Rural Dialogues | Landcare Germany – Bringing Farmers, Conservationists & Policymakers Together

Theresa O Donoghue, Imelda Walsh and Duncan Stewart exchange views. Photo (c) Suzanne Crampton of Zwartables Ireland.

Did you know that 80% of the Bavarian landscape is managed by a voluntary team of farmers, conservationists and policy makers? This tidbit of information came from Bernd Blumlein of DVL  – the German Land Care Association. it was heard at a rural dialogue event in Cloughjordan ecovillage, where ARC2020 has an office.

ARC2020 helped organise host and participate via Hannes Lorenzen. Led by the IEN (Irish Environmental Network) it also involved Sonairte, the Organic Centre, Cultivate and Ecolise – the latter two both sustainability NGOs.

With social media polarisation, the urban rural divide, fake news and host of other concerns, right about now seemed like a good time to try to create a face-to-face meet up of what can seem like increasingly disparate groups.

And because we like a challenge, we decided to add in other rural groups too, groups that may sometimes feel farming voice dominates the rural debate – from community gardens to LEADER companies to think tanks.

ARC2020’s Hannes Lorenzen beams in from the island of Pellworm north of Germany

To encourage this dialogue, we avoided the usual conference performance – a sequence of speakers facing a row of seated people, with conversation during the coffee break. Instead, we used cafĂ© tables. We had short presentations which introduced three dedicated tabled-based conversation sessions. The tables were as mixed as we could make them to encourage useful conversation between people who might not hear from each other directly. So as an example a table might have one agri-extension (e.g.Teagasc, EIP, NOTS), one environmental (e.g. IEN, Transition Towns), one farming (organic and conventional, mixture of production types), one rural development (e.g. LEADER, business networks), one other (e.g. academic, media, think tank).

We opened with an appreciation of what rural areas can and do offer – from skilled people to carbon sinks – and then introduced an organisation dedicated to bringing conservationists and farmers together, called Landcare.

Lunchtime in Cloughjordan, where a teenage chamber orchestra from Norway happened to be performing in an amphitheatre that day

 

The Landcare movement

Landcare started in Australia, and is thriving in Germany – especially in some of the federated states such as Bavaria.

Bernd Blumlein of DVL (the German Land Care Association) spoke about the 170 plus Landcare Associations (LCA) in Germany. These regional non-governmental associations link nature conservation groups with local farmers and local communities. Turnover is E20m a year, while 10,000 farmers, 2000 local authorities and 1200 NGOs are involved.

According to Blumlein, it started as a bridging exercise between conservationists and farmers while also maintaining “cultural landscapes together with land users and municipalities and at the same time guarantee farmers an income”.

DVL adds: “LCAs develop projects for specific landscape types including scientific measures, financial calculations and the implementation of agri-environment schemes. They apply for available funds on the state-level and supervise the implementation of activities, mostly done by local farmers, as well as monitor the project outcome.”

LCAs are voluntary, and have parity between farmers, conservationists and local authorities. Farmers receive an extra payment, while the Federal States in Germany make the payments (more so than even the EU/Pillar 2). This reduces bureaucracy, which in any case is conducted in large part by the LCA/DVL.

In some federal states, such as Bavaria, it is particularly impactful. There, there are 62 LCAs, covering more than 80% of Bavaria’s surface area. 2/3 of the state-supported landscape conservation measures are conducted via LCAs, which are performance-orientated.

The approach bears some resemblance to the regionally focused EIPs such as the BRIDE (Biodiversity Regeneration in a Dairying Environment) initiative in north east Cork.

After lunch, (which coincidentally featured an amble down to a Norwegian teenage chamber orchestra recital in the community amphitheatre – life in Cloughjordan), we used what’s called the Talanoa process. This approach to dialogue, originating from Pacific island cultures, is a very simple way to figure out the three things:

  • Where are we?
  • Where do we want to go?
  • How do we get there?

Expanding opportunities for engagement emerged strongly from this process: there are a number of fora already happening in Ireland such as Sustainable Energy Ireland groups, beef discussion groups, Irish Farmers Association Irish Environmental Network regional meetings, an emerging rural parliament initiative that will feed into the European Rural Parliament and more places to have these engagements. 

A report on this event will be released soon. A version of this article first appeared in the Irish Examiner Farming newspaper.

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Oliver Moore
About Oliver Moore 186 Articles
DR. Oliver Moore is the communications director and editor-in-chief with ARC2020. He has a PhD in the sociology of farming and food, where he specialised in organics and direct sales. He is published in the International Journal of Consumer Studies, International Journal of Agricultural Resources, Governance and Ecology and the Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development. A weekly columnist and contributor with Irish Examiner, he is a regular on Countrywide (Irish farm radio show on the national broadcaster RTE 1) and engages in other communications work around agri-food and rural issues, such as with the soil, permaculture, climate change adaptation and citizen science initiative Grow Observatory . He lectures part time in the Centre for Co-operative Studies UCC                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Oliver voyage beaucoup moins qu’auparavant, pour ce qui concerne son activitĂ© professionnelle. Il peut nĂ©anmoins admirer par la fenĂȘtre de son bureau les mĂ©sanges charbonniĂšres et les corbeaux perchĂ©s au sommet du saule dans le jardin de sa maison au cƓur de l’écovillage de Cloughjordan, en Irlande. L’écovillage est un site de 67 acres dans le nord du Tipperary. Il comprend d’espaces boisĂ©s, des paysages comestibles, des lieux de vie, d’habitation et de travail, ainsi qu’une ferme appartenant Ă  la communautĂ©. Les jours oĂč il travaille dans le bureau du centre d’entreprise communautaire, il profite d’une vue sur les chevaux, les panneaux solaires, les toilettes sĂšches et les jardins familiaux.  Ce bureau au sein de l’écovillage constitue en effet un tiers-lieu de travail accueillant Ă©galement des collaborateurs des associations Cultivate et Ecolise, ainsi qu’un laboratoire de fabrication (« fab lab »).  Oliver est membre du conseil d’administration de la ferme communautaire (pour la seconde fois !) et donne Ă©galement des cours sur le Master en coopĂ©ratives, agroalimentaire et dĂ©veloppement durable Ă  l’University College Cork. Il a une formation en sociologie rurale : son doctorat et les articles qu’il publie dans des journaux scientifiques portent sur ce domaine au sens large. Il consacre la majoritĂ© de son temps de travail Ă  l’ARC 2020. Il collabore avec ARC depuis 2013, date Ă  laquelle l’Irlande a assurĂ© la prĂ©sidence de l’UE pendant six mois. C’est lĂ  qu’il a pu constater l’importance de la politique agroalimentaire et rurale grĂące Ă  sa chronique hebdomadaire sur le site d’ARC. AprĂšs six mois, il est nommĂ© rĂ©dacteur en chef et responsable de la communication, poste qu’il occupe toujours aujourd’hui. Oliver supervise le contenu du site web et des mĂ©dias sociaux, aide Ă  dĂ©finir l’orientation de l’organisation et parfois mĂȘme rĂ©dige un article pour le site web.  À l’époque oĂč on voyageait davantage, il a eu la chance de passer du temps sous les tropiques, oĂč il a aidĂ© des ONG irlandaises de commerce Ă©quitable – au Ghana, au Kenya, au Mali, en Inde et au Salvador – Ă  raconter leur histoire.  Il se peut que ces jours-lĂ  reviennent. Pour son compte Oliver continuera de prĂ©fĂ©rer naviguer en Europe par bateau, puis en train. AprĂšs tout, la France n’est qu’à une nuit de navigation. En attendant, il y a toujours de nombreuses possibilitĂ©s de bĂ©nĂ©volat dans la communautĂ© dans les campagnes du centre de l’Irlande.