With the ‘grow your own’ culture literally growing and with a major conference on the topic to be held in Waterford next month, the clamour for the provision of allotments in the city has intensified.
While Waterford City Council has already identified lands in Ballybeg, (with the local Community Development Project there also developing a community garden), Councillors are calling for more of the same in other wards.
Cllr Mary Roche, who has been lobbying on allotment provision for two years (“it also came up at the doors during the election campaign”), says providing ‘grow your own’ plots in all three wards is a must.
“If we’re truly interested in sustainability and if we’re to be seen as being conscious of environmental awareness when it comes to sourcing our food, then you can’t have a situation where we’re all traipsing to one area of the city to plant fruit and vegetables,” she said.
“By providing lands for allotments in the three wards, not only would the Council be seen to be sending out a positive message about healthy eating and outdoor exercise, we’d also be fulfilling one of the criteria under the World Health Organisation’s ‘Healthy City’ project.”
The WHO’s ‘Healthy City’ initiative, which was recommended to City Hall by the Waterford Area Partnership, includes the need for a safe, physical environment, a stable ecosystem and innovative economic thinking.
By providing allotments across the city, the Council would, through rental of the plots, create a small financial return for itself while also putting currently idle land to a practical, civic and beneficial use.
“Allotments would help to meet the needs of citizens and maintain a sense of community,” according to Cllr David Cullinane.
“It would also help to meet the environmental and activity needs of citizens while possessing a range of health benefits.
“As well as that, providing allotments would reap an educational benefit for children regarding the growing of vegetables and encourage biodiversity through the creation of a habitat for wildlife among the wide range of plants that may be grown.”
Cllr Roche said that putting lands unlikely to be developed in the short to medium term represented a ‘win win’ scenario for the Council.
“Bringing this about shouldn’t really cost the Council all that much,” she said. “And of course by renting the allotments, there’d be a return, albeit a nominal one.
“There are so many benefits that would come with providing such facilities to communities right across the city and I really hope that this is something we can move on quickly because the public demand is significant.”
Cllr Cullinane stressed that local communities should be consulted regarding the location of such plots, while rent of such strips of land should “not prove financially prohibitive”.
Meanwhile, a new national not-for-profit organisation called ‘GIY’ (Grow It Yourself) Ireland, which encourages people to grow their own food will be officially launched at WIT on Saturday, September 12th.
The organisation, established by Dunmore East-based journalist and author Michael Kelly, aims to establish local food growers’ groups in every town in Ireland.
Speakers at the launch at WIT’s Cork Road campus will include Michael Kelly himself along with Minister of State Trevor Sargent and Darina Allen.
For further details log onto www.GIYIreland.com.