Growing opportunities together is key to developing rural areas
Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Michelle Gildernew MP MLA has launched a new campaign to further promote the 2OO7-2013 Rural Development Programme (RDP) and the opportunities that it has to offer.
It includes an advertising campaign that aims to generate awareness of what assistance is available and develop understanding of the RDP as a programme with benefits for everyone in living and working in the countryside.
Speaking at an event in Loughry College, Cookstown, Minister Gildernew said: "Rural areas are changing, not only for people involved in agriculture, but also for many other people who live and work in the countryside. Although change may present a challenge to us all, it also provides exciting opportunities to shape our future.
"The Rural Development Programme, which is worth over £500million, represents the largest single investment in rural areas in the North. While recognising the central role which farming families play in rural society, it is also set to bring about more widespread benefits. Investment in innovative projects and programmes which serve the needs of local communities, strengthen the rural economy, contribute to a more sustainable environment and improve the quality of life in rural areas will help secure the future of communities in these areas.
"There is a wide range of schemes and programmes available which enable farmers, and rural dwellers to get involved in improving their own area and the community in general. Today we are drawing attention to what is available including the Farm Modernisation Programme, Manure Efficiency Technology Sub-Programme and Marketing Development Grant Scheme which are now open."
The campaign is built around the strapline 'Growing Opportunities Together.' Encouraging people to get involved, the Minister said: "This campaign is about creating awareness and encouraging people to take action. There are many examples throughout the North of businesses and communities that have transformed their locality through innovative projects. It is crucial that people make the most of the opportunities presented to them.
Stressing the importance of local involvement and partnership working which are central to the Programme, she added: "I believe that it is the people on the ground who know best when it comes to meeting local needs. Groups in rural areas are being given more opportunity in making their valuable contribution to the continuing development of their area. By enabling funding decisions to be taken at a local level, I am confident that local needs will be met through a wide variety of high quality projects.
"Despite the economic challenges facing us at this time, I believe that it is a time of great opportunity. The message is simple, by working and growing opportunities together, we will see significant development and sustainable jobs created in rural areas between now and 2013."