Challenges and Opportunities for Rural Ireland and the Agricultural Sector
Making Rural Ireland Resilient
The NESC (National Economic and Social Council) recently published two research papers which explored the value of understanding different types of ‘rural’ and the opportunities to build economic resilience, as Ireland transitions to a low carbon, digital and thriving economy and society.
The first paper, Challenges and Opportunities for Rural Ireland and the Agricultural Sector is authored by Dr Edel Kelly, Dr Karen Keaveney and Dr Anne Markey from the UCD School of Agriculture and Food Science. It identifies seven types of rural-from very strong traditional rural to peri-urban rural areas adjacent to large towns and cities. It highlights common challenges such as declining numbers of young adults but also differences in changes in population density and consequent demand for services.
The UCD researchers also point to reasons to be hopeful for Irish rural areas. A key finding is the need to look positively at rural spaces and to work with communities and farmers to ‘’co-create’’ solutions and local value. They engaged with experts and produced a list 106 opportunities, spanning social, environmental and economic activity. The opportunities included developing new products, remote working and solutions-focused on climate action.
In parallel, NESC commissioned Sean McCabe in TASC to consider how the idea of community wealth building might be a catalyst in rural spaces. The paper, Economic Resilience in Sustainable Communities: Innovative Approaches in Public Spending to Maximise Local Benefits examines how the community wealth was increased in the UK city of Preston. The key was a coordinated approach from local government to use procurement and job creation to create wealth locally. The paper argues that this same approach has relevance for rural Ireland, for example by using climate action resources, such as retrofit or renewable energy supports, as a catalyst for rural communities. Like the UCD research, the paper also focuses on co-creating these opportunities with local communities.
Dr Larry O’Connell, Director of NESC said, ‘the papers have already helped start a dialogue with NESC members and wider stakeholders about the future of rural areas, opportunities and co-creation of solutions. The papers will also help NESC to continue to examine just transition and regional development, in particular by feeding into its work on the Shared Island.