Friday, 6 September 2019

Questions (1365)

Margaret Murphy O'Mahony


1365. Deputy Margaret Murphy O'Mahony asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his views on whether the knowledge transfer course associated with the rural communities forestry programme is adequately assessed in circumstances in which points were assigned as opposed to issues such as geographical location or age profile; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34727/19]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The Forestry Knowledge Transfer Scheme was developed as part of the Forestry Programme 2014-2020, with the aim of improving knowledge of forest management amongst the 20,000 private forest landowners in the country. A pilot scheme in was held 2017 and, following its success, the scheme was formally launched in 2018, with over 600 forest owners participating. This year, 18 organisers have been approved for a total of 37 Forestry KT groups comprising over 700 participant forest owners.

The scheme is voluntary and it is up to potential organisers themselves to decide if they wish to host a group or groups. Organisers may apply to host up to five groups and their applications are scored to ensure they meet a minimum standard, that the applicant organisers can show that they have the required experience to host a KTG and that they understand the requirements of the scheme, rather than their location.

The next step is to consider the total cumulative cost of funding all the applications. Where the total cost is below the available budget, then the organisers who have met the minimum score are invited to submit applications for all their requested groups. If the total budget is exceeded, an allocation protocol applies. This allocation process is set out in the Scheme terms and conditions, reducing the allocation of those organisers who requested five groups to four and so on until all organisers receive an allocation of at least one group.

Applications for the 2019 Scheme were of a very high standard. Following the scoring and allocation process, I was very pleased to allocate a total of 37 groups to organisers based in locations around the country.