Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue recently launched a new primary school programme aimed at deepening local connections to peatland habitats.

The Heritage Council education programme will emphasise the role of farmers in the battle against climate change and biodiversity loss.

The programme, which was developed by the Heritage Council as part of LIFE IP Wild Atlantic Nature, is being rolled out in schools across Donegal, Mayo, Galway, Sligo and Leitrim from September following the completion of a pilot phase.

LIFE IP Wild Atlantic Nature is an EU-funded environmental project that focuses on conserving and improving the quality of blanket bogs in the northwest of Ireland.

Bog habitats

The project aims to educate students about Irish bog habitats, teaching them how bogs can mitigate floods, provide clean drinking water and high-quality food, support biodiversity and contribute to climate change through carbon sequestration.

The education programme was developed by the Irish Peatlands Conservation Council (IPCC) and NatureNorthWest and will be delivered by heritage specialists from the Heritage Council's 'heritage in schools' scheme.

During the launch of the programme at Crannóg Buí National School in Ardara, Co Donegal, Minister McConalogue highlighted the Department's role in aiding biodiversity loss prevention.

"To date, more than €3m has been paid directly to farmers under the pilot results-based agri-environmental payment scheme (RBPS) scheme.

"Ireland is at the forefront in terms of results-based agri-environment schemes in Europe and is demonstrating how RBPS can deliver co-benefits for farmers and the environment.”

Intergenerational aspect

Heritage Council CEO Virginia Teehan highlighted the intergenerational aspect of the programme.

“Many of the pupils will come from farming families caring for the bog habitat and will already have an intimate relationship with the land.

"The programme will enable them to broaden that relationship and to engage on a deeper level with their family and friends, encouraging shared responsibility for its upkeep.”

Project manager of LIFE IP Wild Atlantic Nature Dr Derek McLoughlin stressed the importance of landowners in managing the land sustainably.

“We strongly depend on landowners to manage the land in a sustainable way and to deliver the goods and services that the public want and need.

“As the next generation of farmers emerge, it is important that they can carry on the farming traditions in these important areas and build on existing knowledge and experience that landowners have,” he said.