New research project to examine the well-being impact of Roscommon-led community initiative

Corracreigh Group Water Scheme manager, Thomas Rushe, next to a ‘Let it Bee’ beehive.

The Irish Research Council (IRC) is funding an exciting Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) study, which will measure the well-being impact of the award-winning ‘Let it Bee’ community project since its launch in County Roscommon.

The ‘Let it Bee’ project was launched in 2020 by Roscommon group water schemes involved in a national drinking water source protection project. Funded by the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, the project saw 17 farming families get involved in the art of beekeeping. The initiative provided bees, equipment and mentorship to each family and aims to educate local communities about the link between biodiversity and the protection of drinking water sources, along with the dangers of pesticides to both. Its success has seen the National Federation of Group Water Schemes (NFGWS) since extend the initiative to counties Mayo and Cavan.

The project encourages environmentally-friendly actions in group water scheme (GWS) source catchments/zones of contribution, which can lead to improvements in water quality in the rivers, lakes and groundwater, along with the added benefits of biodiversity enhancement and carbon capture.

The environmental impacts of the project were recognised at European level when it won the European Landowners’ Organisation’s European Bee Award 2020.

What is less known however, is the impact that the project has had on the wellbeing of the families and communities involved. This will be the focus of the new RSCI study, led by Dr Jolanta Burke. Commenting on the project, Dr Burke said:

‘This is a significant development for 'Let it Bee' and similar biodiversity projects. If our findings show the biodiversity project's positive impact on well-being, in the future, we will be able to design interventions that simultaneously improve our environment and mental health. This way, we can contribute meaningfully to the government's mental health, wellbeing, and climate strategy. This multidisciplinary approach will make our objectives of building ‘healthy environment and mind’ stronger.’

Members of Corracreigh GWS, County Roscommon, are among those who have participated in Let it Bee. Speaking about the research project, the group water scheme’s manager, Thomas Rushe, said:

‘It is great to see a project that started on the Corracreigh Group Water Scheme being viewed from an environmental and a wellbeing perspective. The Let it Bee project has raised awareness of the importance of biodiversity across our entire landscape as part of our efforts to protect our water sources.’

Thomas was also keen to highlight other community initiatives that Corracreigh GWS has championed:

‘We recently involved people in Roscommon mental health services workshops in manufacturing wild bee hotels, which we distributed to members of our GWS. These hotels have served as way to involve our entire community in the protection of water quality and pollinators. This project was made possible by the continued support of Roscommon County Council, the NFGWS and local Health Service Executive (HSE) staff.’

Neighbouring Mid-Roscommon GWS was also instrumental in developing the ‘I’ve planted a tree and my garden is pesticide free’ programme, which provides native trees and educational materials to schoolchildren. To date, the programme has been responsible for the planting of over 15,000 native trees across many different counties.

Catherine Finlay, Rural Water Liaison Officer in Roscommon County Council, added:

‘The Roscommon-based national groundwater source protection pilot project is a great example of what can be achieved when local authorities work in partnership with local communities. We have a very positive relationship with the group water scheme sector. The environmental impacts of the Let It Bee programme are documented, and we are looking forward to seeing the wellbeing impacts for the beekeepers and their communities.’