Farm project to aid vulnerable people


A NEW cross-Border project that uses farming to help rehabilitate vulnerable people was announced yesterday.

Over the next two years, the Social Farming Across Borders project will establish 20 demonstration social farms, as well as a cross-Border network of farmers, healthcare professionals and people who use services.

The farms will be used to help the wellbeing of people who use social care services. They may have experienced addiction or mental health problems or are coping with physical or learning disabilities.

The project has been developed by University College Dublin; Queen’s University Belfast; Leitrim Development Company; and the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise in Northern Ireland. It has been awarded funding of almost €700,000 from the European Union’s Interreg IVA Programme.

Michelle O’Neill, Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development in Northern Ireland, said it would give an opportunity for a joined-up approach to the care and rehabilitation of vulnerable groups. “Experiencing farming at first hand, combined with physical activity, has been shown to help in the rehabilitation of a broad range of vulnerable people suffering from mental health problems, physical and learning disabilities and drug or alcohol addiction,” she said.

Fergus O’Dowd, Minister of State at the Department of Natural Resources, encouraged farmers to consider getting involved in the initiative. The social farms will be in Antrim, Armagh, Cavan, Donegal, Down, Fermanagh, Leitrim, Derry, Louth, Monaghan, Tyrone and Sligo. “As well as meeting the need for tackling rural poverty and social isolation in rural areas, social farming presents new opportunities for farm diversification,” Mr O’Dowd said.