02 Feb Community Consultation, Peace IV Partners, SENI Conference and UNLTD
On 23rd January Enriched Ecovillage held a Community Consultation meeting in Cleenish Community Hall. This was an opportunity for us to present our vision and values in pioneering Northern Ireland’s first Ecovillage in the area and to hear from needs and concerns of residents. All in all the evening was very successful with a good turn out and clear engagement from those present. Anyone who was not able to make the consultation is encouraged to email us at EnrichedEarth@gmail.com with any suggestions or questions.
Many queries were made on the night and perhaps the main thing of interest raised by local residents is the extent to which the Ecovillage will be of benefit to the local community, particularly in terms of employment. There is no doubt that, with local community and council support (particularly via planning legislation), that Enriched Earth Ecovillage will be a significant local employer in terms of a range of salaries from various management positions to seasonal tour guides. We cited examples such as Findhorn Ecovillage which has an annual revenue of over £2,500,000 and Solheimer Ecovillage in Iceland which attracts over 35,000 annual visitors. The Ecovillage will obviously also be good for local businesses especially in the tourist sector.
Concerns were also raised on a number of other areas and addressed. For example traffic increase concerns in the area, which we intend to address via running a special electric bus link to the Ecovillage and having minimal parking on site. Issues of noise and light pollution were also raised and again, it is a key ethos of the project that such things are kept to a strict minimum. A query was also raised in relation to the religious ethos of the project and it was made clear that the project was secular in nature, with environmental and cultural education for all regardless of background at its heart. As per Peace IV and our general ethos of being a Cross-Border, Cross-Community and an Integrated place were all are welcome.
Enriched Earth were keen to emphasise that the Ecovillage was a project to be set up in close synergy with the local community and that the local community would be consulted in as much as possible at each stage and be invited to become as directly involved as possible both in the planning, set up, building and running of the site on an ongoing basis.
Many other questions were raised and addressed and we were pleased to hear that the next meeting of the Killesher Community Association affirmed their continuing and broad support for the project.
Peace IV Funding and Partnerships
Enriched Earth Ecovillage have applied for Peace IV funding for the project as part of the Shared Spaces and Services aspect of the call. Basically this cohort of funding seeks to set up 8 iconic Shared Spaces as capital sustainable build projects in Northern Ireland. The key remit of the programme is to encourage people to see NI as a ‘mixed’ place in relation to religion and for people to wish to live and be in more explicitly integrated spaces, rather than places exclusive to any particular religious sect.
This fits very much with our ethos of being a secular space for all in which a common celebration and protection of the natural environment can unite people regardless of religion or a man-made border. We all breathe the same air, drink the same water, eat the same food and climate change, mass species extinction and fossil fuel shortage don’t discriminate on the basis of religion, politics or other perceived differences.
As such we think Northern Ireland’s first Ecovillage can help pioneer a new shared future for everyone in which together we value that which we have in common and that which is most vital to our surviving and thriving as a species. We owe it to our children and our children’s children. We think Enriched Earth Ecovillage can clearly be a key capital asset in the Peace IV results and outputs being achieved, not just in the FODC area, but right across the province and even set an international standard for a place of Peace and Reconciliation.
While Enriched Earth Ecovillage is of necessity, in such a pioneering and visionary project, a newly established Social Enterprise. We think the strength of not just our core team of experts but in building world-class partnerships makes us a clear recipe for success. We are delighted to have the following support us in our Peace IV application (as well as generally) as Cross-Border and Cross-Community partners in making our ambitious vision a vibrant reality.
Cross-Border Partners: Mud and Wood
We are thrilled to have Mud and Wood in Sligo as cross-border partners in helping to design and build our Ecovillage. They are second to none in the field and were recognised in 2013 Save Our Planet Awards via winning an Ecological Building Award, they were also runners up in the RTE home of the year in 2015. Mud and Wood offers world-class courses in environmentally-friendly, sustainable, natural building and design. Specialising in earth construction (cob) and salvaged timber, with an aim is to help build, extend or renovate homes using natural, healthy and ecologically sound materials and methods. They are a perfect partner to help realise NI’s first Ecovillage with a degree of experience and competence we are thankful to have as a local resource. They will be essential to the success of the infrastructure of Enriched Earth Ecovillage.
Cross-Border Partners: Leitrim Organic Centre
One of our other main Cross-Border partners is the Organic Centre in the neighbouring county of Leitrim. It is a first class provider of education in sustainable horticulture. They also in 2000 ran the first cross border community garden and schools project funded by PEACE/IFI and which ran till 2007. We intend to avail of their expertise in setting up a similar project in our ecovillage and to help run courses and events in cooperation with each other. They are also qualified to run renewable energy workshops for primary school children and we intend to run a similar program in tandem with them for primary schools in NI. We also seek to work with them in setting up a Community Gardening scheme. These activities will be open to everyone regardless of background and we will ensure a fair and balanced uptake across the religious divide e.g. by having schools from both religious backgrounds and the integrated sector work together in joint projects.
Cross-Border Cultural Partners: The Historical Harp Society of Ireland
Another key Cross-Border partner is the Historical Harp Society of Ireland which is seeking to revive the original and ancient form of this instrument as a national treasure. We are keen to emphasise that this medieval harp was played as much in Scotland as Ireland and was revered by the English and internationally. We think that this treasure of our heritage is something that will lend to cross-border and cross-community enrichment and appeal to all ages. We plan to, in association with the Society, reestablish an annual Harp Festival such as historically last took place in Belfast in 1792. Lessons, workshops and concerts on the harp will also be facilitated and the importance of our shared cultural heritage across Ireland and the British Isles will help create a more neutral space and society for the benefit of all.
Cross-Border Partners: Cultivate Living and Learning (of Dublin and Cloughjordan Ecovillage)
We will be working in partnership with Cultivate Living and Learning which is the educational outreach of Cloughjordan Ecovillage, as the first and only other Ecovillage in Ireland, in areas of shared learning. They are another major resource in the cutting edge field of bringing sustainable living to Ireland. They also have a centre in Dublin which has been involved in an incredible range of pioneering Eco initiatives.
We think having won the support of these FOUR Cross-Border bodies of excellence in their fields that we will be bringing a wealth of knowledge and experience to NI on a cross-community basis in a way that will show Peace and Reconciliation in a very progressive light in tandem with sustainable living in all ways.
Cross-Community Partners: Bryson Energy
We also have working partnerships with a number of Environmental organisations within Northern Ireland who have a clear track record on working on a cross-community basis. This includes Bryson Energy who will be helping us ensure that Enriched Earth Ecovillage is facilitated with cutting edge renewable energy technologies. We intend for these technologies to not just be functional in powering the Ecovillage but to be learning resources in themselves for schools and visitors from across all sections of the community in NI.
Cross-Community Partners: Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful and Eco-schools
We will also be working in partnership with Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful and their Eco-Schools program. We wish to set an example to all young people and citizens across the province from all backgrounds in best practice in sustainable living as a key to a happy, peaceful and prosperous future.
Cross-Community Partners: Social Enterprise NI
We work in partnership with Social Enterprise NI in championing the Third-Sector and as such we seek to set up a series of small social enterprises within and linked to our Ecovillage which will all be contracted explicitly to work on a cross-community basis on promoting Peace, Tolerance and Respect as a core value system.
This pioneering project is built with partnership and cooperation at its heart. We will actively be seeking to develop an ever-wider range of partners. These will include FODC, Tourism NI, local community associations, RSPB, UWT and any other community groups who wish to work with us. We already have a formal affiliation with Friends of the Earth via shared values and their network and experience will be a great shared resource. We also have already had invaluable support from winning a competitive contract with the Department for Communities and PWC as part of their ‘Investment Readiness Programme.’
Enriched Earth held a stand at this wonderful and inspiring conference. Aside from some good networking opportunities, it was clear from the filled hall the extent to which the Third-Sector is the way forward for our society in general. We at EE think that the ‘private sector’ should eventually be limited to the confines of one’s home! Surely, social value in the new millennium, in the face of environmental and economic crisis, needs to legally be at the heart of any legal, ethical and sustainable business? We at EE intend to help light the way and show how Social Enterprises can not only be good for local people and the environment but can also be prosperous in all ways, including financially, for all involved.
ULTD Do It Award
We have reached the final stage of this award and on 30th January John-Paul pitched on behalf of the Ecovillage team to win the award, we shall see if we have had any luck by the end of the month. Fingers Crossed!
Our planned meeting with the Minister for Infrastructure has unfortunately been cancelled due to the elections but his office have provided us with a contact for the senior Civil Servant for the department and we are in the processes of arranging to meet them soon.
We are also meeting informally with FODC on 14th February in Enniskillen and really hope that we can win their critical support going forward as we think Fermanagh is the natural place for Northern Ireland to pioneer an ecovillage due to the embedded ‘Eco Credentials’ of the area.