A farmer-led approach to sustainable land management in the uplands
The Pontbren Project is an innovative approach to using woodland management and tree planting to improve the efficiency of upland livestock farming, led by a group of neighbouring farmers in mid-Wales. They went on to develop new on-farm uses for woodland products, and when it became clear that tree planting had not just improved farm businesses and wildlife habitats, but had also reduced water run-off during heavy rain, they invited scientists to investigate. Supported by government funding, this internationally important research has revealed why strategically located belts of trees are so effective at reducing the amount of water running off improved upland grasslands. The scientific data from Pontbren is now being used to study the effects of land use on bigger catchments prone to flooding.
Helping to prepare this report has allowed us to reflect on the origins and progress of our project. Although we have always known each other as friends and neighbours, it was only in 1997 that we first sat down to consider what was happening to our industry. Through our hard work and willingness to embrace schemes which encouraged higher production, we had increased stock numbers and quality by introducing continental breeds. We had drained and reseeded our pastures and erected new buildings to feed and house them. It was at this stage we realised that we were on a treadmill. Although we were getting more for our stock our fertilizer and feed bills were growing too. We were completely dependent on the brown envelope and we knew even then that this was not sustainable. We began to explore ways in which we could reduce our costs, add value to our products and market them more effectively.Roger Jukes