North Connemara Locally Led Agri-Environmental Scheme (NCLLAES)
The North Connemara Locally Led Agri-Environmental Scheme is a local agricultural scheme to incentivise farmers to incorporate agricultural animals in improving the ecology of their land.
The Twelve Bens/Maum Turks is a unique upland landscape which covers over 30 000 ha in North Connemara and is home to many important and rare flora and fauna. The area is extensively farmed and the main animal farmed is the Blackface Mayo/Connemara mountain sheep breed. Farmers in the area decided to take part in a local agricultural scheme, which is a bottom-up approach to increase the sustainability of upland farming.
All participant farmers joined management groups to improve social inclusion in the scheme. Data are collected through the scheme to showcase the benefits of farming to the ecology of the uplands. Specific data are collected on the Blackface sheep breed, showcasing the benefit of the animal to the uplands and increasing the marketing opportunity of the breed as an ecological tool. Combined, these approaches will increase the productivity of upland farming and therefore increase its economic sustainability.
80 participants are expected to join the scheme. Of these, approximately 80% are sheep farmers.
Supported by the project, shepherds will increase the amount of data recorded on their farms, leading to easier management, improved flock health and showcasing the benefit of the Blackface Mayo/Connemara mountain breed as a tool for improving the ecological structure of an upland area.
The participants use livestock to improve flora diversity in areas where a single species of plant is creating a monoculture. This will increase the biodiversity on the uplands, increase the grazing platform on these uplands and therefore reduce areas that may be damaged due to preferential grazing.
A pilot educational programme has been rolled out to the primary school students in the region based on upland farming, the importance of the uplands as areas of carbon sinks and sequestration.