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Social project gives refugee Syrian olive farmers a chance to share skills



Syrian farmers Abdul and Faisal

Syrian farmers Abdul and Faisal

With Anna Dixon

With Anna Dixon


Syrian farmers Abdul and Faisal

For two olive farmers from Syria far away from home, integrating into the rural town of Claremorris, Co Mayo, wouldn't appear to be easy.

But a social farming project has given Abdul and Faisal a chance to work and exchange skills with local farmers.

Both men and their families, including grandchildren, resettled in Claremorris under a scheme run by the Government in partnership with UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency.

After their move to the Co Mayo town, the two men were offered a chance to do a placement under a scheme called Social Farming in Ireland.

According to Brian Smyth, deputy CEO and national project manager for Social Farming in Ireland, the language barrier was soon overcome, thanks to Google Translate.

Through the project, the Dixon family opened up their organic farm to a 10-week placement for both men.

They found a place to live and their grandchildren were sent to school nearby, and the two men started working on the farm last October.

An interpreter, Google Translate and some sign language between Abdul, Faisal and Irish farmers ensured understanding between all.

As well as taking care of apple trees, Abdul and Faisal helped feed cattle, cut firewood and tend to plants.

According to Brian, it was not an employment placement, but a personal connection that allowed people to develop.

The programme is not restricted to refugees, and social farming has been developing for a while, with this project funded by the Department of Agriculture under the Commission for the Economic Development of Rural Areas for the past four years.

"This project arose out of a previous project, with a cross-Border piloted project on 20 farms," he said.

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There are 60 farms in Ireland taking people on placements through Social Farming and 60 more farmers are being trained to join the process.

Those who will be able to avail of the placements include the long-term unemployed, refugees, people with disabilities and people in recovery.

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