Rural Affairs Minister Edwin Poots recently handed over the first grant offer from a new major rural funding scheme to help create employment, protect the environment and support volunteer posts.
The Minister said the £600,000 Rural Social Economy Investment Scheme will support new and established rural social enterprises to increase their capacity, potential profitability and sustainability.
During a full day of visits to a variety of DAERA-funded projects in County Down, the Minister handed over a Letter of Offer for funding of £34,000 to Kairos Enterprises in Newcastle, to help it develop its community vegetable outlet, from where it supplies local shops and restaurants as well as running a shop on site.
The Minister said: “It is crucial we support our rural social enterprises so that they can be sustained and grow. Enterprises such as Kairos provide employment and volunteering opportunities for rural dwellers, so I am delighted to be here today to offer my Department’s support to this project.
“Today’s investment will allow this business to reduce its waste, provide employment for two additional members of staff and create volunteering opportunities for another 20 people.”
The Rural Social Economy Investment Scheme, a pilot scheme aims to improve rural social enterprise sustainability; to strengthen rural communities; to improve the economic circumstances of rural communities, and to work in partnership with others.
Minister Poots added: “This is the first time my Department has implemented a specific grant scheme for rural social enterprises and demonstrates my continued commitment to supporting our rural communities. There has been great interest in the scheme and diversity of projects applying for the grants which offer between £25,000 and £50,000 of capital investment on expenditure related to non-agricultural activity.”
John Nixon from Ark Community Gardens said: “Everyone associated with the Ark Community Gardens are so grateful to DAERA for awarding us this generous grant. The grant will make a huge difference to the organisation by allowing us to invest in growing capacity, cleaning processes and bagging facilities and ultimately helping us produce great produce that our customers love.”