A Westport climate action project that will cultivate mini-forests and edible landscapes to enhance food security has been announced as the national winner of a community climate justice project call-out by Trinity College Dublin. 

As the wining project the One Westport Tree Town Initiative will be supported by the LEVERS climate action team from Trinity’s School of Education, to build community-led multi-generational learning projects that will tackle climate issues specifically identified by the group.

LEVERS will focus on working with the Edible Landscape Project and Westport Tidy Towns on issues of food security, biodiversity enhancement and planting for sustainable land use and flood protection.  

The two-year project will also develop a training programme for local community groups, post-primary schools, and individual members of the community, which will adhere to the vision of the Local Learning Venture at the heart of the LEVERS project.

Activate learners to respond to issues of climate justice

The mission of these Learning Ventures is to activate learners to respond to issues of climate justice of local relevance through participatory, collaborative projects. The projects are designed with and for communities and local schools to provide a place for formal, non-formal and informal learning to occur.  

LEVERS is a €2.4m European research project led by Trinity’s School of Education, which supports people to take climate action within their own localities and communities. The project nurtures and builds action projects and partnerships across Ireland, scaling the impact of community and school-led initiatives. The aim is to ensure that educators, leaders, and community members develop the confidence to embed climate action in their life and work. 

Dr Mairéad Hurley, assistant professor, School of Education, Trinity, and principal investigator of the LEVERS project, said: “Last October, LEVERS launched a national open call to identify schools and community groups which were interested in collaborating with us to scale up the actions they were taking to address the climate issues in their local areas.

"Our judges were impressed with the high quality of applications we received from right across Ireland, ranging from community gardens aiming to simultaneously address sustainability and literacy challenges, to community groups working to preserve their local waterways. 

“It was a challenge to pick only one, but today we are pleased to announce One Westport as the winning submission. The Westport proposal impressed us with its holistic approach to considering food security in the west of Ireland. 

"In their application they reflected on the experience of empty supermarket shelves during the storm known as ‘the Beast from the East' in 2018, which highlighted the vulnerability of food supply in rural Ireland.

"The community are acutely aware of their susceptibility to supply chain disruption as extreme weather becomes more and more frequent due to climate change. Motivated by this experience, the group are proposing a planting project which will invite the wider community to get involved in planting mini food forests in various locations around the town.  

Collective community action

“As a collective of community organisations, educators and local businesses, One Westport is already doing so much to make Westport a better place to live for its inhabitants, and we’re very excited to work with them to develop this new project further, as we see great potential for students and citizens of all ages to get involved in tackling climate change through collective community action.” 

L-R: Anne Kearns, Trinity; Caithriona McCarthy, Edible Landscape project; Eithne Larkine, Westport Tidy Towns; and Dr Mairéad Hurley, Trinity.

Caithriona McCarthy, Edible Landscape project, and member of the One Westport Team explained: "We are really excited to work with the LEVERS team from the School of Education in Trinity College Dublin.

"We hope that through working together Westport will be celebrated for embodying principles of self-reliance, sustainability, and community wellbeing.

"This project will focus on food security but also contributes to a more connected, resilient, and environmentally conscious community and delivers on the overarching vision of One Westport, that is, to create a great quality of life for all. It is hoped that the LEVERS-One Westport project will serve an example for other schools and communities aiming to tackle climate action projects in their locality.’’ 

LEVERS and the Westport Tree Town Initiative will be hosting a public event, on the afternoon of the Saturday April 20, in Westport, to provide an overview of the project, meet the wider community, and make new connections. If you are interested in receiving more details on this event please contact levers@tcd.ie