Business

New funding helps projects improve rural communities

A range of new projects is about to make a positive difference to Swansea’s rural communities.

They include new training opportunities for volunteer tourism ambassadors and the creation of a honey bee garden.

Others will bring a new platform for young people to engage in environmental issues – and further studies into how fibres can be produced from the flax and natural dyes used to produce sustainable textiles.

All have been assisted by new funding from the Swansea Council-managed Rural Development Programme (RDP).

Andrew Stevens, the council’s cabinet member for business improvement and performance, said: “It’s so good to see these projects bringing new hope, inspiration and opportunity to our rural areas; they all exhibit a passion for these special parts of Swansea.

“They bring creativity and ambition to local communities and help maximise the potential these areas have now and for future generations.”

The new initiatives are driven by trade association Tourism Swansea Bay, Pennard Community Council, Swansea YMCA and community interest company Gower Flax.

Tourism Swansea Bay chairman Stephen Crocker said: “Our recent RDP funding will allow us to develop an online training programme and build new training packages to help our valued Gower Ambassadors provide visitors with an improved experience of our precious local environment.

“The Gower Ambassadors project began four years ago and now has around 60 volunteers who are passionate and knowledgeable about the area.

“They help at – and enhance – Gower events, meet and greet visitors and share knowledge, stories and details of hidden gems.”

Community Council environment committee chair Susan Rodaway said: “We’re thrilled to have been awarded an RDP grant and are incredibly grateful to its local action group for seeing the potential in our project. 

“We aim to create a fantastic community resource working closely with Pennard Primary School and the wider community.

“Our gardd gwenynen – or honey bee garden – will be created by the collection and composting of household food waste.”

Swansea YMCA chief executive Anne-Marie Rogan said: ”We’re thrilled to have secured RDP funding.

“This will support our work to ensure children and young people across rural Swansea have a platform to have their voice heard and be actively involved in providing authentic, innovative and creative youth-led solutions to climate change and the climate emergency.

“Young people have the power to positively influence and change the world in which they live, and this funding will help to make this happen.

“Our Youth Solutions Rural Swansea will provide a digital and face-to-face platform for young people.”

Gower Flax director Arwen Roberts said: “We’re so excited to secure RDP funding. It’ll enable us to continue our research into creating a regenerative textile system for Wales.

“Our community engagement programme will help raise awareness of where and how our textiles are grown – and the impact our clothes have on the environment. 

“We’ll share our journey of textiles and colour with the local community, groups, schools, colleges and universities.”

The RDP is a seven-year European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development programme funded by the European Union and the Welsh Government’s Rural Communities – Rural Development Programme 2014-2020, ending in 2023.

RDP chair Hamish Osborn said: “This is an exciting selection of projects.

“The Gower flax work combines innovative and sustainable approaches to agriculture and textile productions, the Gower Ambassador programme will improve interaction between visitors, the community and environment, the YMCA initiative will connect young people and help them support each other and the community – and Pennard’s gardd gwenynen will benefit local people and the environment in a number of ways.”

Swansea RDP’s outcomes include an increase in community self-reliance, development that is less damaging to the environment and more support for biodiversity.

Key aims include building community resilience, maximising the local economy, increasing wellbeing of rural communities.

Successes of earlier funding rounds have included schemes that led to a plastic-free community group and to Wales’ first community solar farm.

Additional projects like Cae Tan Community Supported Agriculture and the Coeden Fach community carbon offsetting feasibility study seek to find innovative solutions that serve the interests of the local community.

Community groups or not-for-profit organisations with an innovative idea that could benefit Swansea rural communities can now engage in a new RDP funding round. For more details contact the RDP team – https://www.swansea.gov.uk/rdp and www.facebook.com/rdpleader/

Lead image: Swansea YMCA members (Image: Swansea Council)

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