Irish Communities for Biodiversity

Report by Heike O’Sullivan

The Irish are known the world over for their generous nature. There are almost 10,000 registered charities and a further 20,000+ organisations in Ireland’s wider non-profit sector. Although some say that Ireland has actually too many charities for a small country such as this, duplicating each other’s work and reducing their effectiveness, there is no doubting Irish people’s generosity when it comes to donating their time and money. Accordingly, we placed 5th out of 146 countries on the CAF World Giving Index 2018 as well as in their 5 year ranking.

Many of us give locally or to street collections, but whom do, for instance, Ireland’s 23 new 2018 National Lotteries millionaires talk to if they intend to donate large sums to a particular cause without broadcasting their identities to all and sundry? Probably to the Community Foundation for Ireland. Part of a global network of over 1,800 community foundations, it was established in 2000 and has already given out around €7.5 million to communities in Ireland and abroad. One of Ireland’s leading philanthropic organisations, it connects individual donors, corporate clients, trusts and foundations with dedicated non-profit organisations and voluntary groups that can make the best use of their gift. Where donors have specific interests, the Community Foundation directs their funds towards specific sectors such as the elderly, sports, youth groups, homeless facilities, health, minorities, the environment and many more.
Currently, the Community Foundation for Ireland have established a fund of €200,000 and are inviting community groups to apply for grant funding to engage an ecologist and develop a Community Biodiversity Plan (“CBP”) for their local area.  The closing date for applications is June 28th next. The grants scheme has been devised to enhance biodiversity in communities throughout the country by combining the expertise of qualified ecologists with the skills, experience and enthusiasm of local community groups. It is expected that ecological studies will be carried out between February and November 2020, with final CBPs to be submitted by funded community groups to the Community Foundation for Ireland by March 2021.
Priority will be given to projects that focus heavily on engaging the wider community and demonstrate an intention and capacity to work closely with local landowners and with their chosen ecologist to produce a coherent, accessible and achievable Community Biodiversity Plan. There will be three levels of grants:-
€5,000 for community groups to work with an ecologist to classify their local habitats, assess their condition and extent, map them, and define a suite of actions to enhance biodiversity. €7,500 for community groups who collaborate with one or two land owners, or €10,000 for community groups who collaborate with three to five land owners, to classify habitats with a focus on field boundaries (hedgerows, tree lines, watercourses and stone walls), assess their condition and extent, map them and define a suite of actions to enhance biodiversity.
The area to be covered by a project may vary. For the €5,000 grants, the Community Foundation anticipate a scale of approximately one townland (rural) or two townlands (urban). For the larger grants, they anticipate a greater area of approximately one or two townlands (rural); or a 30+ha/farm. Grant levels will be awarded with consideration to the effort and commitments outlined in the proposal and the area the project seeks to cover and/or the number of farmers it engages, whichever is more relevant.
The ecologists hired specially for their participation in this scheme will ensure that communities learn as much about their local biodiversity as possible by helping them to understand the qualities of the habitats they have in their local area and how they interact, the unique challenges and opportunities that are specific to their area, and the level of complexity and effort needed to address them. Communities will be involved in data collection and species identification, and will be offered guided walks, workshops or other events as part of the project.
Although the application deadline is approaching fast, you can find out further details about the available grant here: https://www.communityfoundation.ie/insights/news/environment-and-nature-fund-2019 or by contacting Bláithín Ní Ainín of Kerry County Council’s Environmental Services department on 085 808 3716.

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