The Rural Micro Capital Grants Scheme has passed £5 million total allocated, Northern Ireland Rural Affairs Minister Edwin Poots has said.

The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) funded scheme focuses on three key themes identified as contributory factors to poverty and social isolation: Modernisation (of existing premises / assets); Information and Communications Technology; and Improvements to health and well-being.

Speaking at a visit to Saintfield to see the first-hand benefits of the scheme, Poots said:

“The key aim of the Rural Micro Capital Grants Scheme is to provide small capital grants to rural community/voluntary led organisations for projects tackling issues of local poverty and/or social isolation.

"Thanks to our investment of over £5 million, since 2016 almost 4,400 projects have been successfully completed.

"The very tangible importance these micro grants brings to rural life and rural dwellers across Northern Ireland cannot be stressed enough.

“Projects like these I’ve visited at Saintfield Community Trust and at Saintfield Rural Development Association provide tremendous benefits to local rural community and voluntary groups," he continued.

"I’ve witnessed, at both groups, wonderful people displaying a togetherness and a community spirit fostered by the projects supported through my Department’s Rural Micro Capital Grant Scheme.

"So many worthy organisations who provide vital services in rural communities everyday have benefited from the scheme and I am very proud that my department could help," Poots concluded.