CELT - Centre for Environmental Living & Training

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CELT - Centre for Environmental Living & Training: Eco-skills to Regenerate Rural Ireland

Loughrea, IrelandTuamgraney, Ireland
Year Founded:
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Project Stage:
$10,000 - $50,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

To develop a woodland site as a Centre of Excellence offering weekend training events, 1-day skills workshops and exhibitions in environmental conservation, traditional skills, ecology and sustainable living. Focus on native trees, woodland management and agroforestry : replicable models.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if communities everywhere managed their own woodlands, skills centres and agroforestry projects ?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Rural Ireland needs regeneration. Conventional farming and forestry fail to adapt. Farming adheres to beef and dairy whilst forestry (lowest tree-cover in EU) is still embedded in monoculture non-native softwood plantations (for declining paper and building industries). Tourism is showing improvement as eco-tourism grows in popularity. This needs investment and these 3 sectors need to be linked, combining tradition with technology and new ideas.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Create a Centre of Excellence in Woodland Management, Agroforestry and Traditional Skills based on an eco-crafts village (near to accommodation facilities). Sheltered workshop areas will feature a range of traditional and ecological skills taught by professional tutors. Other training to focus on creation of different woodland and agroforestry systems as replicable models - including traditional coppice-regime woodland, silvo-pasture and silvo-arable systems. Training aimed at landowners, farmers, gardeners, students. Can become a tourism attraction linking to other eco projects. In time, thousands of people could be employed in their own localities creating new woodlands, agroforestry projects and skills training centres nationwide.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

CELT partnership with Tuamgraney Development Association, Clare County Council and Woodland League has developed a valuable resource in the Tuamgraney Woodland Wildlife Park. We manage the site primarily for biodiversity but also as an educational resource and public amenity. Local people have benefitted from taking part in wildlife surveys, woodland management skills and nature walks. Local craftspersons have taught and exhibited their skills. Fences, footpaths and a bird-hide were installed and local schoolchildren planted new native trees where we had extracted non-natives. The project has a website we are now doing a second survey to show changes in biodiversity. The local economy has benefitted from visiting trainees and tourists.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

Tuamgraney Wildlife Park was one of the first local biodiversity projects in Ireland and has caught the attention of the media. It was visited by a number of prominent environmentalists including author / presenter Diana Beresford-Kreuger. CELT + local people helped prepare a village Biodiversity Plan. We are now doing a 'state-of-the-art' 3-D tree survey supported by IT company Treemetrics which will attract further media coverage and we are in the process of a second overall biodiversity survey to compare with one done in 2008. This project achieved 2nd place in Pride of Place competition 2014. CELT has developed a national reputation for traditional skills with Weekend in the Hills events now twice per year at Slieve Aughty Centre, Loughrea. Other associated work has included development of 3 small agroforestry sites in the locality where we have run introductory courses.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

Given adequate support and ideally a larger or extended site, within 5 years we would expect to have a busy Centre of Excellence providing training in a range of ecological and traditional skills for more than 1000 people per annum. There would also be an outreach programme taking skills to other regions and an associated schools programme. In 5 - 10 years new centres replicating this could be set up in other regions and hundreds of communities and landowners can be benefitting from their own woodland and agroforestry projects. Local cooperatives could be created to maximise this potential.

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

A key element of the project is that it can feasibly become self-supporting within a few years. Trainees will be charged a reasonable fee. Also there will be fees for consultation to help other communities. Volunteer workers will be attracted to help reduce expenditure on general project management and labour. Within a few years, crops, livestock and timber from agroforestry and managed woodlands will provide additional on-going income.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Irish Seedsavers Association, County Clare, and Organic Centre, Leitrim, offer various training courses in ecological and traditional skills but their focus is on fruit trees and organic vegetables and herbs, whereas we are focussing on native woodlands and agroforestry. Fruit trees may be a component of agroforestry but we want to show the importance of a diversity of trees, including native species, to give a range of benefits. Also, they do not have the eco-crafts village set up and appropriate linked accommodation facilities that we envisage with our proposed site in County Galway.

Founding Story

Myself and a fellow dry-stone-waller and wildlife enthusiast were working on a school project and realised that we were two of many like-minded and traditional crafts people in the region. We agreed that it would be good to start a focus-group to share skills and develop opportunities. We were aware of the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) in Wales and came up with the acronym CELT for Centre for Environmental Living & Training to be an Irish initiative. We drew up a list of aims, called a meeting (25 participants) and started to develop the concept. We sourced help to create a charity and company limited by guarantee, then we sourced funding. Heritage Council funded a skills demo event followed with bi-annual training events.


4 directors - a school teacher, an accountant, an architect / eco-builder and a leisure centre owner / manager - all voluntary advisors Coordinator (myself) - qualified in environmental management + nature conservation : part-time and voluntary Others p/t + voluntary : Finance Officer / Administrator Biodiversity projects manager (and woodland specialist) Traditional skills training manager Tree nursery and agroforestry manager IT manager
About You
CELT - Centre for Environmental Living and Training
About You
First Name


Last Name


About Your Project
Organization Name

CELT - Centre for Environmental Living and Training

How long has your organization been operating?

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Organization Country

, CL, Tuamgraney

Country where this project is creating social impact

, GW, Loughrea

Funding: How is your project financial supported?

Individuals, NGOs, Regional government, National government, Customers.

Awards: What awards or honors has the project received?

Heritage Council awards for traditional skills : 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, for biodiversity project 2014.
AONTAS (National Association of Adult Education) Star Award 2007 - Special Commendation
Green Communities Award 2013 - 2nd place (eco-communities section)
Pride of Place Award 2014 - 2nd place (eco-communities section)

Where have you learnt about the competition?

Membership of The Wheel community & voluntary organisation

Tell us about your partnerships:

Since 2001 with Muintir na Coille (Irish Coppice Association) delivering traditional skills training.
Since 2004 : Woodland League promoting native woodlands and woodland management skills.
Since 2005 : Irish Environmental Network - with up to 26 NGOs on projects, exhibitions.
Since 2006 : Tuamgraney Development Association - managing Community Woodland Wildlife Park
Since 2011 : Slieve Aughty Centre - traditional skills training events

Challenges: What challenges might hinder the success of your project and how do you plan to overcome them?

The site needs groundworks and deer-fencing before new trees and crops can be planted. There is limited space to demonstrate different systems of woodland management and agroforestry. We will carefully design the site before doing necessary works to get maximum benefit from all available space with minimum effort. We propose to acquire use of other sites in the locality to develop different woodland management and agroforestry systems. Funds and volunteers must be sourced to help set up the project. Local landowners will be encouraged to participate.


Bob Wilson's picture

I believe that this is the kind of project that rural Ireland needs if we are to stop the DEgeneration and start the REgeneration. Native woodlands and agroforestry, together with traditional skills supported by modern technology can make vibrant communities in a beautiful countryside. Along with local organic food, walking & cycling routes and scenic drives, this can make a major tourism attraction. The whole rural economy can be boosted whilst caring for the environment. Reliance on market forces that trouble existing conventional agriculture and forestry will be a thing of the past. Renewable wood energy will heat homes and businesses - no need for destructive fracking and reliance on oil... CELT have made a good start, now we need support to make the real impact and prove that this can work.