The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed…
The Mulkear European Innovation Project (EIP)
The Mulkear EIP offers a new approach to address water quality concerns by developing catchment sensitive farming practices. It is working with local farmers, in a catchment which is At Risk, by supporting them to stay farming while bringing about catchment scale improvements in water quality.
The Mulkear catchment covers and area of approximately 650km² across Limerick and Tipperary and forms part of the Lower Shannon SAC. The Mulkear EIP came about after 2 years hard work by local farmers and support bodies, including the Local Authority Waters Programme (LAWPRO), to secure funding for a local, farmer led, agri-environmental project.
The Mulkear EIP will run for 5 years with a budget of €1.2 million and will work with a minimum of 60 farmers. It will focus on the implementation of a locally-led collaborative partnership, with farmers centrally involved in the co-design of an innovative suite of measures to address the water quality concerns as identified in local catchment assessments. The key objectives are to:
- build capacity within the farming community to identify and mitigate agricultural impacts on water quality through practical on-farm measures and shared learning in catchment sensitive farming discussion groups;
- deliver a collaborative partnership model to enable EIP partners, including LAWPRO, the Agricultural Sustainability Support and Advisory Programme (ASSAP), the local dairy coops, and the two local authorities, amongst many others, to collectively identify key water quality concerns in the catchment;
- collate data generated from local catchment assessments to mitigate the risk from the major sources and pathways identified while simultaneously developing baseline data for monitoring purposes;
- deliver a highly innovative collaborative approach to catchment sensitive farming with local farmers inputting into the co-design and development of appropriate mitigation measures;
- celebrate the Mulkear via a community based outreach programme based on improving local water quality, biodiversity and riparian management.
The project will work throughout the Mulkear Catchment, in both upland and lowland farming systems, to address concerns by promoting a catchment sensitive farming approach. It will focus on the 9 subcatchments which are classified as being At Risk of not meeting the WFD objective in the Mulkear. In so doing it will develop a model of collaborative working to collectively identify these key water quality concerns and deliver a tailored Catchment Sensitive Farming training programme within a network of discussion groups / knowledge transfer groups to inform and empower farmers to address local farming related impacts on water quality. It will develop the collaborative partnership approach further through the Mulkear EIP Operational Group (OG) Delivery Groups, farm demo events and community outreach activities.
Positive impacts, expected results and practical recommendations
The Mulkear EIP will deliver a broad range of positive impacts and that the results generated will help inform sustainable farming practices at a catchment scale. The results will help inform practical water quality improvements and environmental practices and policies, by providing:
- A pilot catchment for the delivery of a catchment sensitive farming approach to improve water quality in recommended areas for action under the River Basin Management Plan.
- A pilot catchment for the implementation of a locally-led collaborative approach to achieving reductions in nutrient levels and improvements in ecological status.
- Evidence that farmers can play a positive role in supporting healthy water bodies and ecosystems while undertaking smart farming measures in an upland and lowland context.
- A tested and proven suite of on-farm measures that help mitigate agriculture impacts on water quality, riparian zones and instream habitats in dairy, beef and mixed farming context.
- A focus on getting targeted measures (the right measure in the right place) where they will have greatest effect in the Mulkear Catchment.
- Develop catchment sensitive farming discussion groups to provide local farmers with enhanced skills and an improved understanding and appreciation of the source-pathwayreceptor model and water quality and environmental issues associated with their farming operations and how these issues can be addressed in the context of a locally led scheme.
- Establish a costed, tested and collaborative approach to catchment sensitive farming that can be developed further and be implemented elsewhere to improve water quality.
The Mulkear EIP will be a key pilot in the implementation of the River Basin Management Plan. It will strengthen local level delivery of Ireland’s obligations under the Water Framework Directive and will pilot the new approach to River Basin Management Planning for the 2018 – 2021 WDF cycle. It will deliver a collaborative partnership model to enable project partners to collectively identify key water quality concerns within the Priority Areas for Action in the Mulkear Catchment as outlined in the River Basin Management Plan for Ireland (2018-2021).
This new approach includes the development of a muchstrengthened evidence base to understand the full range of pressures affecting water quality and the development of a programme of measures, as included in the Mulkear EIP project, needed to deliver water quality improvements. The project will take a proactive approach to cooperative engagement to addressing water quality in the Mulkear Catchment. The Mulkear catchment is therefore an excellent example of an area requiring innovative solutions to enable farming to continue without further water quality impacts and general environmental degradation.