For the last 20 months, the young farmers have been busy greening their club and the local area, working their way through the three levels of the Eco Club Award Scheme – Bronze, Silver and Green - with support from Ulster Wildlife’s Grassroots Challenge youth programme. The internationally-recognised Green Flag is this highest award and symbolises excellence in environmental action and learning.
Lisnamurrican members focussed their actions around ‘Biodiversity and Healthy Living’ and designed an Eco Code for their club. Other activities involved studying wildlife in Glenariff, visiting Ballylagan Organic Farm, learning about beekeeping, and organising a local clean-up campaign alongside Broughshane Improvements Committee.
We could not have achieved this without the support and guidance from the team at Ulster Wildlife. It has been an extremely educational, enjoyable and informative experience.
Presenting the coveted first Green Flag Award during a visit to Shamrock Vale Farm, near Glenavy, Minister Edwin Poots, said, “It gives me great pleasure to be presenting this award to members of Lisnamurican YFC for their efforts to help the environment. My Department’s goal is to have ‘a living, working, active landscape valued by everyone’. Ulster Wildlife’s Grassroots Challenge programme is a great way to make progress led by young people across Northern Ireland.”
Gail McCullough, a leading light in Lisnamurrican YFC’s achievement, said: “We are extremely proud and honoured to have been the first Young Farmers Club in NI to be awarded the Eco Club Green Flag Award. We could not have achieved this without the support and guidance from the team at Ulster Wildlife. It has been an extremely educational, enjoyable and informative experience. We want to continue the legacy of being an Eco Club and keep pushing our members to come up with new ways to preserve the natural world around us.”
Charlene McKeown, Environmental Education Manager from Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful, said: “We are extremely proud to have awarded the first-ever Eco-Clubs Green Flag in Northern Ireland to Lisnamurrican Young Farmers. The hard work and dedication of the young people involved in promoting a sustainable green future has been and continues to be outstanding. We hope to see many more clubs follow in their footsteps as they lead the way on this new and exciting journey towards a Green Recovery. We are delighted to see Environment Minister Poots praise and value their dedication by presenting them with their flag.”
Over the last five years, more than 8,000 young people, from Young Farmers’ Clubs, Duke of Edinburgh’s Award groups and special schools have rolled up their sleeves to help nature thrive through Ulster Wildlife’s Grassroots Challenge.
Ken Brundle, Chair of Ulster Wildlife, said: “A huge congratulations to Lisnamurrican - they should be so proud of themselves. Helping young people make a difference to their local environment and community around them is what the Grassroots Challenge is all about, so it is fantastic to see so many young people with the drive, energy and passion step up and change things for the better. Every generation has what it takes to create real positive change. It is simply a matter of having the confidence and support to do so and we hope to encourage thousands more young people to take action for nature.”
Minister Poots also took time to meet a range of young people from Ulster Wildlife’s Grassroots Challenge Programme today and discuss his department’s plans for a Green Growth Strategy to help Northern Ireland respond to the impacts of the COVID 19 pandemic. He listened to their concerns about the environment and a green recovery and their desire to see more action on learning in and about nature, environmental jobs and opportunities for young people to have their say.
The Grassroots Challenge is part of Our Bright Future, a programme of 31 projects across the UK co-ordinated by the Wildlife Trusts and funded by the National Lottery Community Fund.