It’s my birthday today, and for my #birthdaypresent I’d like you to watch this #TED talk from Allan Savory – it might just change the way you think about farming and climate change forever!

OK so it is about desertification, not damp and windy old Europe (as in the picture above), but actually, the principles he talks about, and the possible benefits are extraordinary.

As I watched and listened I couldn’t help but think of unproductive land all over Argyll which might benefit from this idea of mob-grazing. Imagine hill farmers being able to increase their stocking levels by over 100%, and decrease their inputs as well, and get rid of the rashes, and improve the soil structure …

And of course I love the fact that by improving farming techniques we end up bring our carbon footprint right down and thereby saving the planet too. Extraordinary.

And here’s the transcript:

00:12The most massive tsunami perfect storm is bearing down upon us. This perfect storm is mounting a grim reality, increasingly grim reality, and we are facing that reality with the full belief that we can solve our problems with technology, and that’s very understandable. Now, this perfect storm that we are facing is the result of our rising population, rising towards 10 billion people, land that is turning to desert, and, of course, climate change.

01:00Now there’s no question about it at all: we will only solve the problem of replacing fossil fuels with technology. But fossil fuels, carbon — coal and gas — are by no means the only thing that is causing climate change.

01:18Desertification is a fancy word for land that is turning to desert, and this happens only when we create too much bare ground. There’s no other cause. And I intend to focus on most of the world’s land that is turning to desert.

01:38But I have for you a very simple message that offers more hope than you can imagine. We have environments where humidity is guaranteed throughout the year. On those, it is almost impossible to create vast areas of bare ground. No matter what you do, nature covers it up so quickly. And we have environments where we have months of humidity followed by months of dryness, and that is where desertification is occurring. Fortunately, with space technology now, we can look at it from space, and when we do, you can see the proportions fairly well. Generally, what you see in green is not desertifying,and what you see in brown is, and these are by far the greatest areas of the Earth. About two thirds, I would guess, of the world is desertifying.

02:34I took this picture in the Tihamah Desert while 25 millimeters — that’s an inch of rain — was falling. Think of it in terms of drums of water, each containing 200 liters. Over 1,000 drums of water fell on every hectare of that land that day. The next day, the land looked like this. Where had that water gone? Some of it ran off as flooding, but most of the water that soaked into the soil simply evaporated out again,exactly as it does in your garden if you leave the soil uncovered. Now, because the fate of water and carbon are tied to soil organic matter, when we damage soils, you give off carbon. Carbon goes back to the atmosphere.

03:26Now you’re told over and over, repeatedly, that desertification is only occurring in arid and semi-arid areas of the world, and that tall grasslands like this one in high rainfall are of no consequence. But if you do not look at grasslands but look down into them, you find that most of the soil in that grassland that you’ve just seen is bare and covered with a crust of algae, leading to increased runoff and evaporation.That is the cancer of desertification that we do not recognize till its terminal form.

04:07Now we know that desertification is caused by livestock, mostly cattle, sheep and goats, overgrazing the plants, leaving the soil bare and giving off methane. Almost everybody knows this, from nobel laureates to golf caddies, or was taught it, as I was. Now, the environments like you see here, dusty environments in Africa where I grew up, and I loved wildlife, and so I grew up hating livestock because of the damage they were doing. And then my university education as an ecologist reinforced my beliefs.

04:51Well, I have news for you. We were once just as certain that the world was flat. We were wrong then, and we are wrong again. And I want to invite you now to come along on my journey of reeducation and discovery.

05:14When I was a young man, a young biologist in Africa, I was involved in setting aside marvelous areas as future national parks. Now no sooner — this was in the 1950s — and no sooner did we remove the hunting, drum-beating people to protect the animals, than the land began to deteriorate, as you see in this park that we formed. Now, no livestock were involved, but suspecting that we had too many elephants now, I did the research and I proved we had too many, and I recommended that we would have to reduce their numbers and bring them down to a level that the land could sustain. Now, that was a terrible decision for me to have to make, and it was political dynamite, frankly. So our government formed a team of experts to evaluate my research. They did. They agreed with me, and over the following years,we shot 40,000 elephants to try to stop the damage. And it got worse, not better. Loving elephants as I do, that was the saddest and greatest blunder of my life, and I will carry that to my grave. One good thing did come out of it. It made me absolutely determined to devote my life to finding solutions.

06:47When I came to the United States, I got a shock, to find national parks like this one desertifying as badly as anything in Africa. And there’d been no livestock on this land for over 70 years. And I found that American scientists had no explanation for this except that it is arid and natural. So I then began lookingat all the research plots I could over the whole of the Western United States where cattle had been removed to prove that it would stop desertification, but I found the opposite, as we see on this research station, where this grassland that was green in 1961, by 2002 had changed to that situation. And the authors of the position paper on climate change from which I obtained these pictures attribute this change to “unknown processes.”

07:52Clearly, we have never understood what is causing desertification, which has destroyed many civilizations and now threatens us globally. We have never understood it. Take one square meter of soiland make it bare like this is down here, and I promise you, you will find it much colder at dawn and much hotter at midday than that same piece of ground if it’s just covered with litter, plant litter. You have changed the microclimate. Now, by the time you are doing that and increasing greatly the percentage of bare ground on more than half the world’s land, you are changing macroclimate. But we have just simply not understood why was it beginning to happen 10,000 years ago? Why has it accelerated lately? We had no understanding of that.

08:52What we had failed to understand was that these seasonal humidity environments of the world, the soil and the vegetation developed with very large numbers of grazing animals, an

Leaving for lunch ...
Leaving for lunch …

d that these grazing animalsdeveloped with ferocious pack-hunting predators. Now, the main defense against pack-hunting predators is to get into herds, and the larger the herd, the safer the individuals. Now, large herds dung and urinate all over their own food, and they have to keep moving, and it was that movement that prevented the overgrazing of plants, while the periodic trampling ensured good cover of the soil, as we see where a herd has passed.

09:47This picture is a typical seasonal grassland. It has just come through four months of rain, and it’s now going into eight months of dry season. And watch the change as it goes into this long dry season. Now, all of that grass you see aboveground has to decay biologically before the next growing season, and if it doesn’t, the grassland and the soil begin to die. Now, if it does not decay biologically, it shifts to oxidation, which is a very slow process, and this smothers and kills grasses, leading to a shift to woody vegetation and bare soil, releasing carbon. To prevent that, we have traditionally used fire. But fire also leaves the soil bare, releasing carbon, and worse than that, burning one hectare of grassland gives off more, and more damaging, pollutants than 6,000 cars. And we are burning in Africa, every single year,more than one billion hectares of grasslands, and almost nobody is talking about it. We justify the burning, as scientists, because it does remove the dead material and it allows the plants to grow.

11:20Now, looking at this grassland of ours that has gone dry, what could we do to keep that healthy? And bear in mind, I’m talking of most of the world’s land now. Okay? We cannot reduce animal numbers to rest it more without causing desertification and climate change. We cannot burn it without causingdesertification and climate change. What are we going to do? There is only one option, I’ll repeat to you, only one option left to climatologists and scientists, and that is to do the unthinkable, and to use livestock, bunched and moving, as a proxy for former herds and predators, and mimic nature. There is no other alternative left to mankind.

12:15So let’s do that. So on this bit of grassland, we’ll do it, but just in the foreground. We’ll impact it very heavily with cattle to mimic nature, and we’ve done so, and look at that. All of that grass is now covering the soil as dung, urine and litter or mulch, as every one of the gardeners amongst you would understand,and that soil is ready to absorb and hold the rain, to store carbon, and to break down methane. And we did that, without using fire to damage the soil, and the plants are free to grow.

12:55When I first realized that we had no option as scientists but to use much-vilified livestock to address climate change and desertification, I was faced with a real dilemma. How were we to do it? We’d had 10,000 years of extremely knowledgeable pastoralists bunching and moving their animals, but they had created the great manmade deserts of the world. Then we’d had 100 years of modern rain science, and that had accelerated desertification, as we first discovered in Africa and then confirmed in the United States, and as you see in this picture of land managed by the federal government. Clearly more was needed than bunching and moving the animals, and humans, over thousands of years, had never been able to deal with nature’s complexity. But we biologists and ecologists had never tackled anything as complex as this. So rather than reinvent the wheel, I began studying other professions to see if anybody had. And I found there were planning techniques that I could take and adapt to our biological need, and from those I developed what we call holistic management and planned grazing, a planning process, and that does address all of nature’s complexity and our social, environmental, economic complexity.

14:27Today, we have young women like this one teaching villages in Africa how to put their animals together into larger herds, plan their grazing to mimic nature, and where we have them hold their animals overnight — we run them in a predator-friendly manner, because we have a lot of lands, and so on — and where they do this and hold them overnight to prepare the crop fields, we are getting very great increases in crop yield as well.

14:54Let’s look at some results. This is land close to land that we manage in Zimbabwe. It has just come through four months of very good rains it got that year, and it’s going into the long dry season. But as you can see, all of that rain, almost of all it, has evaporated from the soil surface. Their river is dry despite the rain just having ended, and we have 150,000 people on almost permanent food aid. Now let’s go to our land nearby on the same day, with the same rainfall, and look at that. Our river is flowing and healthy and clean. It’s fine. The production of grass, shrubs, trees, wildlife, everything is now more productive,and we have virtually no fear of dry years. And we did that by increasing the cattle and goats 400 percent, planning the grazing to mimic nature and integrate them with all the elephants, buffalo, giraffe and other animals that we have. But before we began, our land looked like that. This site was bare and eroding for over 30 years regardless of what rain we got. Okay? Watch the marked tree and see the change as we use livestock to mimic nature. This was another site where it had been bare and eroding,and at the base of the marked small tree, we had lost over 30 centimeters of soil. Okay? And again, watch the change just using livestock to mimic nature. And there are fallen trees in there now, because the better land is now attracting elephants, etc. This land in Mexico was in terrible condition, and I’ve had to mark the hill because the change is so profound.

16:59(Applause)

17:06I began helping a family in the Karoo Desert in the 1970s turn the desert that you see on the right thereback to grassland, and thankfully, now their grandchildren are on the land with hope for the future. And look at the amazing change in this one, where that gully has completely healed using nothing but livestock mimicking nature, and once more, we have the third generation of that family on that land with their flag still flying.

17:39The vast grasslands of Patagonia are turning to desert as you see here. The man in the middle is an Argentinian researcher, and he has documented the steady decline of that land over the years as they kept reducing sheep numbers. They put 25,000 sheep in one flock, really mimicking nature now with planned grazing, and they have documented a 50-percent increase in the production of the land in the first year.

18:10We now have in the violent Horn of Africa pastoralists planning their grazing to mimic nature and openly saying it is the only hope they have of saving their families and saving their culture. Ninety-five percent of that land can only feed people from animals.

18:29I remind you that I am talking about most of the world’s land here that controls our fate, including the most violent region of the world, where only animals can feed people from about 95 percent of the land.What we are doing globally is causing climate change as much as, I believe, fossil fuels, and maybe more than fossil fuels. But worse than that, it is causing hunger, poverty, violence, social breakdown and war,and as I am talking to you, millions of men, women and children are suffering and dying. And if this continues, we are unlikely to be able to stop the climate changing, even after we have eliminated the use of fossil fuels.

19:23I believe I’ve shown you how we can work with nature at very low cost to reverse all this. We are already doing so on about 15 million hectares on five continents, and people who understand far more about carbon than I do calculate that, for illustrative purposes, if we do what I am showing you here, we can take enough carbon out of the atmosphere and safely store it in the grassland soils for thousands of years, and if we just do that on about half the world’s grasslands that I’ve shown you, we can take us back to pre-industrial levels, while feeding people. I can think of almost nothing that offers more hope for our planet, for your children, and their children, and all of humanity.

20:23Thank you.

20:27(Applause) Thank you. (Applause)

20:48Thank you, Chris.

20:50Chris Anderson: Thank you. I have, and I’m sure everyone here has, A) a hundred questions, B) wants to hug you. I’m just going to ask you one quick question. When you first start this and you bring in a flock of animals, it’s desert. What do they eat? How does that part work? How do you start?

21:09Allan Savory: Well, we have done this for a long time, and the only time we have ever had to provide any feed is during mine reclamation, where it’s 100 percent bare. But many years ago, we took the worst land in Zimbabwe, where I offered a £5 note in a hundred-mile drive if somebody could find one grass in a hundred-mile drive, and on that, we trebled the stocking rate, the number of animals, in the first year with no feeding, just by the movement, mimicking nature, and using a sigmoid curve, that principle. It’s a little bit technical to explain here, but just that.

21:48CA: Well, I would love to — I mean, this such an interesting and important idea. The best people on our blog are going to come and talk to you and try and — I want to get more on this that we could share along with the talk.AS: Wonderful.

21:59CA: That is an astonishing talk, truly an astonishing talk, and I think you heard that we all are cheering you on your way. Thank you so much.AS: Well, thank you. Thank you. Thank you, Chris.

22:09(Applause)

October ’15 #CGDT Update: Of paths, turbines, funding & drawings

The CGDT board met yesterday for its monthly meeting. We now have nine directors, with Cathy Grant and Sue Reid joining our number from the Community Council and Glendaruel Village Hall committee respectively. Also attending were all four of the CGDT staff.

Office bearers were elected. I remain chair, and Jim McLuckie as vice-chair. Colin Boyd continues with his sterling work as treasurer and Sandra Wilson will continue to be secretary for which the whole board is very grateful.

IMG_4542Our community forest development officer Eamon fed back on the way that UK government policy on renewables is making financing community wind turbine projects like ours more and more difficult. We are awaiting the outcome of the DECC consultations and whether indications that there might be help for communities bear fruit. On the ground, the met mast will be disassembled in the next couple of months. We are presently awaiting the outcome of the planning application the trust made in September.

IMG_4546More progress has been made on the paths in Stronafian by our second batch of volunteers. We’re delighted to say all seven of the first batch have gone on to build on their experience with us and found positions either in employment or apprenticeships. Eamon’s vision in this project is to be commended.

The forest also received a field visit from Kew Gardens who were adding to their collection of seeds for native flora.

Applications around improvement and extension of access are in hand, as is initial work on a larger Archaeology project.

The broadband project, now being led by Margaret, is moving forward, and we have a timetable to which we are now working. There’ll be a meeting of the steering group and Community Broadband Scotland at the beginning of November, when the trust will be able to report more. We’re hoping things will now move at pace and better broadband will be available to the community through this project in 2016.

With the granting of Development funding for the clachan project by the Big Lottery (great work from Margaret and Sara Maclean on this), the trust is moving forward with a consultation programme led by our consultants and facilitated by Sara  on the type of facility we need in the clachan. More on this is available here.

The trust received drawings of the proposed new configuration of the Colintraive Ferry slipway and parking this week, and the documents will now be available in Colintraive Village Hall. This is a great step forward. CMAL are also looking at designs for a pontoon as well.

The trust is also investigating the Old Shop premises and on the prompting of some Colintraive residents has formed a working group to help the board define what and how the ground floor area is used. The themes of health, activity and well-being are central to the discussion at this stage.

IMG_4183The Cowal Way project is progressing according to plan, and we’re increasingly confident that we will make our primary objective of becoming one of Scotland’s Great Trails. The work that Charlie and Stewart are putting in is paying great dividends. New markers will be put out in the next few weeks, and the counters are all in situ and functioning. The revamped website is close to launch and the facebook page is going well.

The trust will shortly be recruiting for a new post which will be part-time and self-employed. The position will be as general development manager and carry responsibilities for the proper administration of the trust as well as early project development. We’re really excited to receive this funding which comes in part from HIE and the Cruach Mhor Windfarm Trust. Watch out for adverts in the local papers.

We’re also going to be publishing a quarterly newsletter to be delivered to every household in the community. We are very aware that there is an appetite for more communication and this should provide everyone with at least an inkling of the progress that the trust is making on behalf of the community. This blog post is another, and will I hope provide an accessible summary of what the board has been discussing of on a monthly basis.

Lastly, the main pic, reproduced below was taken on the new paths in Stronafian, accessed above the Clachan. The woods are lovely and well worth a walk around:

IMG_4544

The minutes of the board meeting will be posted once approved next month here.

CGDT AGM Chairman’s Report for 2014-5: A Busy Year

On Sunday 13th the Colintraive and Glendaruel Development Trust held its 6th AGM. The minutes are being drafted at the moment, and we have published the year’s accounts on the CGDT website, here. You’ll also find all the pertinent documents for our various projects, including things like the forest masterplan, our planning application for wind turbines and the original CADISPA report from 2007.

If you want an alternative view of proceedings, please visit blipfoto where one of our more well known residents has a photoblog under the name Feorlean.

As the trust’s chair I was privileged to deliver the following report:

First I want to begin with some thanks, beginning with Eamon King [our Forest Development Officer] who has persisted with the Stronafian Forest project, and created something really special with access, signage and a volunteer programme, among all the other tasks he so readily and professionally accomplishes. His presentation on Stronafian for the Community Woodlands Association Annual Conference was inspiring and inspired.

Stewart Miller and Charlie Collins have kicked off the Cowal Way project with great vigour, lots of humour and great professionalism, putting in place really substantial infrastructure, both physical and virtual, and for that I know the board is very grateful.

Both these projects are running on rails, and that is also due to the work and tenacity of Margaret Shields who has been superb across the board since she joined us earlier last year. Marg’s good sense, wide management experience and people skills have progressed our agenda more than I can say. Thank you all!

The board should also thank Sara MacLean, who completed the Greener ColGlen project to great plaudits from the funder and the community. Thank you Sara for delivering two highly successful and well-run projects for the Development Trust – we’re delighted that the Growers Group have taken over the polytunnels and are going from strength to strength – I know because I follow them on Facebook! We are delighted you have found a position in Kilfinan – just the right place for us to poach you back!

After the AGM Eamon and Charlie / Stewart will fill you in on their progress, so for my report I’ll concentrate on the other things the Trust has been working on.

Local Community Broadband is moving forward – we are now in the second stage of three, which will be implemented in the coming month or so and which will give commercial companies the opportunity to tender to supply broadband to the community (excepting those areas which will be covered by BTs NGBroadband). The Development Trust will be leading this project which will cover unconnected areas in ColGlen, North Bute and Tighnabruaich and Kilfinan. There’ll be public meetings when we know more of the detail.

As for the Clachan of Glendaruel and the hotel. We are awaiting approval for Development Funding to take this project forward. What we have in view is a community consultation, design and business planning stage to encapsulate what it is the clachan needs. Part of this will be to assess the Hotel’s suitability as a community and visitor hub – and the community’s views will be sought and inform the final recommendation of the consultants we’ll be commissioning to do the work. The opportunity here is not only to provide facilities we have missed since the hotel closed, but a visitor centre for the Cowal Way and Stronafian Forest …

Our renewables projects also deserve a mention here as well. The hydro project we were considering for the burns near Duiletter has been put on indefinite hold as the economic case did not stack up.  

And as you will have gathered we recently submitted a planning application for two turbines on the Forest. The application will go to committee shortly. We’re hopeful that the council will see that this project is one which will enable the trust and the community to take some significant strides forward over the next twenty years, strides which will make ColGlen more self-sustaining, more resilient to change and a better place to live with better services.

Of course the wind turbines will not deliver all of these outcomes by themselves, but if consented, and if built, our community will be significantly better off. I say ‘if’ because of course, planning consent notwithstanding, over the last week or so the UK government has dealt what many consider to be a mortal blow to new community windfarm projects like ours. We will look again at the figures if consent is given, and move forward only if this project looks viable at a level which will deliver significant long-term benefit to Colintraive and Glendaruel.

We have other projects which we hope to bring forward this year. Re-engaging with the idea of a pontoon or jetty is on the cards, particularly given the manifest success of the facility in Strachur.  We’ll be looking at the archaeology of Glendaruel, in particular as it relates to new finds in the forest. The ideas of crofting and woodlots have not vanished either, and are on the agenda, as are coordinated projects with Kilfinan Forest and Bute. We’ll report back when each becomes more solid, but in the meantime, you’ll find updated minutes on the hall boards every month, as well as all our publications and documents on our websites. We’re hoping to publish a quarterly report as well for general consumption in the community. Possibly this autumn / winter.

If it has crossed your mind in the last year to ask, what do they think they are doing? Or why haven’t they done that? Or just who do they think they are? Then perhaps you should consider using that desire for answers in a more structured way, and join the board. We have vacancies and we appreciate new questions – and ideas of course. The commitment is a meeting most months, with the possibility of more involvement if you wish.

Lastly, I want to pay tribute to all of the board who have worked tirelessly at their various responsibilities over the year – I’m not going to make special mention of anyone, except perhaps Jim who has been tireless – tireless – working with Stewart and Charlie on the Cowal Way. And Sandra obviously, who has delivered HR, Health and Safety and diligence to the paperwork side of board meetings. And Michael for his services to the publication of the newsletter *next year* as well as the Cowal Way. And John for his expertise in the automotive and high finance fields in particular. And Colin for pursuing the trust finances with proper and due diligence. And of course Alex without whom we wouldn’t have a clue what the council were up to … or why. 

With that done, and a hefty nod of appreciation to Bill Carlow who remains co-opted to the trust for renewables matters and whose acute sense of business has been highly valued, I’d finally like to thank you all for coming to the AGM and invite a few, but only a few, questions before we move on.

Thanks.

Path at Stronafian Forest: First stage in the Community Woodland

This is yesterday in Stronafian Forest at the southern end. Our Project Officer Eamon King and his volunteers from Dunoon Help and Glendaruel have been working for a while now on our ongoing access project. The path takes walkers from the main forestry road onto a uneven, and very varied bluff which extends some 400 yards south and provides a lovely view of Loch Riddon, Bute and Tighnabruaich.

The team are now working on the access above the Clachan which will create paths in and around the lovely deciduous woodlands which contain some very interesting neolithic remains – all in time for the upcoming CWA conference.

Extraordinary Ecosystem change: Can Pine Martens control Grey Squirrels to the benefit of the Reds?

Another one of those thought-provoking ecosystem observations, this time from Ireland, which if taken up could see the grey tree rats exiled from these islands altogether. I kid you not!

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/jan/30/how-to-eradicate-grey-squirrels-without-firing-a-shot-pine-martens

Something perhaps to consider and debate with the community forest at Stronafian …

Should it be Grey or Gray – given the source of these pests? I am not sure …

Cowal Way gets £330K grant: A major funding award for CGDT

Delighted to finally post about something we have known about for quite a while now. The application to the Coastal Communities Fund has been successful. Between them, Jim McLuckie and Margaret have created a £330K project which will see the Cowal Way propelled to its rightful status as one of Scotland’s Great trails. CGDT will be recruiting and employing a project manager and a path ranger – details to be published at the CGDT website on or before Friday.

This project has been in gestation for a long time now and illustrates how far in advance the Trust has to work. This project began with the incorporation of the Cowal Way into CGDT in early 2013, was moved on significantly by the study our TSIS intern Catriona Phillips produced later that year (Catriona also created the CowalWay website), and really only came to fruition with Margaret and Jim’s input into the CCF application over the last 8 months. A huge effort by all and well worth it!

Here’s the official Press Release:

Colintraive and Glendaruel Development Trust (CGDT) has just received the welcome news that its funding application to the Coastal Communities Fund for the Cowal Way, has been successful.

An award of some £330,000 has been made to the Trust to manage, market and upgrade the Way – the long distance footpath that runs the length of the Cowal Peninsula from Portavadie on Loch Fyne to Inveruglas on Loch Lomond.
The Way links the communities of Tighnabruaich, Glendaruel, Strachur, Lochgoilhead and Arrochar, each with its own heritage, scenery and tourism related businesses, and the Trustees of the CGDT agreed two years ago to take on the whole of the route as a tourism project for the area.
CGDT Trustee, James McLuckie said the Trust is delighted with the award and looks forward to the Cowal Way becoming a real economic asset to the area.
The first steps in the project will be for the Trust to employ both a Project Manager and a Path Ranger  for up to two years with the aim of upgrading the Cowal Way to the standard required for inclusion as one of Scotland’s Great Trails (SGT).  Achieving this will complete the SGT link from the Mull of Kintyre (Kintyre Way) to Fort William and beyond (West Highland Way) and achieving the classification of SGT should greatly increase the footfall on the Way .

Both employment posts will be advertised from this week, on line and in the local press (see adverts in this paper) with the aim of starting employment by March and beginning route improvements in the Spring.

” … thanks to the IPCC, no one will ever be able to say they weren’t warned.”

… about Climate Change. This is one of the reasons why I joined the Scottish Greens. And the IPCC report is by its very nature conservative according to Bill McKibben who I quote in the title of this post.

What are you going to do?

Here’s the headline article in the Guardian this morning.

CGDT AGM: Chairman’s Report

For those of you who weren’t able to make the CGDT AGM, there’ll be a full report on the CGDT website in due course, but for now, below is the text of my report to the membership yesterday in Colintraive:

This year has been an extremely busy one for the trust, so I don’t intend to dwell on detail so much as outline where things now are across the full width of our activity. Sara and Eamon will be making presentations on Greener ColGlen and the forest respectively later.

First I’ll talk about our projects, then our interactions at policy level and finally the work we have done this year on governance and administration of the trust.

But before I do that I’d just like to pay tribute to Rhona Sutherland who retired this last Christmas. Rhona made a huge and indelible contribution to the trust’s development and therefore to this community. As a mark of the value on which we placed her work, the board will be naming a viewpoint in the Forest for Rhona as recognition that without her work we wouldn’t have been able to make the acquisition as well as to mark her enduring contribution across the board.

And I should also say, that Nikki Brown and Mark Chambers also left us. We’re  delighted to report that Nikki has moved onto a more senior full-time post at Kilfinan – and we wish her all the best in her new position – and of course we wish Mark the best of luck too.

We’d also like to welcome Eamon King, Margaret Shields to their first AGM – both of whom have become, or I am sure will become key to our ongoing success as a trust. 

So, this first full year of work on the forest has yielded some great progress. We now have a master plan and consequently we are now much clearer on access to the forest, and how we’ll improve this for the community and public at large. We have viable wind and hydro projects which we are pursuing. The archaeology group have developed some really key relationships with the wider academic archaeology community as well as completed some excellent survey work. We have progressed the crofting part of the project, and some intriguing and possibly ground-breaking developments have resulted. Our relationship with tenant and forest management has been consolidated, particularly in the last few weeks.

For Greener Colglen the growing project is really taking shape. We are delighted to see the polytunnels erected and the fit out of both nearly complete. This despite some difficulties with the supplier. The composting project is taking shape and the rhododendron project will be progressed over the next six months. These three elements of the project will now have three / four new personnel working on them part-time. Sara has been running the project in an exemplary fashion which we have particularly appreciated over the last year – so thank you Sara for your continuing efforts.

Still in development, with applications and paperwork being processed are the projects around the Glendaruel Hotel building, the Cowal Way, Local Community Broadband as well as a footbridge in Colintraive and other sundry initiatives. We’ve also been able to support applications and initiatives in the community, for example providing expertise for the Glendaruel Village Hall application.

While all this work on the ground and in the community has been progressing, we have continued to ensure our profile as a community has been maintained in community development circles.

As chair I have been a member of a panel on a Scottish Government Policy initiative on Community Benefit as well as reporting to the Cross Partyy Group on Scottish Power, Renewables and Energy, Environment at Holyrood. As a Board we have been most concerned at the effects of Government advice on State Aid and the de minimise regulations and therefore have applied pressure on government and the civil service to adjust their advice to benefit community organisations like ours. Margaret in particular has pursued this issue. Progress is happening, albeit at an incremental level. This year also, the Land Reform Review Group has been consulting and we have made our views known, particularly with regard to the Community Right to Buy legislation which we feel could be improved markedly. Furthermore we have interacted at regional and national level with government and agencies around climate change – in the continuing Are You Ready project – as well as around crofting, community woodlands and the Forestry Commission. Sara as project officer is also member of the Steering Group of Scottish Communities Climate Action Network which may lead into participation as a case study for research into Community-led sustainability projects.

You might ask why this work is important – well, it means that when we make applications for funding, when we approach difficulties as a community like school closures, when we have to interact with various governmental and non-governmental agencies, we have a track record, a reputation – for getting things done – for inputting at the highest levels. Given the ways the Scottish Government is presently seeking to empower communities this is highly important work for our community. Indeed, we have repeatedly benefitted from this, not least in our purchase of the forest, but also the second phase of our Climate Challenge Fund projects. We are particularly delighted to be working on a close basis with the Community Council to whom we make a report at every meeting.

In all this activity we are now employing, on full-time or part-time basis, 7 people and we have a board of 6. Given our expanding role as an employer we have this year instituted a full suite of governance and employment paperwork – much of it produced by director Sandra Wilson on a voluntary basis. This provides us with a secure basis for moving forward – and all of these documents, like everything else, are available on our website. As part of this we’re putting together a register of interest, for members of the local community to let us know what skills they have which they would be willing to contribute either voluntarily or as a contractor. There are forms available today to sign up, and when we have contracts or volunteer schemes we need to fill, this list will be our first point of contact.

We have also had to be innovative in our use of project funds to spread the employment benefit across as many positions as possible. Over the last 6 months Colin Boyd our treasurer has worked with Margaret, and also Bill Carlow, to bring about a thorough-going review of our financial systems – work which has ensured our financial position is now more that ever thoroughly documented to the highest standards. But it is in the field of finance that one of our major tasks has arisen. The Development Trust has to find core funding in order to continue delivering the benefits we’ve been so successful at securing these last 5 years.

Renewables, wind, biomass and hydro, Community Broadband, Crofts, Woodlots and other initiatives are all aimed at eventually putting together an income for the trust which will employ more than our present 7 and create real economic benefit in the local community – attracting people to live here and therefore ensuring our services are maintained. This has to be our focus. As a community we are very good at delivering individual projects – for example the play park, the shinty clubhouse, the summer activity school – but these have depended in part on Windfarm funding, and this funding will eventually cease. We need to be prepared for that, and this year, I would argue we have made significant strides in ensuring we will have sufficient levels of income within the next three years.

Of course Governance, Administration, Consultations, Employment, Staff welfare, Recruitment, Board Meetings and all the other sundry tasks associated with running a successful Development Trust take time, much of which, as you may have gathered, is contributed on a voluntary basis by the directors. There has been much negative chat this year about the trust and its standing within the community – consequently it has been difficult at times for us to maintain focus and deliver on the mandate the community gave us at our inaugural meeting. We have persisted and will continue to do so trusting that the majority of the community recognise the effort and thought which we apply to our work as an organisation. On behalf of the members of the trust I want to thank all of the directors and our staff this year for their efforts, their frankness and above all their tireless enthusiasm without which I am sure we wouldn’t have got so far, thank you.

CGDT recruiting 3 posts for our fabulous Greener ColGlen Project

Sara has done a great job reconfiguring the project requirements for  Greener GolGlen  and we’re able to recruit for three people which is a great result.

Exciting opportunities to work on this Climate Challenge Funded project.   Suit either self-employed or PAYE candidates for immediate start.

 To support the development and delivery of the activities and outcomes of the Project….

  • PROJECT SUPPORT OFFICER – Part-time, 16 hours p/w – £756 pcm (gross salary), until 31st March 2015.  Download Job Description here…Greener ColGlen Support Officer 

And to help set up the Community Growing and Composting at the Polytunnels….

  • SITE DEVELOPMENT WORKER – 35 hours p/w – £10hr, for 6 weeks.  Download Job description here… Site Development Worker
  • SITE ASSISTANT (ideal student summer holiday job) 30 hours p/w – £6.50hr, for 4 weeks.  Download Job Description here… Site Assistant

Alternatively, for job descriptions please email info@cgdt.org or phone 01700 841 358 during office hours.

Then please send your up-to-date CV and covering letter to Greener ColGlen JOBS @ CGDT, The Village Hall, Colintraive PA22 3AS.  Or by email to info@cgdt.org

The image above is the newly installed Polytunnel by the ColGlen shinty pitch.

No ordinary stone: Cathy’s photo survey of the Lephinkil Stone shows up Cups & Rings

The CGDT Archaeology Group had a great weekend with the ACCORD Project surveying some of ColGlen’s archaeological remains. While we work up a full report for the CGDT website, here’s an idea of the type of output we were managing.

Below are screengrabs of the Lephinkil stone as surveyed by Cathy on Sunday in the midges.

The first is the view in colour, which shows how difficult it is to read these artefacts sometimes, and the second, in the lavender colour shows the cup features across the righthandside of the stone.

lephinkil-2

lephinkil-1During the surveys, which included three RTIs, Mhairi identified a ring around the 5th cup from the top, which I think Cathy caught on her photographic survey – see below:mhairis-ringedcup

Plaudits to Eamon who spotted to the stone on the solstice!

Oh, and the featured image is Cathy taking the survey with all the rest of us looking on!