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  • Publication
    Farm afforestation in Ireland: A multi-method study exploring farmers’ decision-making with regard to forestry as an alternative land-use option
    (University College Dublin. School of Agriculture & Food Science, 2013)
    Ireland has one of the lowest forest covers in the European Union. Only about 12% of its land surface is covered with trees. The natural conditions, however, are favourable to tree growth. On the other hand, some agricultural land-uses, especially cattle and sheep farming in the West of Ireland, are economically not viable. The Irish Government intends to increase the forest cover to 17% mainly by financially supporting the private afforestation of farmland. It is expected that such growth will lead to the establishment of a range of wood-processing industries bringing additional employment opportunities to rural areas while at the same time offering farmers who struggle to make a living from farming an option to diversify their businesses. For this purpose, an afforestation scheme was established in 1989, which pays farmers who afforest an annual premium and covers all establishment and maintenance cost. The interest in planting was high in the early years. Over the years, however, planting rates have dropped significantly. Although the incentives to afforest were improved, planting rates did not recover and the Government’s planting targets were not met. This research project set out to explain this shortfall in planting and to recommend alternative policy tools encouraging more farmers to plant. For this purpose, a multi-method approach was used, employing a qualitative and a quantitative study. The aim was, first, to explore farmers’ goals and values influencing their decision-making with regard to farming in general and to afforestation of farmland in particular. A number of different monetary and non-monetary reasons for not joining the afforestation scheme were identified as playing a role in the afforestation decision, with the non-monetary reasons being more important to the majority of farmers. These non-monetary reasons were influenced by a number of intrinsic, social and expressive farming values. To establish the importance of these values in relation to farm-structure and socio-demographic factors and their relevance for designing alternative policy tools was the second objective of the study. The third objective was to develop a model describing a farmer’s probability to join the afforestation scheme based on farm structure and socio-demographic variables as well as the identified goals and values with regard to afforestation.