The €20.6m Wild Atlantic Nature Life project could be the factory that the community of Ballycroy in Co Mayo “craved for but could never have” in terms of boosting employment, Burren farmer Michael Davoren has said.

The nine-year project will see farmers carry out a range of actions to improve habitats and lands in project areas on lands from the Slieve Aughty Mountains in Galway up through Mayo, Sligo, Leitrim and Donegal.

The project was officially launched on Friday and currently 800 farmers are signed up to it.

Davoren was one of the farmers who took part in the Burren Programme, one of the first results-based agri-environmental schemes, which was targeted at farmers in the Burren in Co Clare and was a big success.

Speaking at the launch of Wild Atlantic Nature, he said in the past farmers’ ancestors earned a living from producing food from farming and the landscape, cutting turf, whatever it was and that that era is no longer there.

“Cheap food can be imported from all over the world. What you’ve got is blanket bog which is in scarce decline across Europe. The taxpayers of Europe are prepared to pay for that scare commodity.

“The only people that can manage that particular blanket bog is you, the farmers. The National Parks and Wildlife Service can’t do it. They need you to do it for them, you have the knowledge,” he said.

Architects of your own destiny

Davoren said that now, for the first time ever, farmers in the scheme’s project areas “can be architects of your own destiny and provide an income for yourselves and your families and future generations to come”.

“We’re here in Ballycroy in a community centre, it’s community based. I’ve no doubt that this project is the factory that you’ve craved for but could never have.

“In the Burren last year alone, €1.2m was paid out [in score-based payments] to farmers. All of that money is invested in the community and that creates a spin-off in itself,” he said.

The Clare farmer said the scheme is about “much more than just a few quid” for managing farmland.

“This is the future. This is what cannot be shipped from other parts of the world. It can only be done here in Ballycroy. So what are you waiting for?” he said, urging farmers to take part in the scheme.