BY BRIAN MOORE
A GARDEN, a gathering space, and the power to show the community just what can be achieved when you work with the world around you.
That’s what the volunteers at the Clonakilty Community Garden are working towards as their plans for the Clonakilty Community Sustainable Innovation Hub continue and grow. It is one of two West Cork projects being championed by The Southern Star for this year’s Get Involved competition, run by Local Ireland and sponsored by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI).
‘We are a social innovation and education space, where we want people for the community to share resources, work together to grow food and to promote community integration and social inclusion,’ project co-ordinator Olive Walsh told The Southern Star.
The Community Garden took root three years ago. The volunteers created a garden from a green field site in the heart of Clonakilty as a base from which has now developed into a thriving, fruitful space which provides food for the local community. While many locals use the garden, the residents at the direct provision centre, Clonakilty Lodge, which is located just across the road, are also enthusiastic participants when it comes to growing good food.
‘The idea came out of a shared interest in sustainability and, as part of ongoing collaboration between different community groups, we identified a need for a space to showcase sustainability projects and solutions. We decided to come together and share resources and ideas in our Clonakilty Community Innovation Hub,’ coordinator Xavier Dubuisson said.
‘We want to provide a hands-on test bed for innovation in food production, sustainable energy and water conservation.’
The primary objective for the volunteers is to expand the garden into an area that will include an orchard and biodiversity space as well as a recreational area and a demonstration space: ‘Other groups that have come on board to support the project include the Clonakilty Friends of Asylum Seekers, the Lions Club and Tidy Towns Committee, Permaculture Clonakilty, Sustainable Clonakilty and the Cope Foundation. Brown Envelope Seeds, as well as AIB, are also part of the team working on the project,’ Olive said.
Another aim for the volunteers is to construct a geodesic dome, which will be an all-weather structure that will not only be used to grow flowers and other plants, but will also accommodate meetings and provide a perfect space for teaching and demonstrations. With this in mind, the plans also include an area to create sustainable energy exhibits, build an outdoor kitchen and develop a one-year programme of events and activities in conjunction with other community groups.
With the plans for the Innovation Hub up and running, and the cost set at €16,000, the volunteers have already raised over €6,500 and are confident that they will be able to raise the remaining funds necessary to complete the project. ‘We want to thank all those who have worked so hard in helping us to get the project to where it is today,’ Xavier said.
‘We have a long way to go, but we are confident that with the support of the local community will soon see the innovation hub completed. This project would not be possible without the contribution of groups and individuals from this vibrant civic-minded community.
‘Some have described it as a beacon of hope in our town. Thank you to all involved for your hard work, generosity and goodwill. We look forward to deepening community connection and supporting each other in this inclusive, innovative project.’