Manx Wildlife Trust are pleased to be the Delivery Partner for the Isle of Man Agri-Environment Scheme and look forward to working with the Island’s farmers to make our farmland richer in wildlife whilst ensuring continued financial sustainability for the sector.
This webpage is our Agri-Environment hub for farmers, containing the information and links you will require in order to make best use of the new scheme for your farm business.
What is the Agri-Environment Scheme?
The vision of the Isle of Man Agriculture Strategy 2019-2029 is to:
"Sustain a vibrant Agriculture sector, enabled to deliver a reliable and profitable food chain,
while maintaining and enhancing the Island’s natural environment and capital."
In order to deliver this vision, Tynwald has improved the umbrella Agriculture and Fisheries Grant Scheme. One of the six elements of this is the Agri-Environment Scheme, which has an annual rolling budget of £1million and will run in tandem with the existing Agricultural Development Scheme flat-rate area payments.
The Agri-Environment Scheme therefore aims to: Provide support for targeted initiatives that produce conserved and cherished landscapes, enhance biodiversity, sequester carbon and improve water quality, reduce flooding and reduce greenhouse gas emissions as part of the Climate Change agenda.
For a detailed description of Scheme eligibility and application/claim processes see Guidelines for Applicants (pages 4-8 and Appendix I).
Why are Manx Wildlife Trust involved?
Manx Wildlife Trust sees the AES as a fantastic opportunity for us to work more closely with Manx farmers and Government to together make large, long-term gains for nature across the Island at landscape-scale.
Some 88% of the Isle of Man is under agriculture, compared to just 0.2% which is a Manx Wildlife Trust Nature Reserve. Farmers are therefore the guardians of our countryside and through our delivery of the AES, we aim to have a much greater impact for nature across our Island by working closely with Manx farmers.
MWT understand that farms are businesses and that farmers need to generate profit in order to survive. We empathise with that, and believe that nature-friendly farming can often be as profitable as other farming methods. We aim to maximise the uptake and impact of the AES to enable more of that to take place. We are aware of the possible challenges involved in the maturation of this Scheme and know that there may not be many quick gains, but the longer term potential to benefit the Manx environment is huge and that is our vision. MWT believes that working more closely with other key stakeholders in the countryside is fundamental to providing the scale and pace required to tackle the massive issues of climate change and biodiversity loss.
Ultimately MWT believe that the IOM has the potential to be ‘what good looks like’ in terms of sustainable island agriculture, and we look forward to leading the delivery of the scheme to help realise that.
How does the Scheme work?
The Scheme was designed, and is owned, by DEFA, delivered by Manx Wildlife Trust. The Scheme is open to all Active Farmers, whether tenant or owner-occupier.
All farmers will have received the relevant application paperwork in back in April 2021, however all paperwork is also online (see below).
APPLICATION & APPROVAL
- Application. To benefit from the Scheme, a farmer must first submit an Intention to Apply / Application Form to DEFA. For some initiatives this is all that is required, however for most Initiatives DEFA will post a further application form and shortly thereafter Manx Wildlife Trust will contact the farmer to arrange a no-cost farm visit by our Agri-Environment Officer.
- Farm visit. During the farm visit we will discuss and offer advice on the ambitions of the farmer in relation to the scheme and the final application details will be agreed. We stress that we are not DEFA Field Officers/farm inspectors and will not act as or try to force a farmer to do anything they do not want to do (it is after all a voluntary scheme). Neither do we designate land for ASSI status (this is a DEFA function).
- Submission. After the farm visit, the farmer will send the completed application form to DEFA. Once this has happened, Manx Wildlife Trust will submit their recommendations to DEFA which will have been discussed and agreed upon during the farm visit.
- Approval. DEFA will endeavour to review the farmer’s application and the Manx Wildlife Trust recommendations within 4 weeks and either approve or reject the application. Successful applicants will receive a Claim Form. In the unlikely event of a refused application, you have a right to appeal.
- Undertake initiatives. Once approved, a farmer may undertake the approved initiatives. Self-labour is acceptable and should be quoted and later internally invoiced. Farmers must pay for initiatives up front and claim back in arrears.
- Application for payment. The farmer must submit the Claim Form received on approval to DEFA, including related invoices and photos of works.
- Manx Wildlife Trust review. We will review that the works have been carried out to the required specification. This may require a farm visit at a time convenient to you. If satisfactorily conducted in accordance with the approval paperwork and the Initiatives Handbook we will make a payment recommendation to DEFA.
- Approval. DEFA will review the Claim Form and the MWT recommendation and process a payment. If payment is rejected, you have a right to appeal.
What can I apply for?
There are 37 specific Initiatives outlined in the Initiatives Handbook which cover both arable and pastoral farming across both the lowlands and uplands. Initiatives include the creation of desirable permanent (e.g. dubs, hedges) and transient (e.g. winter stubble) habitats, along with the enhancement of existing habitats (e.g. sod hedges, drystone walls). Additionally, money is available for the protection of existing habitats, for river catchment management and diffuse pollution management. Furthermore, there is a wide range of agricultural initiatives (soil sampling, management plans, organic conversion etc). Grants for wildlife boxes and education visits also exist. Finally, for Above Mountain Line land there is an Upland Stewardship sub-scheme that in Year One gives payment for the drafting of a sustainable upland habitat management plan. Further details for subsequent years are yet to be announced.
How do I apply and claim?
Admittedly this is somewhat confusing. For all Initiatives, farmers should submit the Intention to Apply / Application Form which begins the approval process.
For the 10 simplest Initiatives (listed below), this is the only application form needed and does not require a farm visit from the Manx Wildlife Trust. For all others, once the Intention to Apply / Application Form has been submitted, Manx Wildlife Trust will contact you to discuss and arrange a farm visit where required and you will receive a further application form from DEFA.
After the farm visit the farmer must submit the required Application Form. Please note that several Initiatives have their own bespoke application form (see table below).
For all Initiatives a claim must be submitted; this will be received with your approval letter. Payment is made in arrears (i.e. the farmer must make the up-front payment and claim the costs with invoices etc).
Manx Wildlife Trust understand that the approvals and claims processes are complicated and are here to help. The team can be best contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org or via 01624 844084.
Do not start any initiatives without notifying DEFA and receiving written approval.
Meet the team
MWT employ 14 staff across the Isle of Man. Our staff manage our nature reserves and the Calf of Man, provide education and outreach to schools, undertake research and monitoring and provide highly specialised ecological consultancy services and practical conservation advice. Our team includes highly skilled botanists, ecologists, biologists and both upland and lowland land managers. One of the strengths of our delivery of the AES is that we can call upon any of our staff to provide specialist advice & guidance when required by Manx farmers. Specifically, there is a dedicated member of staff who will spearhead our AES delivery:
Born and raised on the Island, David joined MWT in April 2021 in the new role of Agri-Environment Officer and as a consultant avian ecologist. David studied Ecological Science & Conservation Management at the University of Edinburgh and has since gained a wealth of practical land management experience on the MWT nature reserve estate across the Isle of Man.
David’s role is to provide advice to Manx farmers on the ins-and-outs of the Agri-Environment Scheme process, the specific initiatives themselves, and farm-specific advice on implementing nature-friendly farming whilst ensuring the continued financial sustainability for the sector.