A new report, co-funded by ARC2020 and the Centre for Co-operative Studies at University College Cork, and set to be published in early April, will aim to unpack just what a just transition will mean for Irish farms and rural communities.
It comes ahead of two events taking place at Cloughjordan Ecovillage on 22 April, which will examine practical scenarios for a just transition, and farm diversification, in rural Ireland.
“Agriculture is at the forefront of the fight against climate change” and farmers are “directly exposed to the impacts of extreme weather events, rising input costs and workloads, and related stresses on animal health and welfare” — that’s according to a major policy paper, ‘Towards a New Agricultural and Food Policy for Ireland’, presented by the Environmental Pillar, Stop Climate Chaos and SWAN (Sustainable Water Network) last year.
The document, which offered a climate and nature-friendly vision for the future of Irish farming, called on the Irish government to “develop a farmer and community-centred Just Transition action plan for the sector that includes diversification options with environmental co-benefits.” Aiming to build on that recommendation, and on the Feeding Ourselves 2021 policy event which initially responded to this report, this new work from ARC2020 and The Centre for Cooperative Studies at UCC will ask: how might a just transition and diversification work in practice for Irish farms and rural areas?
This new report, which will feature contributions from a diverse range of voices in the farming, agri-food, policy and eNGO sectors, will seek to deepen understanding of what a just transition will mean for these communities.
The report will ask practical questions, such as: what realistic opportunities are there for diversification on farms of different types and sizes? How can Irish farmers extract more from the value chain? How might Irish farmers and other stakeholders collaborate within a regional and landscape perspective? What policies and measures are needed to support diversification? For example, the carbon tax is being added to the CAP delivery mechanism – does this make sense? What role will there be for practices such as co-operatives, community supported agriculture, direct selling, and social farming? How is digitalisation implicated? And how can rural areas respond best to the opportunities diversification offers?
“With creativity, coops involved in farming and agri-business can help with many aspects of a just transition. There is the opportunity to consider the landscape level when considering diversification and best practices, and this landscape level may suit cooperatives and cooperative approaches too. Already we are seeing this in the proposed cooperation projects in the coming CAP. Beyond CAP, coops themselves can find new ways to engage in supporting a diverse rural Ireland.” Dr. Noreen Byrne UCC Centre for Cooperative Studies.
A major objective of this work is to bring together environmentalists, farmers, policy experts, researchers and rural activists, to encourage co-learning and flesh out the reality of a just transition, build stronger relationships, and create a sense of possibility and agency for all.
Contributors to the report will be invited to discuss their ideas at two events taking place on Friday 22 April at the WeCreate Centre in Cloughjordan Ecovillage. The morning event, led by Sustainable Projects Ireland, will focus on just transition, while in the afternoon a diversification-focused event will be led by Cultivate. More details on these blended (in person and digital) events to come soon.
Taking place at Cloughjordan (see pic below), there will be opportunities for in-person participants to encounter a community with many of the components of a rural just transition already in place. These include a community owned farm, food hub with online farmers market, co-working and fabrication lab, as well as micro food enterprises and a community-owned café.
Call for submissions
ARC2020 and the Centre for Co-operative Studies at UCC are now calling for written submissions to the report from farmers and their representatives, farm advisers, scientists, policy experts, environmental groups and those working in agri-food businesses. We are seeking submissions addressing challenges, ideas and proposals, for the Irish context, for the two broad areas that will be covered by the report:
Just a Just Transition?
A just transition is generally taken to mean that no person, community, or sector of society should be left behind in Ireland’s transition to a carbon neutral society. But what will a just transition mean for Irish farms and rural areas? How can we evaluate whether just transition is working for these communities? What supports are needed for farmers and rural communities — financial, and in terms of skills, knowledge and resources? How can rural businesses be supported in making the transition to a carbon neutral society? Can we critically assess, learn lessons from, and build upon the model of just transition currently being applied to peatland communities in the Irish midlands? We welcome submissions that examine these, and other questions, that relate to just transition and rural Ireland.
Taking diversification as a key component of a just transition, submissions are encouraged addressing three particular areas:
- Diversification of farming systems (eg mixed farming, agroforestry, polyculture, crop rotation, inter-cropping, etc).
- On-farm income diversification (eg direct selling, food processing, agritourism, social farming, renewable energy)
- Off-farm income diversification (embedding family farm incomes into the wider regional economy and society, through off-farm activities like teaching, consultancy, art, building, etc)
We are seeking submissions of up to 600 words by Friday, 11 March. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org. A selection of submissions will be published in the report, while all submissions will directly help to inform the report, its conclusions and the events.