Frequently Asked Questions

If you have a question you would like to ask us click here

Rural Development seeks to bring about positive change in the economic, social, environmental, and cultural conditions of rural areas. While recognising the central role of farms and farm families, it aims to bring benefits to all those living and working in the countryside.

The NI Rural Development Programme (NIRDP) 2014-2020 is jointly funded by the European Union, through the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD), and the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA). The Programme aims to protect and enhance our rural environment and contribute to the development of competitive and sustainable rural businesses and thriving rural communities.

The Programme is worth up to £623million. The Programme will be funded with contributions of approximately £186.5million from the EU (EAFRD) and approximately £436.5million of NI Executive funding. The Programme has 3 key objectives:
• To improve the competitiveness of the agri-food industry;
• To improve the natural environment
• To develop and improve rural areas

Rural areas are defined within the context of Rural Development Programme as those settlements with a population of 5,000 or less. More information can be accessed at

The LEADER method of delivery is a regulatory requirement for the RDP. The main concept of the LEADER approach is described as ‘bottom-up’ and consists of the formation of Local Action Groups (LAGs) which are partnerships of public and private local actors. Each LAG has developed a local development strategy which will set out the needs and priorities for funding in their respective areas.

A Local Action Group (LAG) is a combination of public representatives and social partners who use local knowledge to enable the ‘bottom-up’ approach of LEADER to the delivery of RDP funding in their area. They come together to identify local needs and priorities for development and produce a strategy to support them. LAGs have a key role in delivering some of the schemes of the RDP.

There are ten Local Action Groups formed across Northern Ireland for the delivery of LEADER within this current NI Rural Development Programme.  Each LAG is aligned to its Local Government District, with the exception of Belfast City Council, where its rural area falls under the responsibility of Lagan Rural Partnership. See the LEADER SECTION for more information on their geographic coverage.

If you are interested in applying for LEADER funding you should contact your Local Action Group. Please note that attendance at pre-application workshops is a pre-requisite to applying for LEADER funding. Please speak to a member of staff within your LAG who will advise further.

For updates on other opportunities across the Programme email

LAGs administering LEADER in NI will be delivering aspects of the Rural Development Programme. Each LAG will have prepared a Local Development Strategy detailing how the LAG will implement the Programme in their area. Schemes could include the Rural Business Investment Scheme, Rural Basic Services, Village Renewal and Rural Broadband. See the LEADER SECTION for more information.

A large scale promotion to form 10 Local Action Groups took place in late 2014/ early 2015 which resulted in over 2000 members joining Local Action Groups. Membership was free and open to anyone aged over 18 who lived or worked in the LAG area. It is now the responsibility of each LAG to determine if they accept further members. Please contact your Local Action Group for further information.

The Rural Network for Northern Ireland is one of four regional rural networks established in the UK. The Rural Network for Northern Ireland aims to enhance networking amongst farmers, rural dwellers and businesses, researchers, environmentalists and other rural bodies and organisations. It aims to achieve this through:

  • Increasing the involvement in the implementation of rural development;
  • Improving the quality of implementation of rural development programmes;
  • Informing the broader public and potential beneficiaries on rural development policy and funding opportunities;
  • Fostering innovation in agriculture, food production, forestry and rural areas. 

The Rural Network for Northern Ireland seeks to bring together a wide range of individuals and organisations who have an interest in rural development. We aim to provide a range of services to our different groupings depending on their membership. This can include stakeholder forums, thematic working groups, cooperation partner searches, training, study visits, events, e-newsletters, email alerts and factsheets.

The Network will:

  • Let you know about funding opportunities and when schemes will open
  • Let you contribute your ideas for improving rural development
  • Allow you to network with like-minded people
  • Keep you up to date with rural policy development
  • Help represent your views to public authorities

We would encourage everyone with an interest in rural development to join the Network, whether you are a farmer, rural dweller, rural business, researcher or environmentalist or just have a general interest in the topic.

Membership of the Network is free and easy to join. Just complete the online form.

The website aims to be a hub of information from across the Programme. It seeks to connect delivery bodies and agents of the 2014 -2020 NI Rural Development Programme with the rural community. As well as a news and events section, it also includes information on the Programme, Local Action Groups, co-operation, good practice, projects directory of funded projects and a section on useful contact points