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Biodiversity protection lies in engaging farmers and landowners

The planned Environmental Land Management (ELM) scheme must engage with farmers and landowners in order to improve biodiversity in the UK, say experts. 

According to researchers from the University of Reading and Sheffield, the new ELM, which will replace Eauropean payments to farmers and landowners from 2024, has a huge potential to support the agriculture industry in restoring biodiversity.

The researchers have advised that the ELM should be designed in a way that involves farmers and landowners of all levels.

In order to have the best environmental benefits, the scheme needs to also engage farmers in the hardest to reach communities.

This evidence is based on the findings from the Agri-Environmental Governance Post-Brexit project. The team are working with farmers, stakeholders and Defra to develop a model for co-designing the new post-Brexit ELM system.

Dr Ruth Little, from the University of Sheffield, said: ‘Delivering on the UK’s biodiversity targets requires a well-designed environmental land management payment scheme that engages farmers and landowners so that they can realise the objectives of the new scheme.

Read also: Lack of quality inhibits Nigerian yam abroad, says expert

‘Effective co-design and widespread engagement and participation are central to the successful delivery of the scheme, which is in turn a key foundation to the successful enhancement of biodiversity.’

Dr Christian Rose from the University of Reading added: ‘Defra anticipates that 82,500 farmers will participate in the new ELM scheme by 2028. Our research shows that in order to achieve wide participation, policy-makers need to reach out beyond the ‘usual suspects’ and involve a wide range of land managers in its design and delivery.

‘Defra must implement the learnings from previous agri-environment schemes; provide a more accessible, joined-up advisory system, make the scheme beneficial, simplify bureaucracy, remove punitive penalties, and deliver payments on time.’

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