Community Gardens 'refuges for nature'

COMMUNITY GARDENS IRELAND PRESS RELEASE

Today, Saturday 13th March 2021, Malcolm Noonan Green Party T.D. and Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform launched Community Gardens Ireland’s online Spring gathering and general meeting.


Minister Noonan talked about the many ways in which community gardening can bring people together to share knowledge and share seeds, something that has been so important during this pandemic. Describing community gardening projects as “refuges for nature” that “local governments should be promoting” he talked about the huge potential for repurposing urban spaces as part of any biodiversity action plan, highlighting the need for more biodiversity officers and heritage officers within local authorities, something that he hopes to expand on as Minister for Heritage.


Community Gardens Ireland is a network of community gardens and allotments on the island of Ireland. In existence since 2011 it aims to support and promote community gardens in Ireland and Northern Ireland. While normally a physical event which includes a community garden visit, Community Gardens Ireland have adapted to the need to keep connected through technology, moving their gathering online for the first time. The demand for ‘grow your own’ initiatives throughout Ireland has increased since COVID-19. This was evident by the impressive turnout at today’s general meeting with over 50 people from gardening projects around the country attending, and by the record demand for seeds and community growing spaces.


Commending Community Gardens Ireland on its all-Ireland network of community gardens, Minister Noonan said “We also wish to ensure that we have an all-island approach to nature, working with the Northern Ireland Executive and gathering biodiversity data on an all-island basis.


Community Gardens Ireland’s Maeve Foreman welcomed Minister Noonan’s presence at the event: "We are delighted to have Minister Noonan’s support for an increase in community growing spaces and we look forward to helping the government implement their vision set out in the programme for government, namely ‘to support the development of community gardens, allotments, and urban orchards’. As an all-Ireland network of community gardens we would love to see someone appointed in each local authority to support this development”.


Community Gardens Ireland’s Dónal McCormack presented the results of Community Gardens Ireland recent survey which provide a clear path for improvements needed throughout Ireland for the development of community gardens. Feedback from gardens on how they were coping with the pandemic, how they source funding, and how they recruit and retain volunteers, were also presented at the event.


Closing the event this year was Jennifer McConnell, outgoing General Manager of Irish Seed Savers.


The attendees learnt of the importance of seed diversity both in a local and a global context and the need for more people to engage with the value of seed in the food cycle. Addressing the issue of food security, food sovereignty and food resilience, Jennifer McConnell highlighted how “in 2018 Ireland exported €574 million worth of fruit and veg, in stark contrast to the €1.3 billion worth we imported – a third of that from the UK. That is more than double the amount that we grow and export. Additionally, over 95% of seed to grow our food is imported”. She also outlined the ground breaking work of Irish Seed Savers including their recently launched Community Seed Guardian Programme and Online Community Seed Exchange.


Community Gardens Ireland’s Conor O’Kane welcomed Jennifer McConnell to the event and spoke about Community Gardens Ireland long relationship with Irish Seed Savers: "Access to seeds is something that impacts all of us. In the last year there have been supply issues in Ireland with potato and vegetable seeds. We all have a role to play in harvesting seeds, and helping support our local seed producers.”


Image: Jennifer McConnell Irish Seedsavers Association, photo credit Ellie O'Byrne


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