Sustainable Agriculture: the importance of building partnerships

Autumn Sunset at Lough Tay, Ireland © Ronan

Published on:

Article issued by Brian Dunne,

extracted from EUROPARC Journal Protected Areas In-Sight 2016

Wicklow Uplands Council; twenty years of consensus and partnership

Located immediately beside Dublin, County Wicklow is renowned as the ‘Garden of Ireland’ due to the diversity and quality of its landscape. Rolling mountains, conical peaks, glaciated valleys and deep lakes characterise the Wicklow Uplands, the largest upland area in Ireland. Every element of Wicklow’s landscape has the imprint of human activity.

Established in 1997, Wicklow Uplands Council is a sustainable development NGO which formed in response to growing pressures facing the sustainability of the uplands. The Council works for the sustainable use of the uplands in consensus and partnership with those who live and work in the region and those who use it for recreational purposes. Membership is represented by local and national organisations and individuals. Consensus is the cornerstone of the organisation with no single decision voted upon since its inception.

The importance of local partnerships

The Council recognises the necessity for collaboration and partnership in all projects in order to achieve sustainability and is committed to work with all stakeholders in the spirit of Local Agenda 21. Supporting upland farmers and promoting the best management of our upland habitats is one of a number of ongoing projects.

A decline in traditional hill farming, due in part to restrictions in vegetation management has resulted in overgrown habitats and a decline in overall upland biodiversity. A working group comprised of local farmers, farming organisations and statutory partners was formed to address these issues. The group lobbied for the provision of a Sustainable Agri-Environmental Scheme which would provide optimal conditions for upland biodiversity through hill farming with farmers remunerated for services provided. There is now provision for ‘Locally Led Agri-Environment Schemes’ under Pillar II of the Rural Development Programme and a call for applications for upland areas is expected imminently.

The bottom-up approach to upland management employed by Wicklow Uplands Council provides local perspective, engagement and energetic enthusiasm. These ideas are brought to statutory partners who can provide vital professional expertise and proficiency in legislative and funding frameworks. Project funding can vary but is typically sourced from EU and national programmes.

The Council continues to develop the partnership concept in many other innovative ways. Establishing partnerships is a challenging but rewarding process and land management partnerships in particular will remain at the core of the Council’s work.

Further details on Wicklow Uplands Council and all our projects can be found on

Are you working in the field of Sustainable Agriculture within your Park?

The EUROPARC Federation is looking for members who have agriculture production in or around their Protected Area, and want to understand and develop more sustainable agriculture practices. The invitation is to join the Siggen Seminar, a free training for members, that will take place in north Germany, from the 10-13th March.

All information is available here and if you are interested in participating register before the 24th February!