Commaonage Managment Plans (CMP) & GLAS
A lot of necessary discussion has taken place between the various stakeholders such as the Department of Agriculture, Farmers’ representatives and Advisory bodies on the subject but this report is the first to look at actual real commonage case studies and relate them the new CMP/GLAS scheme. Six case study areas were selected in counties Mayo, Galway, Sligo, Donegal Kerry and Wicklow which represent a range of different commonage management types in Ireland.
The most striking feature of the commonages selected for the study was the diversity of farm enterprises within each commonage. The engagement with the farmers at commonage level provided valuable data on the use made of the commonage in the different farm. The farmers’ opinions and the constraints under which their farming system operates supplements and reinforces the raw data. It gives it a context that assisted the members of the project team in coming to a better understanding of the issues at play.
This appreciation could not be provided by an analysis of any existing data sets alone. We believe that this level of engagement and the insight that comes from it would be essential to an CMP advisor involved in drawing up a commonage management plan. Our experience on these commonages leads us to believe that workable plans are not only possible but are actively desired by the farmers provided the CMP/GLAS scheme is structured in a reasonable way.
A lack of salience of commons in the livelihoods of shareholders has lead to a reduced number of shareholders, reduced stock numbers generally and a breakdown in customary governance and traditional management structures with a consequent deterioration in habitat quality and biodiversity. This is the less than ideal current state of commonage in Ireland. On the other hand it is encouraging to see EU and national environment policy makers coming to realise the importance of commons in that public goods, ecosystem services and biodiversity are more likely to be delivered on a spatial scale fitting the commonage land areas. Commonage operating, under collective land management is at an ecologically appropriate scale more so than in a patchwork of privately owned, improved, sometimes intensively farmed lands. Commonages are a valuable cultural, ecological landscape type in themselves but they are not a “deficient” farmland nor just pristine nature. They are a valuable agricultural resource from which many families derived their livelihood in the past and indeed albeit to a lesser extent do so to this day.
The opportunity exists for the Government in the new 2014-2019 RDP funding to restore the salience of the commons with respect to shareholders livelihoods by capturing the contemporary resource values of the commons. The introduction of a targeted upland agri-environment scheme would be a significant part of this development. This would incentivise co-operative governance and collective land management. A well managed commonage can deliver the traditional grazing resource but much more than that, also public goods, ecosystems services and well managed water catchments. Shareholders must be enabled to capture the contemporary resource values to restore the salience of the commons in their livelihoods. Other income opportunities will present particularly if farmers are in a co-operative land management regime e.g. wind turbines, hydroelectricity, recreation through walks and trails subject to planning and environmental regulations as for any development.
Update August 2013 on Commonage Stocking Review
The serious damage caused on commonages by over grazing in the 1980s and early 1990s has been well documented. A lot of work has been done in recent years by all the stakeholders to try and reverse the situation but now a stalemate has been reached. The problems are not going away. They need to be addressed. There is a store house of experience among commonage farmers. The customary knowhow and I believe the good-will and the good neighbourhood is certainly there. The putting into action of this knowhow needs to be facilitated urgently. The Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine report “Review of Commonage Lands and Framework Management Plans” after seven days of hearings has spoken, the report is interesting and welcome. Action is now required, it behoves all of the stakeholders and particularly the commonage farming community to grasp the nettle to a much greater extent. The danger of vast tracts of commonage becoming ineligible area looms large. Maximum and minimum figures have been published in a piecemeal fashion, the whole episode has been handled badly. The greater objective should be the sustainable management of the commons resource and not as has been conveyed reduced to just regulation farming. The min/max figures are a technical input to provide guidance in developing ongoing sustainable management of the commons in a move away from the imposed Commonage Framework Plans (CFP) which was a necessary interim phase.
In my view further progress is possible by re-engagement of all stakeholders. Starting now, the completion of the remaining commonages for which no figures are yet available must be carried out. Immediately then publication of the full relevant min/max figures to the 4,500+ commonages must take place, in conjunction with the rolling out of a properly constructed and funded appeals process and facilitator advisory network where each commonage and each individual commonage farmer has equal and ease of access to this service. I believe that this plan will overcome the problems arising from the piecemeal issuing of the min/max figures in Autumn 2012 and the subsequent furore over “collective responsibility” and that this can be ironed out satisfactorily when dealt with at commonage and commonage farmer level. I also believe that this plan can deal with the issues that arise such as dormancy and inactive shares. It is worth stating here that it was never envisaged that these min/max figures would be issued in isolation without the full package which included as I have proposed above the appeals process and facilitator advisory network. The issuing of the figures in a piecemeal fashion without the supporting structures of putting in place a properly constructed and funded appeals process and facilitator advisory network where each commonage and each individual commonage farmer had equal and easy access to this service led to the stalemate we now have and was never going to fly. The issuing now of these figures must only be carried out contingent on these supporting structures being in place. This would incentivise planned co-operative governance and collective land management on the commons.
The Commonage review sets minimum and maximum ewe equivalents (EE) for each Commonage LPIS parcel to maintain it in Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition (GAEC). The number of ewe equivalents per claimant in each parcel is based on the Commonage area claimed by that person in their current SPS application.
All shareholders have a role to play. A distinction is made between active shareholders, inactive shareholders and dormant shareholders.
Active shareholder – actively graze his/her share of the Commonage as shown on their current SPS application.
Inactive shareholder – applies for his/her share of the Commonage on their current SPS application but do not actively graze it.
Dormant shareholder – Neither submits an SPS application nor grazes his/her Commonage share.
In general the new arrangement will mean that farmers can carry an increased stock (EE) number as compared to the numbers permitted under the Commonage Framework Plans. To get to the minimum stocking density required, a lead in period is envisaged to allow the numbers to build.
We have worked over many years in all aspects of Commonage assessment and management. We have worked closely with farmer shareholders in major commonages throughout the length and breadth of the country. Positive outcomes providing greatly improved conditions have been achieved and good examples of this are found in large scale commons such as The Owenduff/Nephin, Co. Mayo and Twelve Bens, Connemara, Co. Galway. This can be attributed to the diligence and hard work of the shareholders and their ability to work together in a co-operative fashion to achieve a sustainable commons resource for now and their future generations.
We will answer your queries in relation to all commonage matters.