Dingle Farm Ambassador Programme commended by UN

The work being done by the Dingle Peninsula 2030 partnership with the local community, farming and transport sectors to help the area become more sustainable has been commended by the UN.

In 2018, the partnership was established in Co. Kerry, made up of the Dingle Creativity and Innovation Hub, ESB Networks, North East West Kerry Development (NEWKD) and the MaREI Centre.

So far, the partnership’s work has included: initiating a pilot Farm Ambassador Programme, using soil and water monitors to ensure that the impact from the spreading of fertilisers is minimised; and establishing the Dingle Sustainable Energy Community, among other initiatives.

Deirdre de Bhailís, manager of the Dingle Creativity and Innovation Hub said the mission is to “build a flourishing community, fostering a vibrant and diverse ecosystem of stakeholders to facilitate the creation and maintenance of well-paid, year-round jobs on the Dingle Peninsula”.

As part of the Farm Ambassador Programme, sensor technology has been installed on six local farms.

The six ambassadors are trialing the sensors to measure and manage soil moisture, localised weather data and slurry height.

This project is planned to be completed this March.

Climate action and community development

Tourism contributes about 30% of the economic activity in the Dingle Peninsula area.

Whilst the tourism industry brings “many opportunities to the area, it also creates challenges, such as a heavy reliance on seasonal employment and a lack of availability of long-term housing leases”.

This has led to a reduced number of young people returning to the area post-university. As a result, the community’s population “becomes older, making it more difficult to look after and support isolated and vulnerable members of the society”.

According to Connor McGookin, PhD researcher, MaREI Centre, climate action and community development are “inseparable, particularly in rural areas”.

“We will not have a transition to a low carbon energy system if we do not have healthy, vibrant communities,” he added.

The UN notes that sustainable development means not only addressing environmental concerns, but also “strengthening communing wellbeing and building local capacity for innovation”.

For the area to flourish, it is essential that the local environment supports local entrepreneurship and provides facilities for employment opportunities for young families looking to settle on the peninsula.

Brendan Tuohy, board member of Dingle Creativity and Innovation Hub, said:

“One of the key challenges for rural communities is to develop the ecosystem and set of networks that can support sustainable businesses that can provide well-paid, fulfilling, diverse jobs that can help sustain the local communities as they transition to a low carbon future.”

€200,000 to help west Kerry farmers achieve greater carbon efficiency

In October, the hub was awarded €220,000 EU Horizon 2020 funding to enable west Kerry farmers to participate as a Sustainable Innovation Pilot (SIP) for the next three years.

This will see the roll-out of sensor technology to 30 farms to achieve greater carbon, cost and labour efficiency. Increased carbon efficiency will be achieved by extending the grazing season.

The hub is collaborating with Teagasc, the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA), local Dingle hub-based technology provider Net Feasa and Kerry agri-business to roll-out the sensor technology currently being piloted through the Farm Ambassador project to a further 30 farms on the peninsula.