Environment Minister Edwin Poots has launched Northern Ireland’s first-ever Rural Community Pollinator Scheme to protect the health of the egion's bees and pollinators.

The £700,000 scheme, which is part of DAERA’s Northern Ireland Centenary Celebrations, will provide grants between £3,000 and £12,000 to rural community groups and schools to create or enhance a rural community pollinator garden.

Delivery of the programme will be handled by environmental charity Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful.

Grants of up to £12,000 to protect pollinators

Speaking about the fund, Minister Poots said: “In Northern Ireland, butterflies, moths, hoverflies, some beetles, flies, wasps but most importantly bees are our pollinators. They visit flowers, collecting pollen and transferring it to help plants fruit and reproduce.

“They are absolutely central to our ecosystem and its diversity. Our countryside, forests and gardens would look starkly different if our pollinators didn’t work so hard to help plants, trees and seeds reproduce and flourish. They also help to provide the habitats where you can find our wildlife.

Pollinators are vital to our food production and our economy – crops and fruits rely on them to reproduce and grow. One in three bites of food we eat is pollinated by insects."

Minister Poots continued: “Sadly, pollinators are in decline and we need to take urgent action. That is why I am announcing the first-ever Rural Community Pollinator Scheme to help improve the health of the pollinator population.

“This scheme is part of the Northern Ireland Centenary celebrations and will create a lasting legacy for rural communities whilst at the same time creating much-needed habitat. It will also open up spaces for rural communities to enjoy and share together.

“I look forward to visiting some of these gardens in the future and I am sure they will be enjoyed by the whole community.

The Covid pandemic showed us all that we need outdoor shared space in our rural towns and villages; in addition, this scheme will create an educational opportunity for people young and old to learn about pollinators and the important role they play.”

Ian Humphreys, chief executive of environmental charity Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful, which will be distributing the pollinator funding on behalf of DAERA, said: “Improving the situation for our pollinators is crucial. DAERA’s recognition of the vital role of pollinators to our economy and agriculture is welcomed in the scale of the rurally focused pollinator grants being launched today.

Planting trees and wildflowers for pollinating species also enhances the beauty of our local communities, which is vital for mental health and well-being.

"We’re delighted to be here today at an amazing Eco-School and we would encourage rural schools, community groups and environmental organisations to contact our grant officers without delay if they need support in making an application.”

Applications close at 12 noon on Monday, October 11, 2021. Full details can be found here on the Live Here Love Here website.