Deborah Deveney of the RSPB spoke about High Nature Value Farming.
Deborah opened her talk introducing the concept of High Nature Value Farming (HNV). She said that it encompasses all the other areas discussed during the event farming, food, nature, energy and education, and soil.
The RSPB felt was really important and wanted to a raise awareness of HNV across the UK, so as part of her role she put together a coalition of farming and wildlife organisations.
What does HNV farming mean and where did it come from? ‘Since the 1990s HNV farming is being used in Europe and is more widely recognised, and it really describes those kind of farming systems that provide the greatest biodiversity value.’
‘Often they are long established farming systems, very low intensity farming systems and sometimes fairly complex for example, labour extensive, and the livestock and crops are suitable for the climate.’
‘It often depends on the individuals themselves, so it’s actually down to the land managers, the farmers, their motivations, their skills and their knowledge which helps keep these systems alive.
Farmers that choose to work with nature rather than against it.’
‘Here in the UK, with the common agriculture policy, under the rural development programme it was a requirement for member states to identify maintaining support for high nature value farmland, and in cases there’s been some initial work done at a government level, but not really enough and we really wanted to see so much more, to see these farming systems supported at a ground level.’
Deborah went on to explain that in a UK context, there is a forum European Forum on Nature Conservation and Pastoralism (EFNCP) who produced a map that acts as a guide on where high nature value farming occurs, and in the UK twenty six percent is classed as HNV farmland.
‘Sometimes you’ll be looking at a landscape scale, thinking that farm it’s really good over there but the one next door looks to be a bit more intensive and so is very hard to pin it down; and it does need that individual farm to farm scale. But that shouldn’t be an obstacle for farmers who are trying to work to achieve better biodiversity, more sustainable farming and ecosystems.’
Deborah shared examples of a range of both highland and lowland examples here in the UK.
‘Usually habitats like these have existed for quite a long time and have been managed to an extent quite sympathetically for a long time.’
She then talked about the campaign to help farmers receive a better support, so the coalition together produced a website to raise awareness. Deborah stated that they didn’t want the organisations to be shouting about it, they wanted it to come from the farmers themselves, giving farmers a platform to have a really strong local passionate voice to be able to tell people what they’re doing.
The website contains case studies and species stories, provided by farmers across the England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The coalition also produced a manifesto for High Nature Value Farming.
On Devon and farming with nature, Deborah remarked ‘In Devon, we are so fortunate. Working also as part of the cirl bunting project, I meet some fantastic farmers that really want to try their best and do everything for the environment.’
Deborah closed her talk with a question ‘How do we insure long-term security for these systems, where extensive farming is viable, producing food production sustainability where supporting healthy population of species and creating a rich environmental tourism?’
Listen to the talk by Deborah at the event: