EU Delegation Visits The Wicklow Uplands To See The SUAS Project

Last week the SUAS Project hosted a field trip for a delegation of 60  participants from 22 of the EU’s member states, who were keen to learn and observe first-hand, the workings of the Wicklow and Dublin uplands based EIP-AGRI project.

Their visit to Co. Wicklow included a presentation and reception at the Brockagh Centre in Laragh where SUAS Project Manager, Declan Byrne and Operational Lead, Pat Dunne, shared many of the five year project’s objectives and the considerable progress to date.

The ‘Sustainable Uplands Agriculture-environment Scheme (SUAS)’ Pilot Project, which was officially launched in November 2018, is using an innovative approach to assist both commonage groups and individual farmers across the Wicklow and Dublin uplands. The project is designed to ensure the future sustainable management of the unique, natural habitats the area is renowned for and is reporting on the ecology and biodiversity found at each location.

Following the presentation, the group made a brief stop at the 6th century monastic settlement of Glendalough to enjoy one of the region’s most popular tourist locations before returning to Dublin.

Speaking after the visit to Wicklow, Declan Byrne shared,

“It was a wonderful opportunity for the SUAS operational group to highlight the complex workings of the project with such a diverse and notable number of representatives. We are grateful that many new friendships were formed and that our project may now form part of discussions with our European colleagues.”

Wicklow Uplands Council who developed the project, were also involved with the hosting of the event with Brian Dunne, Coordinator of Wicklow Uplands Council also delivering an informative presentation on the origins and need for the project of this type to the region.

“Following extensive research in the Wicklow Uplands, we are delighted that the SUAS project is now fully operational”

Mr. Dunne continued,

“Through information gathering and knowledge sharing, we are already observing many positive results which we were able to discuss with the delegation”.

The three day conference was organised by the Standing Committee on Agriculture Research (SCAR) and their Strategic Working Group, Agriculture Knowledge and Innovation Systems (SWP-AKIS). The SWG -AKIS group focuses on improvements of the functioning of knowledge and innovation systems in the EU’s Bioeconomy and looks at research and innovation activities, knowledge generation and knowledge exchange. This covers all Agri-food and biomass chains, from producer to consumer in a systems approach. The strategic group is made up of European Commission staff and representatives from Member States.

Leading the delegation was Inge Van Oost, a policy officer at the European Commission in the Directorate General Agriculture and Rural Development (DG AGRI). One of the key areas of focus for Inge is to support the implementation of the European Innovation Partnership for Agricultural Productivity and Sustainability (EIP-AGRI) Projects.

Speaking about the visit, Inge shared,

 “The EIP Projects bring opportunities to members of the farming community to enable them to develop solutions to the challenges local to their area.”

 “The meeting in Ireland was an absolute success, with many of our participants very enthusiastic about the EIP operational groups they saw and heard about during the visit. It was nice to learn more about the SUAS Project from the group leading it and to observe the upland region where its impact will be felt”.

Ireland currently has 23 EIP-AGRI projects in operation, with 21 of them selected through a competitive process that took place in 2017 and 2018. Wicklow Uplands Council’s SUAS Pilot Project which received a funding allocation of €1.95 million, was launched last November and is working with a number of commonage groups and hill farmers on various sites in the Wicklow and Dublin uplands.

Over 1,000 EIP operational group projects are currently established across the EU with the number estimated to reach 3,000 by 2021 with the end of the current CAP period. It is anticipated that collectively this will represent about 2Bn in EU funding with further developments likely in the next CAP period.

The Dublin based conference event was hosted by the semi-state organisation Teagasc, who are members of the Strategic Working Group and are particularly well placed to deliver and advise on science-based innovation in the important Irish agri-food sector and the broader bio-economy.

During the conference, presentations were given by Margaret Murray from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and Dr. Maura Farrell of the National Rural Network on the positive impact the multitude of EIP-AGRI projects are having across Ireland.

Ireland’s two largest EIP’s also formed part of the busy conference schedule with Dr. Patrick Crushell, Project Manager of the Pearl Mussel Project and Fergal Monaghan, Project Manager of the Hen Harrier Project both delivering presentations to the delegation.

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