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Lisa Duncan, manager, Irish Seed Savers Association in Scariff.

Seed Savers hit by funding cuts

IRISH Seed Savers Association has had to implement three redundancies and cut staff hours by almost half, as a result of funding cuts it has sustained this year from a number of sources that used to fund the national charity.

The organisation’s project manager Lisa Duncan confirmed to The Clare Champion that in recent weeks the charity had to cut staff and staff hours due to financial constraints.

She explained the charity relies on grant aid to survive and as it had sustained cuts to grant aid this year from a number of different organisations, it had to implement the cuts. On the back of this, it has launched an appeal to ensure the survival of the organisation and to enable it to continue its conservation work.

According to the organisation, it received grant aid from the Department of Agriculture for the past number of years to help support it in saving Ireland’s agricultural heritage. Projects such as the creation of a new research orchard at Irish Seed Savers, containing all of its Irish heritage apple cultivars, have been made possible as a result of this funding.

“Unfortunately, like many others, we have experienced quite severe cuts over the past couple of years and this, together with the economic downturn, has meant that despite our best efforts we continue to operate at an unsustainable level financially. This has lead to a situation where the continued operations and very survival of Irish Seed Savers is in jeopardy,” a spokesperson for the organisation said.

The achievements it has had to date include the construction of a new seed bank, potato barn, the new apple orchard, the collection of 800 varieties of seed and a study and recording of the true Irish varieties.

“The future of our food in Ireland is, at present, still extremely insecure and protective seed legislation has yet to be passed and is a long way off from being satisfactory. Unless we, as a nation, have the right to grow our own seed, save our own seed and share our seed, we don’t have food security. Growing our own food is simply the best way forward. The work that Irish Seed Savers does is too important to give up without a fight, so we began by applying a raft of painful cost-cutting measures, chief among them significant cuts to staff working hours and wages. Over the last two years, the cuts voluntarily sustained by the staff, from an already low base, is a reflection on their commitment to the ethos of Irish Seed Savers,” a spokesperson for the charity said.

The association continues to adapt in light of its decreased funding from the public and other sources and is actively seeking new funding sources and innovative ways of increasing its revenue. They are now appealing to all those interested in securing a sustainable future for Seed Savers by welcoming any suggestions and offers they have to assist them.

The association has information on how to support them on their website and anyone with suggestions is asked to contact them on 061 921856.

About Carol Byrne

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Carol Byrne is a reporter at The Clare Champion newspaper reporting on news in the East Clare area and the arts. She also covers the courts in County Clare and has received seven national awards for this coverage from the Law Society of Ireland and a National Lottery Local Ireland national media award for Best Community Story 2019. A Masters in Journalism graduate of NUI Galway, she also holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Limerick in Music and Media Studies, and a Higher Diploma in Irish Legal Studies. She began her career interning at The Limerick Leader and Clare FM, before taking up a full time post at The Clare Champion in 2006.

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