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Rathcroghan EIP - Engaging farmers in European Innovation Partnerships


European Innovation Partnerships (EIPs) are testing new forms of knowledge exchange and innovative learning. Luke Clogher, Teagasc and Monica Gorman, UCD, consider Farming Rathcroghan Project EIP-Agri, that aims to enhance farming, archaeology and agri-tourism in a unique archaeological landscape

The photograph above was commissioned by Farming Rathcroghan EIP and Rathcroghan Visitor Centre

The Farming Rathcroghan Project EIP-Agri  aims to enhance farming, archaeology and agri-tourism in a unique archaeological landscape.  Located in Tulsk, Co. Roscommon, this is the oldest and largest unexcavated Royal Site in Europe.

Purpose

European Innovation Partnerships (EIPs) are testing new forms of knowledge exchange and innovative learning. This article considers one EIP, Farming Rathcroghan Project EIP-Agri. This EIP aims to enhance farming, archaeology and agri-tourism in a unique archaeological landscape, the oldest and largest unexcavated Royal Site in Europe. The study sought to understand the perspectives of the participant farmers and specifically their knowledge, attitudes, and influences regarding farming in this area. Their knowledge and learning needs to better design and deliver effective knowledge exchange and associated advisory supports along with improving overall farmer engagement with the EIP and to continue to farm sustainably in the area was also studied.

Approach

There was telephone interviews with 39 farmer participants along with using a questionnaire and case studies to collect data.   

Findings

Farming in Rathcroghan is strongly associated with pride, emotional attachment and family tradition. It is also linked with a sense of restriction and frustration with bureaucracy. Farmers want to engage with the EIP. The bottom-up, knowledge exchange nature of the EIP is attractive, generating a sense of confidence that farmers’ voices will be heard and opportunities can be developed.This gave the project a greater sense of “by the people, for the people”. There is apprehension, deriving from past experiences with agri-environmental schemes and regulatory governing bodies. Agricultural advisors were identified as having critical facilitation, knowledge mediation and innovation broker roles. Participants believe that not only is farming an important factor in Rathcroghan’s unique preservation, but that it is also an essential aspect of a viable land use option that will encourage the younger generation to continue to live in the area.

Implications

Farmers in the area are struggling to cope within a productivist framework. While they are open to ‘preserving Rathcroghan while sustainably producing food’ and to the possibilities inherent in the EIP approach. To ensure farmer cooperation and Rathcroghan preservation in the future a well facilitated and genuine partnership approach within the Operational Group is required. The EIP philosophy brings farmers and rural communities together in a participatory process to solve local challenges. This sounds easy in theory but this research shows how important it is to understand the worldview of farmers and if this is done well, then farmers are really keen to engage in the learning activities.

Read more about the Rathcroghan EIP here