About The Rural Development Programme
The Rural Development Programme was established to help rural communities meet the needs of a changing economic environment. For over 15 years now, successive programmes have helped improve the economic, environmental and social opportunities available to people in rural areas.
The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) develops and co-ordinates rural development policy, manages the implementation of rural development strategies, programmes and projects, and acts as an interface between the Rural Development Programme and other public sector bodies. The Department’s vision for the Northern Ireland Rural Development Programme 2007-2013 is of a programme that protects and enhances our rural environment and contributes to the development of competitive and sustainable rural businesses, and thriving rural communities.
There are three main priorities, or “Axes”, in the current programme: Axis 1, improving the competitiveness of the agricultural and forestry sector; Axis 2, improving the environment and the countryside; and Axis 3, improving the quality of life in rural areas and diversifying the rural economy. A fourth Axis entitled “Delivery of the LEADER approach” involves local implementation.
The new INTERREG IV programme will maintain a focus on the strategic development of Northern Ireland and the border counties of the Republic of Ireland. For the first time, parts of western Scotland will also be eligible.
Officials have liaised with the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB) to ensure that the continuing need for rural development is acknowledged in the operational programme for INTERREG IV. To that end, €8 million has been allocated to rural development activities, with DARD and the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (DCRGA) as the accountable Departments.
The good working relationships between DARD, Border Action and DCRGA officials that developed through participation in INTERREG IIIA will provide a solid foundation to implement further strategic measures in the new programme.