A ground-breaking agri-environment project that has been running for the last four years is said to have united Welsh common land graziers, safeguarded a vast tract of countryside and provided £35 million into the rural economy.
The Glastir Common Development Officers project was launched in 2011 to help farmers and graziers on common land access support under the Welsh Government’s Glastir agri-environment scheme.
Over the course of the scheme it has helped to secure the sustainable management of over 100,000 hectares of common land, over 70 per cent of the Wales total, new graziers associations have been established or reconstituted and 198 Glastir Common Land agreements have been reached.
The scheme was co-funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) and the Welsh Government through the Rural Development Plan for Wales 2007 – 2013.
The project is now being hailed a resounding achievement by an independent evaluation which has attributed the success to the work of three rural regeneration agencies – the Denbighshire-based Cadwyn Clwyd, Menter Mon, from Anglesey, and Pembrokeshire’s PLANED.
They oversaw the project and appointed a team of 18 Commons Development Officers across Wales to act as facilitators between Welsh Government and local farmers.
Heading up the teams were Dan Delaney, of Cadwyn Clwyd, Robin Griffiths, Menter Mon, and Steven Bradley, PLANED.
“Essentially it is a sustainable land management scheme that pays farmers for activities that bring about environmental benefits,” said Mr Delaney.
“Previously, there had been very low uptake of common land in agri-environment schemes, but by the end of our first year we had 106 organisations formed and applying for funding.
“That was a revolution in both the approach and in the rate of success.
“The challenge for the supervisors and their teams was to identify all those with an interest in the common and to organise them into constituted groups.
“In some cases there were over 100 people holding rights to grazing on a piece of land so it was often a slow and steady process.”
Steven Bradley said: “We have now enabled the groups to help themselves, have given them our expertise and are weaning them off to go forward and access this government funding as community-based groups.”
Robin Griffiths added: “A major plus has been that through the discussions to come to a Glastir Commons agreement the graziers have realised that there are great benefits to be gained from working together as a grazing association.”