Country Infos

Country Profile Manager:
James Moran
Atlantic Technological University
Phone: +353 86 6063949





The Burren Programme (BP) is a full-fledged agri-environmental scheme which, over the past 10 years, has worked to conserve and support the heritage, environment and communities of the Burren. The BP developed over a number of years - from its foundations as a community-based research project into the interactions of agriculture and the environment, to a 5-year applied research project called ‘BurrenLIFE’ which developed a blueprint for sustainable farming in the region. The BP adopts a novel ‘hybrid’ approach, using direct payments to farmers who achieve clearly defined results, along with a fund to support complementary conservation actions. The success of the programme is built on its localised approach, the central role of its farmers, the innovative payment system and the strong spirit of partnership among stakeholders. 

The Burren landscape

Location of the scheme

one region

The Burren (from the Gaelic word Boireann, ‘place of stone’) is a (‘glaciated karst’) limestone landscape which extends over 720km2 of north Co. Clare and south Co. Galway. 

Duration of the scheme

Since: 2010
Until: ongoing

Objective(s) of the scheme / project

  • Biodiversity
  • Cultural heritage
  • Water quality

The objectives of the BP are: to ensure the sustainable agricultural management of high nature value farmland in the Burren; to contribute to the positive management of the Burren’s landscape and cultural heritage; and to contribute to improvements in water quality and water usage efficiency in the Burren region.

Which habitats or species are in the focus of the scheme / project?

  • Habitats (incl. habitats of Fauna-Flora-Habitat-Directive (FFH-D.))
  • Landscape elements
  • Wetland

Semi-natural grasslands and heathlands, turloughs (gruondwater fed temporary lakes), limestone pavement, Atlantic hazel woodland

Which indicators are used?

  • Habitats (incl FFH and BD)
  • Species (incl FFH and BD)
  • Landscape Elements
  • Physical structures (e.g. dead wood, presence of brushwood, hollow trees, tall grass)

The BP field score, which ranges from 0 to 10, is calculated using ten distinct, weighted criteria which, taken together, give a very accurate picture of the ‘health’ of the grazed habitats in that management unit. The criteria (for ‘winterages’ – very extensive, diverse rough grasslands) are:

  1. Grazing level;
  2. Amount of litter (dead vegetation);
  3. Extent of feed site damage;
  4. Extent of damage at natural water sources;
  5. Level of bare soil and erosion;
  6. Level of encroaching scrub;
  7. Amount of bracken
  8. Amount of purple moor grass;
  9. Extent of weeds and agriculturally-favoured species; and
  10. Ecological integrity.

For lowland grasslands (meadows) indicator species are used to help determine the ecological integrity. Full details of indicators used in the scoring system are available at

Design of scheme / project

  • Hybrid result based payment with complementary management based payments

The BP has pioneered a novel ‘hybrid’ approach to farming and conservation which sees farmers paid for both works undertaken and, most importantly, for the delivery of defined environmental objectives. The following principles are central to how the BP goes about meeting its objectives of conserving the heritage, environment and communities of the Burren.

  • The BP is farmer-led. Farmers nominate and co-fund conservation actions on their own farms and are generally free to manage the land as they see fit (within the law). A local team help minimise the bureaucratic burden (e.g. via a simple farm plan and support for securing permissions) so that farmers can concentrate on what they do best — farming!
  • The BP is results-based. Simply put, it rewards those farmers who deliver the highest environmental benefits. Conservation becomes as much a product for the farmer as the livestock produced.
  • The BP is flexible and adaptable. Farmers are given the freedom to deliver the required outputs using their own skills, experience and resources, as best fits their own farms and circumstances. This flexibility means that Burren Programme is capable of responding to the different needs and situations which invariably arise, from farm to farm, and from year to year.
  • The BP is local and practical, focusing on works which address real needs in the Burren and which will yield real agricultural and environmental benefits.

Within the BP, farmers are helped to prepare their own simple farm plan (most only 3 pages and very visual) each year by their trained advisor and the Burren team. The plan is tailored to suit the needs of the individual farm and outlines the two payment categories: 1. Payments by Actions and 2. Payments by Results.

By which fund(s) is the scheme / project implemented?

  • Agri Environmental Measures of CAP
  • National governmental financing

How are the incentives (payment levels) calculated?

  • Other

Costs incurred and income foregone

Calculations are based on the costs (including transaction costs) and income foregone of the farming practices which are generally required to achieve the desired result.

Is there a top up in case of reaching the goals?

  • Yes

Yes – 25% bonus for score of 9, 50% bonus for score of 10. No payment for scores <5.

How many hectares are in the scheme?

  • More than 5.000

How many farmers take part in the scheme?

  • 101 – 500

How are participating farmers supervised/advised?

  • Advisors visits (obligatory)
  • Advisors visits (optional)
  • Advice by telephone
  • Information documents (pamphlets, reports, etc.)
  • Website
  • Information meetings/workshops (obligatory)
  • Information meetings/workshops (voluntary)

Are there any evaluation results?

  • Yes

Annual reports published on project website


Contact person

Dr. Brendan Dunford,

Burren programme,

Old School House,


Co. Clare,