Farmers join forces to protect part of the Caha River
A RIVER that helped a West Cork community survive the Great Famine is at the center of a project showing that agriculture and good environmental practices can go hand in hand.
Nine farmers are participating in the program to protect a sensitive section of the Caha River near Dunmanway in the Bandon watershed. They fenced off a 3.5 km stretch to prevent livestock from damaging the riverbed and to protect species like the freshwater pearl mussel.
The work will also prevent sediment from entering the waterway and improve biodiversity along the river bank. All of this should improve the quality of the river’s water and preserve the natural heritage of La Caha.
The river section has been identified as a priority action area under the Water Framework Directive and constitutes a special conservation area, due to the presence of the endangered pearl mussel.
The stretch is an important salmon spawning area in the Bandon River watershed and a facility for the local community.
Work has continued since 2019, in an area of various agricultural enterprises, including forestry, sheep, beef and dairy. This is the first such project under the Bandon Rivers Trust and could be a model for others.
Caha’s salmon and mussels fed people when the potato harvest failed during famine, while stories of salmon poachers are also part of local folklore. But the poacher’s gaff has been replaced by fence posts and rolls of wire.
“How times have changed,” said Tim O’Donovan, one of nine farmers whose family has farmed in the area for generations.
A bog, or wetland, on the land of twins John and Jerry McCarthy was also fenced off a few years ago. It was left untouched and is now filled with vegetation. The fen is a valuable well and a flood relief area.
The Caha project, supported by the Community Water Development Fund, was featured by Teagasc and in the latest issue of the EPA Watershed Bulletin.
The Bandon Fishermen’s Association says the work will significantly improve habitat and water quality and reduce siltation in spawning gravel.
A recent Birdwatch report highlighted the decline of several bird species due to habitat loss, largely the result of intensive agriculture and land reclamation over the past half century. .
Now some of our major environmental groups are calling for change. They say government action has so far been inadequate on climate change and environmental protection. Campaigners want programs that reward nature-friendly agriculture with generous, results-based grants to help restore wildlife and habitats.