Farmers are the most important managers of the environment and nature in Europe, where farmed land has been shaping the natural landscape for millennia. Most of Cyprus’ protected natural areas include significant agricultural landscapes. From olive and carob groves to traditional grazing pastures, low-intensity agriculture makes Cyprus an attractive place for birds; and where birds thrive, other biodiversity most likely thrives too, as birds are excellent indicators for the state of nature.

What is the problem?

Over the last 40 years, Europe lost almost 60% of its farmland birds.

In Cyprus, traditional, low-intensity agricultural practices are under threat from both abandonment, especially in the hills and uplands, and intensification, mainly in the lowlands and on more fertile land. Farmland in Cyprus is threatened by urbanization and the conversion of fertile farmland to other land uses.

This destruction is fuelled by our taxes. The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), with a €378.5 billion budget, constitutes approximately one-third of the European Union’s spending. Historically, the CAP has failed on multiple fronts. For the previous programming period (2014-2022) the European Court of Auditors reported that the CAP is not effectively contributing for biodiversity, water or climate change, while science has shown that billions of euros in CAP subsidies are spent in ways that do not align with the program’s stated social and environmental objectives.

For the current programming period (2023-2027), flexibility was given to Member States in designing their CAP Strategic Plans with higher ambition for the environment and the climate. A close look however, at these Plans, reveals that although presented as ‘green’, many measures are not as environmentally friendly as they seem. At the same time the continuation of business-as-usual or even harmful subsidies shows considerable reluctance to shift public funds towards targeted and effective spending to facilitate the transition to sustainable food and farming systems.

What is the solution?

What is the solution?

The science shows that unless we alter our food production methods and stop the degradation of the natural systems that support agriculture, we will eventually lose our capacity to sustainably produce food.

During the next revision of the CAP, Cyprus has to expand the use of interventions that are effective for biodiversity, the climate and society, by allocating more funds to these areas, while doing away with schemes that support standard or business-as-usual practices.

Cyprus should capitalize on the opportunity cost of maintaining existing, traditional, low intensity agriculture that is at risk of further abandonment by providing interventions that allow for its maintenance. This is far less costly than future restoration, which will undoubtly be needed if we continue down this road.

For more intensive areas, we need to fund reduced pesticide use and ‘Space for nature’ schemes, which would adequately reward farmers for allowing at least 10% of their land to be left fallow or as areas of perennial natural vegetation within or around their plots.

What are we doing about it?

We have been advocating at both EU and Cyprus level, for wildlife-friendly and sustainable farming, effectively supported by a radically re-structured CAP, for years.

We have also been actively involved in projects with a strong agricultural component. Examples include the Habitat restoration and wise use for Akrotiri and Cape Pyla Project (2021-2024), the Akrotiri Marsh Restoration Project (2015-2017) and the Barn Owl Project (2015-2018).

On a national level
  • We have been active in contributing with suggestions and proposals on how Cyprus designs its CAP subsidies to benefit birds, nature and small-scale farmers, and more recently through our involvement as partners in the LIFE IP Physis project.
  • We are monitoring common birds annually, which includes our farmland birds, since 2006. The Government contracted BirdLife Cyprus to report on bird populations and trends in 2013 and to produce a Farmland Bird Index, an indicator used to monitor the health of farmland and nature in member states, in 2012-2014 and from 2018 onwards.
  • We have been involved in projects with a strong agricultural component. Examples include the Akrotiri Marsh Restoration Project (2015-2017) and the Barn Owl Project (2015-2018).
  • We are advocating against the loss of agricultural land important for biodiversity to land-use change brought about by its conversion to urbanized areas and renewable energy projects.
  • We are part of a working group, set up by the ex Minister of Agriculture and Environment, Dr. Kadis, for the development and implementation of the National Action Plan for the use of the Barn Owl as a natural pest control agent.
On a European level

We join BirdLife Europe and Central Asia in its campaigns for a CAP reform. Our key ask has always been for a CAP that adequately addresses the urgent crises of biodiversity loss and climate change.

This could have been achieved if enough space was given to nature. Scientific research shows that if at least 10% of every farm in Europe was left to natural habitat (such as hedgerows or flower strips) this would allow nature to come back, while also improving yields! We also joined BirdLife Europe in advocating for investing €15 billion of CAP money in supporting nature friendly farming (e.g. conversion to organic farming, agro-ecology, diversification of production and alternative sources of revenue) while stopping spending that is used against nature (continuing support for intensive farming).

We have taken part in pan-European analyses of the new CAP Strategic Plans (2023-2027). The most recent analysis showed that the new CAP is unfit to meet these asks and the biodiversity and climate challenges.

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