The ‘Grassroots’ Challenge’ is the exciting initiative led by Ulster Wildlife that will see YFCU members champion nature in their local communities, writes Richard Halleron.
Up until December 2020, the project will bring the great outdoors to life for 5,000 young people, aged 11-24, through the Young Farmers’ Clubs of Ulster, Duke of Edinburgh’s Award and special schools.
Commenting, YFCU president Roberta Simmons said: “I know how important it is to provide our young people with skills, knowledge and confidence and The Grassroots Challenge is an excellent way to unleash their potential through the delivery of various ‘wild ideas’ projects.
“By getting involved, as well as developing the skills needed to become environmental leaders, our members also have the opportunity to work towards an accredited environmental qualification, improve employment and education prospects, obtain eco-club status, and learn how to influence decisions at local and regional levels, alongside project partners LANTRA, Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful and Northern Ireland Environment Link.
“Many of our YFCU clubs have been busy designing, developing and delivering environmental projects within their own community with support from the two dedicated Project Officers. These projects so far have enabled young people to develop their personal and environmental skills and knowledge and actively engage with their local community. Projects have included building bird boxes, developing community spaces and rural tidy ups.”
She added: “Our young farmers are the leaders of tomorrow so it is extremely exciting to witness the great buzz that this project has created throughout our clubs and I look forward to the scheme gaining traction all over the country.
“Growing up on our own family farm, I have been surrounded by nature my entire life and I understand the importance of recognising the part we play in our environment.”
Miss Simmons pointed out that on any farm there is a huge variety of plant and animal life, which is significant to the entire biodiversity of any location. By being part of this initiative, the YFCU continues to provide nature with a helping hand by partaking in these various ‘Wild Ideas’ projects to ensure that the organisation gives back to the environment.
“I want to lead by example and get the whole Presidential team involved in the Grassroots challenge and take part in a ‘Wild Idea’ project ourselves,” she said.
“With this in mind and over the weekend, we have decided to build containers that will be placed at the front of the building of the Ulster Farmers’ Union and YFCU Headquarters in Belfast. By filling these containers with colourful plants and creating an herb garden we will attract a wide range of insects such as butterflies and bees and bring a little more green space to the not so green space that is the Antrim Road.
“I know that the feedback so far for the scheme throughout our organisation has been great since our dedicated project officers Andrew and Shona have been visiting many clubs. This proves to us that the scheme is being embraced by our members.
“I look forward to witnessing the unique and worthwhile projects that will be created in the future. From transforming neglected local spaces into havens for wildlife, taking part in beach clean ups, partaking in wildlife surveys, building bird boxes and educating and making our members aware of the wildlife around them, I am certain that the Grassroots Project will grow from strength to strength.”
Miss Simmons concluded: “Young farmers working in the agriculture industry have a duty to maintain and manage our countryside to preserve the rich biodiversity that exists within.”