When we think of Ireland, we often think of endless hills full of lush, bright grass, cows and sheep grazing peacefully on them. This picture should not only be a romantic reminder of the supposedly good old days. It should become a model for a new orientation of agriculture and sustainability – in Ireland and the whole world.
To this end, Ireland took an unprecedented step in 2012. The government, farmers and Bord Bia, a semi-governmental agency, have jointly developed a plan called Origin Green. This plan should ensure that 100% of Irish food exports come from sustainable agriculture by 2016. In parallel, the plan aims to increase the volume of exports by 50% by 2020. Nice idea, but completely utopian? Far from it. Irish producers are well on the way to achieving this ambitious goal. They have already reached a share of 75% of resource-saving products by 2014.
Sustainability as a niche
The idea for the large-scale offensive was not born out of pure love for the environment and nature. Ireland suffered particularly badly from the banking crisis around 2008, and after years of recovery, Ireland faced massive problems. Fortunately, this hardly affected the traditionally strong agricultural sector, which includes relatively small, often inherited farms.
A positive image therefore did not have to be artificially created – an enormous advantage when it comes to credibility with consumers. And not everything has to be turned upside down within the country either. Huge farms are absolutely exceptional, and the usual family farms already used far less artificial feed than the European average. All in all, not bad conditions for ramming an Irish flag into the bottom of the niche of “sustainable food”.
Ireland as a model green island in terms of sustainability?
Even though Ireland is making giant strides in the field of agriculture, we must not make the mistake of praising Ireland over the green clover. In the field of renewable energies, for example, Ireland has a massive amount of catching up to do. The initiative for more sustainability must be seen in its context – the severe impact of the financial crisis. But that is precisely where the trick and the model lie: Ireland is demonstrating impressively that sustainability and economic efficiency go hand in hand and can drive each other forward.