Since Covid the work of our group has expanded and intensified, thankyou Vegware. As soon as Covid struck we organised a facebook to support local self help. It grew to over 300 members, helping volunteers meet the needs of neighbours, sharing worries, information, ideas and tips, inspiration and care. We then organised a zoom meeting for all the coordinators of volunteering groups around the county. This developed into a weekly zoom which we all looked forward to, lasting through the epidemic spike and lockdown. During the later meetings we talked about how we wanted to emerge from Covid to a different future. This gave rise to some huge online meetings to discuss community resilience, food and farming etc: There were 3 in Pembrokeshire, one in Ceredigion and one in Powys. The Ceredigion one was hosted by XR Cardigan and Elin Jones MS, the Llywydd or chair of our Welsh parliament. We had the 2 big farming unions among 7 speakers, all for 5 minutes or less, then we broke into small groups to discuss how to achieve a sustainable farming future in the county. It was a ground breaking event for all taking part. 155 people attended. The 17 break out groups produced 14 pages of notes. Each break-out had a facilitator and note taker, we tried to train them in the XR ethos for peoples assemblies. The ethos has 3 pillars – Radical Inclusion so every voice is included, Active Listening so people leave behind their own ideas and dedicate their attention to whoever is speaking, and Trust, trusting your voice will be heard and the right answers will come from the wisdom of the hive.

Guess what, it worked!

There were mix of people including mainstream farmers and environmentalists in each of the 17 break-out groups. Instead of arguing, people bared their souls and shared their pain and hopes, as a result creative and varied proposals emerged. We have summarised them and try to use this to influence policy in Wales. Talks and seminars on different ways to farm continue, and are over-subscribed. One proposal was for more land for community growing and farming. We are working on this now.

During all of this we formed a new organisation: Rhwydwaith meets weekly. There is a linked Resilience network for the N.E. of the county. Rhwydwaith (Welsh for network) asked the County Council (PCC) for a list of the land they own, with a view to asking for some for community growing. Instead they asked us to neet us and suggested we apply to run the county’s allotments. We researched the existing allotments and found a sad story of neglect and long long waiting lists, the numbers exceed all the plots available, waiting for years. Some of the people we spoke to were galvanised into starting a facebook group for those wanting allotments and have joined our organisation to help meet the demand for land for people to feed themselves and their community.
Meanwhile numbers waiting for allotments have soared, there are many more waiting than the entire number of plots in the county. In response to our campaign some formed a facebook group for those waiting. 70 people quickly joined. Fortunately we have meetings lined up with the Council, and hope to find new land in time for next spring. A very different strand is an attempt to help families suffering the forced removal of their children by Social Services. This is a hidden tragedy causing unbelievable suffering. In Pembrokeshire a shaft of light has struck this global pit which most walk past unaware. The head of social services has drafted a charter to change the culture of his staff and learn from mistakes. He has met with their victims who praise his action in taking this step.