV farming systems.
Land abandonment is a complex multi-dimensional process with interlinked economic, environmental and social aspects. This paper presents a case study of an isolated hill sheep farming community in SW Ireland, where a combination of low incomes, ageing population, lack of successors and strong environmental constraints are perceived to be among the main factors leading to their demise. However, the uplands they have grazed for generations are of high nature conservation value, and depend on active management to maintain both their ecology and landscapes. The research, which is based on a combination of interviews and farming systems research, highlights the misfit between what the mountain can produce, light hill lamb, and what the globalised market demands. The paper argues that if ‘farming for conservation’ is the new function of such farming systems, then we should consider decoupling public goods payments from agricultural subsidies, along with integrating agriculture in disadvantaged areas within a broader rural development framework. The research aims to fill the gap between macro policy and the micro reality of an upland community on a self-declared ‘tipping point’.