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Climate action vision for Derry/Londonderry being made reality thanks to National Lottery funding

17 August 2020

National Lottery funding is sowing seeds of change in the North West by supporting people to tackle climate change hands-on by growing their own food and learning about how their food choices affect the environment.

The National Lottery Community Fund has awarded £200,000 to The Community Foundation NI's Acorn Farm Project, through the Climate Action Fund. 

This is the first announcement from the ten-year £100 million fund set up to help communities throughout the UK reduce their carbon footprint and show what is possible when people take the lead in tackling climate change. 

The first stage in the Acorn Farm project involves recruiting 100 families across the Derry and Strabane areas, who will be given everything they need to grow food at home, learning from horticultural experts to begin the creation of a more sustainable food system throughout the city. 

Research into the local food system is also being carried out and the longer-term vision is to create an innovation hub for sustainable food production in St Columb's Park. 

Shauna Kelpie, Fund Officer from Acorn Farm Project, said: "Along with our partners at Derry City and Strabane District Council, The Conservation Volunteers and University College Cork, we are delighted to receive funding of £200k from the National Lottery Climate Fund to support this exciting, collaborative and potentially transformative project.   

"Through the COVID-19 pandemic, people have become more aware of how important a sustainable food supply is. 

"Our focus is starting a wider conversation on issues and educating local people about their food choices. 

"Take the tomato in your sandwich, this has been imported from another country, but by growing your own at home you get what you need and help reduce the carbon miles of its travel and in turn improve the quality of the air we breathe. Small things together can make a big difference.

"Thank you to National Lottery players for making this funding possible, it is helping create a new movement of people who are more informed about their impact on climate change and developing a new food strategy for the region."

Local mum Hayley Donan and her family have been growing their own veg throughout lockdown. She said: "It's not only great for the kids and I to have our own food supply, but it also looks wonderful growing in the garden, the strawberries have been great this year.

"We just love getting out in the fresh air, weeding together and seeing what we produce, all while helping the climate and I am delighted that this money has been awarded to Derry and Strabane, as more of this is needed in the area."

Kate Beggs, Director of The National Lottery Community Fund Northern Ireland said: "From 25 years of funding environmental projects across the UK, we know that local community action is at the heart of delivering solutions that not only minimise the impact on the environment, but also offer extra benefits that people and communities can reap.

"In the last few months we have been reminded that communities play a vital role in responding to a crisis and we're confident with people in the lead communities can tackle climate action and respond to the climate emergency.

"Thanks to National Lottery players we're now bringing these communities together so they can address climate change, learn from each other and have an impact within and beyond their communities." 

The Acorn Farm Project is due to start in the Autumn and is being run by The Community Foundation's Acorn Fund in partnership with Derry City and Strabane District Council, the Conservation Volunteers and Cork University.

Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council Cllr Brian Tierney welcomed the successful bid of £200k and said:

“In these uncertain times, sustainable food production has never been more critical in terms of stimulating local food supplies and climate change mitigation; reducing food miles and our carbon footprint.

“I would like to commend the initiative and hard work of those involved in putting this application together; ensuring that our District is to the fore in creating a sustainable region.

“This project will give local households the toolkit to start growing their own fruit and vegetables; with mentoring and support being provided along this journey. 

"It has the potential to kick start a strong ‘Grow It’ movement within Derry and Strabane, helping families become more self-sufficient while also bringing so many health and economic benefits.

“The vision to create a city that feeds itself is embedded throughout this project along with wider plans to build an innovation hub for sustainable food production at the planned Acorn Farm in St Columb’s Park. 

"We are excited and energised to be part of Acorn Farm which will hopefully prompt people to rethink food culture and make more informed decisions in terms of growing, buying, storing, cooking and recycling food waste.”

Robert Shearman from the Conservation Volunteers said: “We are delighted to be involved in this project.

“Everyone needs to play a part in halting climate change and growing your own food at home is a great way to do this.

“We are looking forward to working with many people across Derry City and Strabane District, to support them in learning how to grow their own food in a sustainable way.”

Project Partner Dr Stephen Flood from Cork University added: “We are delighted to be involved in this innovative project that examines the vital issue of food security in a changing climate.

“The project will create a community of climate resilient citizens through hands on training and the sharing of knowledge around sustainable food growing.”

If you would like more information on the Acorn Farm Project please email [email protected].