“Unconventional conservation” to the rescue…. lobbying reduces widespread damage to Romania’s traditional family farming
On 28 June the Romanian government announced the ex
pansion of a measure to support corncrakes. Sounds good – but unfortunately the conditions for funding under the measure are very damaging to other wildlife; and a massive area of 500,000 ha (5,000 square km or a quarter the size of Wales) of High Nature Value flower-rich grassland and associated animal species was directly threatened. This measure would have changed the landscape forever.
The measure was proposed in response to the EU Wild Birds Directive. But the corncrakes are only there in such abundance (Romania has 27% of the European population) because of the survival of small-scale farming communities and mosaic land management – precisely what is threatened by the “scientific” rules of the corncrake measure. So this measure was using a narrow scientific argument, intended to protect a single species, in a sledgehammer-to-smash-a-nut approach which would certainly have caused severe damage to the landscape and eventually to the species itself.
Conventional conservation is littered with such failures.
ADEPT is encouraging policy-makers to escape from this trap and to find holistic answers.
During July, Fundatia ADEPT worked directly with the Romanian authorities, and with conservation NGOs, and reached a compromise under which the amount of grassland affected fell by 90%, to 50,000 ha. We will continue to work with the European Commission and the Romanian Government to improve the situation further.
Yellow for danger!
The green area marks the area in which farmers can get support for biodiversity-friendly management of High Nature Value grassland. This is a general measure, which maintains a wide range of species and habitats in the mosaic landscape, and helps the survival of the traditional farming communities who maintain the landscape.
The yellow area marks the proposed area for Corncrake management. Under this, farmers would only get support if they mow their meadows by hand after 1 August, by hand. Mowing has never been delayed until so late in these landscapes, and yet the Corncrake and many other species are thrivhing: for centuries, farmers have mowed when conditions are right, which varies from year to year, and in small patches. Ideal for wild species and for food production which can adapt to changing conditions.
Imposition of this measure threatens the future of these landscapes and communities. Late mown hay is of much reduced nutritional value, and is also more difficult to mow by hand. Delayed mowing will also damage the charactersitic floristic diversity of the haymeadows, as it allows less varied invasive species to take hold.
The area marked in yellow, in which farmers were to be sacrificed to an unsuitable management obligation, has been reduced from 500,000 ha (affecting about 20,000 small-scale farming families) to 50,000 ha (affecting about 2,000 small-scale farming families). We are working to improve things further.
This is an example of the enormous impact NGOs can have on farmers’ livelihoods and landscape conservation through policy lobbying. As a result of this lobbying, over 18,000 small scale farms and families have been protected from misguided changes to support funding, which would have rendered their farming economically unviable.
ADEPT’s underlying principle is that by maintaining small-scale farming and land ownership, this will make the farmers more prosperous and benefit biodiversity at the same time. After all, the corncrakes are only there because of sympathetic farming system over hundreds of years.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Science must be combined with a common sense approach.