- 25 September 2012
Rural Report: News from the Rural Network for Northern Ireland.
Inspirational investing in rural areas’. Women Boost The Rural Economy. Rural Network for Northern Ireland (RNNI) recently hosted a seminar focusing on the involvement of women in the Northern Ireland Rural Development Programme (NIRDP).
Speakers (L-R): Majella Murphy (SOAR); Teresa Canavan (BNNI); Minister O'Neill, Orla Hamilton; Ciara Tiernan, Jacqueline McGonigle, Roisin Kelly (Queens University).
The Yes We’re Worth It!’ event, was one of the activities arising from the work of the Women in Rural Development Thematic Working Group and attended by Minister for Rural Development Michell O’ Neill. It featured a range of businsswomen who have capitalised on their rural roots and are now successful entrepreneurs. These included Ciara Tiernan from Co. Down, who with her husband Derek, runs Willow Tree Timber Products manufacturers of hand-built timber range; Orla Hamilton from Moira, a former teacher, established Organic Celtic Soaps as gifts for friends and family but now has a permanent stall at St Georges Market and orders have been requested by several local and UK based shops; Jacqueline McGonigle, runs WhatsonNI, from her home in Upperlands, Mid Ulster.
The website provides a platform for event organisers to promote their events free of charge, creating a searchable database of things to do and see across the region; Shauna McCarney has grown her frozen organicbaby food production company Heavenly Tasty Organics and has won several awards in the process; Gayle Hegarty established her business ‘Homecraft Revival’ offering one day courses in homecraft skills to anyone who wants to learn or relearn creative pastimes such as sewing machine skills, knitting or crochet. The business operates from the owner’s farmhouse, near Omagh, offering high quality, informal individual training.
The seminar was also addressed by Roisin Kelly of Queens University, Belfast who in conjunction with Dr Sally Shorthall is conducting research into Gender Mainstreaming the Rural Development Programme: Updating a case study of Northern Ireland Delivering the keynote address at the event Minister O’Neill said, “Despite the economic gloom and their busy lives, often involving the responsibility of childcare and eldercare, the women presenting at today’s seminar have been able to capitalise on their personal skills and ambition to create fruitful rural enterprises”. She encouraged women to make use of the opportunities that exist under the Rural Development Programme whether it be diversifying a farm business, creating or developing a business or becoming involved in social enterprises.
Delegates at the 'Yes were worth it event"
The Minister also commented “To ensure that the views of women are represented in the decision making process for the award of funding in local areas, a total of 66 women sit on Local Action Groups across the north. In addition to the positive work taken forward through this Programme, my Department has set itself challenging gender targets to reach by 2016, across all of its business functions. I am confident, that by working together we can increase the involvement and participation of rural women generally, and ensure that they have strong voices and seats at all decision-making tables.” The Rural Network coordinates the work of the Women in Rural Development Thematic Working Group.
RURAL REPORT: Across the Northern Ireland Rural Development Programme (NIRDP) 2007-2013
Worth over £500 million the NIRDP operates across three themes, Farming and Food; Environment and Countryside and Rural Life. Some of the many projects which have been supported in the programme so far are highlighted below:
Axis 1: Farming & Food - Investment in Processing and Marketing
Minister O'Neill with Jonathan Thompson from Farmlay Eggs, Armagh
The EU Agricultural and Forestry Processing and Marketing Grant Scheme (PMG) is a key measure under Axis 1 of the NIRDP. With support up to £0.5million for capital investment in buildings and plant and equipment for business working in the agri food processing sector the scheme has so far supported 50 projects with an investment of £12.5million.
Recently Rural Development Minister Michelle O’Neill visited several companies which have been supported under the scheme.
Farmlay Eggs in Co. Armagh is a family owned 90-year old egg packing business, which received £0.5million under the PMG Scheme towards purchase and installation of modern egg packing and grading equipment costing over £1million.
Growing A Stronger Supply Chain
The vegetable and salad industry in the north is worth approximately £13.5million per year. Vegetable crops are grown by about 60 growers. Minister O’Neill visited three of those producers in County Down; Roy Lyttle Ltd, Sparky Pac and Mash Direct.
Commenting on the visit the Minister said, “As the sales of companies such as Mash Direct and Sparky Pac grow, they require more raw product. This is therefore a win – win situation for grower, packer and processor”.
The PMG Scheme is open to sole traders through to intermediate sized enterprises with grants awarded on a competitive basis and a maximum grant of 40%. DARD works in partnership with Invest NI in the delivery of the PMG Scheme. Invest NI contributes towards the overall funding of the Scheme and are involved in the assessment and selection of projects. The PMG Scheme is currently closed for applications but details are available at www.rdpni.info
Minister O'Neill pictured during her visit Sparky Pac in Comber, with Owner Mark McKee
Axis 2: Environment & Countryside
Custodian of the Countryside
Karl Mullan, a beef farmer from Garvagh, Co Derry / Londonderry is just one of many farmers who have received funding from Measure 2.2 of the NIRDP. Karl manages his land under the NI Countryside Management Scheme (NICMS) which aims to bring environmental benefits to wildlife and the countryside.
Karl manages several habitats including species rich grassland, wild bird cover, low input grassland and planting of native trees. Part of his land is within the Coolnasillagh Area of Special Scientific Interest which is designated for its species rich grasslands. Karl manages several fields for delayed cutting and grassland, a new option in NICMS, which aims to provide areas of minimal or no disturbance during the Irish hare breeding period. This habitat also benefits other priority species such as skylark.
Axis 3: Rural Life
Dunamoy Farm, Cottages, Co. Antrim
Dunamoy Farm Cottages
Stacey Hamill could see the potential of a new tourism venture on her home farm near Ballyclare. Literally on the doorstep was a disused 200 year old stone dwelling which was full of character, located in the perfect setting with stunning views over Colin Mount, it provided the ideal opportunity for 3 self-catering properties.
Stacey. as a local bar owner, was in the ideal position to hear first hand from local residents and visitors to the area alike who found it increasingly difficult to find self catering accommodation in the vicinity. Many wanted accommodation which offered the flexibility for families, groups or budget-conscious travellers. With the support of NIRDP through GROW South Antrim Local Action Group, Stacey and her husband Jamie converted and extended the cottages into three separate units which cater for a wide variety of needs.
Recreation Strategy gets in gear in Davagh Forest
Program Manager from SWARD Terry Scullion, Chairman of Cookstown District Council Sean Clarke, and Leisure Services Manager with the Council Liam Galvin
A multi-purpose trail is to be developed by Cookstown District Council within Davagh Forest thanks to investment of £240,000 from the NIRDP through the SWARD Local Action Group. The forest is a 1,600 hectare coniferous forest set in the foothills of the Sperrins and is owned by Forest Service NI who actively manages the woodland focusing on commercial timber production. The project was funded under Measure 3.3 Encouragement of Tourism Activities with the Council providing match funding of £89,000 to develop a trail suitable for walking and mountain biking. The project has the potential to attract approximately 12,000 recreational visitors per year.
Sailing on the sand
Blokartfun on Benone Strand.
Blokartfun is a unique and exhilarating activity tourism business which is the brainchild of George Brien. It operates from the beautiful Blue Flag beach at Benone Strand near Limavady. George, an accredited blokart instructor and skilled sailor, identified a niche market to develop the thrilling experience of travelling in three wheeled carts propelled by sail. George was supported by the NIRDP, through the ARC North West Local Action Group, to buy equipment, develop his website and create marketing material.
RURAL REPORT: Publications & Events
A review of the LEADER methodology in Northern Ireland is currently underway.
While many who have worked in the sector understand the principles of LEADER here’s a quick refresher for anyone new to the programme. LEADER (a French acronym : “liaisons entre actions de développement de l’économie rurale” translated as ‘links between actions for the development of the rural economy) began as a pilot EU initiative. It was rolled out in several areas of Europe which at the time were deemed as ‘declining’. These included Northern Ireland, Wales, Scotland and Cornwall in England. The aim of LEADER was to enable ‘bottom-up’ community involvement in rural development. This meant that those at community level were for the first time encouraged to become involved in the decision making process to improve quality of life and economic prosperity at grassroots level. This fundamental element of community empowerment set LEADER apart as an initiative through which local people had the power to address local problems in line with national policy objectives.
In the current Rural Development Programme the Leader approach, also known as Axis 4, is a delivery mechanism through which money allocated to the NIRDP is spent. It is implemented through Local Action Groups (LAGs), which represent the local community. The LEADER review is currently looking at the long term economic and social impact of LEADER in NI, examining the value for money of the approach and identifying best practice from other European regions. It will also collate lessons learnt from previous programmes and make recommendations on how the model could be used in the new rural development programme. The review is expected to be completed by the end of September.
RDP Projects Showcased at Balmoral
The 2012 Balmoral Show, which took place in May, showcased 12 projects which received investment through NIRDP.
The businesses featured included several engineering and outdoor adventure companies as well as a pottery studio and a wood designer. The Minister for Rural Development Michelle O’Neill visited the exhibition and said the Balmoral Show had been “an excellent opportunity to showcase many successful businesses and demonstrate what can be achieved through the Programme”.
Several other RDP projects featured at the Greenmount Centenary Show in June while a further five businesses will travel to the National Ploughing Championships in New Ross, Co. Wexford on 25th September.
Northern Ireland Impacts on Europe
The new edition of the European Network for Rural Development (ENRD) magazine features a report on the work of the Village Renewal and Development Thematic Working group and the subsequent publication ‘Futureproof Your Village: A guide to Sustainable Local Living’. ENRD have also reported a case study of a project funded through the Farm Family Options Skills Programme’ in its new ‘Young Farmers and Younger People in Rural Europe’ projects brochure.
Download a copy of both documents from the Publications section of the Rural Network website.
Rural White Paper
The Rural White Paper Action Plan has been officially launched. As the first cross-departmental initiative to focus entirely on rural issues it will provide a framework to guide the work of the Executive in responding to rural challenges over the next ten years.
Speaking at the launch, which was attended by Teresa Canavan of the Rural Network, the Minister said, “Our rural communities face very real challenges, particularly in relation to matters such as health, transport, education,
employment, access to services and the environment. This Action Plan demonstrates that the Executive recognises the important social and economic contribution that our rural areas make to wider society and that it is committed to taking real and meaningful action to help improve the quality of life of those living and working in our rural areas. I believe that the Rural White Paper Action Plan can make a positive long term impact on our rural communities and help ensure the future sustainability of our rural areas.”
RURAL REPORT: Working Locally, Nationally and across Europe
‘Rural Futures’ Networking Event
Following the great success that was the 2011 RDP networking event the Rural Network has organised another event which will be held in the Burrendale Hotel in Newcastle, Co. Down on 11th and 12th of October.
‘Rural Futures: Inspire, Innovate, Create’, includes a mix of inspirational speakers and relevant thematic workshops. It will bring together those involved in rural development, enhance essential networking across the programme and encourage skills sharing between Local Action Groups/delivery bodies and EU regions. A networking dinner on the first evening will also form part of the programme. All representatives involved in delivery of the NI Rural Development Programme 2007-2013 are invited to participate. Further information, including the event programme will be circulated and posted on the RNNI website.
Funded Projects Database
Ever wondered what type of projects are supported by the NIRDP? The projects directory on the RNNI website www.ruralnetworkni.org.uk now has over 200 projects which have been funded in the current programme. These can be searched by county or by theme e.g Business Creation and Development or Tourism. The website also has a link to the UK project databases: England currently has 2000 entries, Scotland has 999 and Wales has 195 projects recorded. Good practice examples are then transferred to the European Network for Rural Development directory http://enrd.ec.europa.eu/ which has 415 entries and showcases projects from all across Europe.
Thematic Working Groups
The Rural Network for Northern Ireland has established a number of Thematic Working Groups to focus on specific issues with the aim of improving the effective delivery of the Rural Development Programme and inform the development of future programmes.
What is a ‘Thematic Working Group?’
The concept of ‘Thematic Working’ was developed by the European Network for Rural Development as a means of researching and sharing existing learning and experiences on specific themes across the EU. Thematic Working Groups (TWGs) bring people together in small groups around specific, focused areas of interest. The aim is to improve the effective delivery of the Rural Development Programme 2007-2013 and informe the development of future programmes.
Current TWGs include:
The Food TWG has now been established and has representation from 6 LAGs and from Axis 1 and DARD. The first meeting took place in August. The group has begun to assess the current and potential role of the agri-food sector in the local economy.
The Women in Rural Development TWG comprises representatives from LAGs, Young Farmers Clubs of Ulster (YFCU), NIRWN and Countryside Agri Rural Partnership (CARP). The group coordinated the recent ‘Inspirational Women in Rural Development’ and is holding 2 additional events in the autumn to ensure women are aware of the potential and possibilities of the NIRDP. The TWG has also worked closely with the QUB research team with their work on gender mainstreaming the NIRDP and his fed into additional research on Gender Mainstreaming.
The group was set up in April 2012 and boasts wide representation across LAGs. The group’s purpose is to examine the potential for ICT developments in rural areas and to consider how the Rural Development Programme (both current and future) can support growth in rural areas. Much debate and discussion has centred on ICT in rural areas, specifically the issue of broadband. One of the key tasks of the group will involve the gathering of evidence relating to ICT issues or solutions and the collation of reports which have previously addressed the issues.
Communications Working Group
The Communications Working Group, set up to look at the issue of how information on the NIRDP is communicated, comprises representatives from each LAG, DARD Press Office and RNNI. The group is working very well together to ensure good messages on the potential and successes of the programme are publicised effectively. DARD Press Office and RNNI have now rolled out a series of media training to all Council Clusters and the level of media activity has increased significantly. Through the work of the group 16 businesses, which have been funded under Axis 3, have been showcased at Balmoral Show and Greenmount Centenary Show and a further five projects will exhibit at the National Ploughing Championships in September.
Co-operation Working Group
Cooperation has always been viewed in the EU as a central aspect of the Leader approach. In NI a Co-Operation
Working Group was formed to share best practice and discuss issues relating to co-operation and the opportunities that it presents to improve the effectiveness of the programme. This group continues to meet to support the co-operation actions of LAGs and all 7 are currently engaged in developing or delivering co-operation projects, some with partners in NI, RoI and Britain, and some with partners as far away as Finland, Estonia and Italy. The various projects also cover a wide range of issues including for example renewable energy, tourism, business development, youth development and the delivery of rural services.
Children and Young People
Expressions of interest have been invited for participation in this new thematic working group. So far 14 LAG members, representing 4 LAGS, have registered interest. The group will consider the level of engagement of children and young people within the NIRDP and look at ways in which other regions and countries encourage this sector to become involved in rural development. Expressions of interest are still open so please contact the Rural Network if you’d like to become involved in this group.
Cluster Networking Group
RNNI continues to provide support to the Cluster Networking Group (CNG), which brings together members of Joint Council Committees, LAGs and Programme Managers. The CNG has met six times since January 2012 to share information and discuss programme specific issues. These representations will continue throughout 2012.
Source: HortiTrends News Room