The SUAS project hosted a field trip for a delegation of 60 participants from 22 EU countries in the Wicklow and Dublin uplands on Tuesday.

The visit was part of a showcase of Irish pilot projects funded by the EU's European Innovation Partnership (EIP) initiative. Among over 1,000 EIP projects in Europe, 23 are in Ireland, including the €1.95m SUAS. Their number is expected to rise to 3,000 in the next two years, with further developments likely in the next CAP period.

Commonage groups

The SUAS project team showed visitors how they are working with local farmers and commonage groups to address the agricultural, environmental and socio-economic issues in the Wicklow and Dublin uplands.

The role of project ecologist Faith Wilson is to conduct ecological and water assessments to sugggest measures farmers can choose from to improve natural habitats. Payments for actions such as vegetation removal, increased shepherding or livestock infrastructure will be available.

An auction-based system also encourages farmers to seek support for actions solving problems they have identified themselves. Measures envisaged here include signage for archaeological sites, heather restoration, temporary fencing to protect rare species and bracken control.

Our project may now form part of discussions with our European colleagues

“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,” said SUAS project manager Declan Byrne. “We are grateful that many new friendships were formed and that our project may now form part of discussions with our European colleagues.”

Leading the EU delegation, Inge Van Oost, policy officer at the European Commission's Directorate General for Agriculture and Rural Development, said: “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”.

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