Teagasc Ballyhaise College welcomes Ukrainian refugees

Fifty Ukrainian refugees are housed on the Teagasc Ballyhaise Agricultural College campus.

With the refugee crisis unfolding in Ukraine and across Europe, Teagasc decided to work with Cavan County Council and donate the two unused residential homes and two student accommodations. With the help of local contractors and staff volunteering, the buildings were made available.

Teagasc Ballyhaise College principal John Kelly told the Independent of agriculture“We had a lot of empty accommodation on campus, so I decided to have a discussion with the director of Teagasc, Professor Frank O’Mara, about the possibility of making these rooms available to those fleeing the war.

“The first of the refugees arrived on March 25 and their numbers have been growing ever since.

“The real success of what happened in Ballyhaise is how the local community and local services came together with remarkable compassion and efficiency.

“Having our guests come so early in the crisis meant that many national supports and processes were in their infancy, meaning there was a lot of uncertainty and unanswered questions at all levels.

“From receiving the initial appeal from IPAS, which is the international accommodation protection service charged with the colossal task of finding emergency accommodation, on Friday 25th March until now, remarkable progress have been made in the integration of our visitors to Co Cavan.”

Ballyhaise is not the only agricultural college responding to the crisis, with Teagasc College in Clonakilty, Co Cork, and the private college in Pallaskenry, Co Limerick, also opening their doors to take in refugees from Ukraine.

The majority of refugees in Ballyhaise are young women, some with children, and men over 60.

“There was a pinch point around St. Patrick’s Day weekend, and that’s when the Ballyhaise facilities were put into action,” Mr Kelly continued.

“The vast majority of our new residents do not speak English, with only 5% speaking fluently. It has been difficult for those who do not speak English to find work or jobs they have been trained for at home.

“Those with a good level of English have been able to find work in the hotel industry. There is no pressure on them to leave Ballyhaise; we also have plenty of accommodation to look after our own students.

Although none of the refugees came from an agricultural background, they have now found themselves at the center of dairy research.

A group of 12 Ukrainians will be holding a booth, showcasing their culture, during the Ballyhaise ’22 Dairy Open Day, which will take place on Wednesday July 13.

The theme for this year’s event is ‘Futureproofing Irish Dairying’. The Ballyhaise team will highlight the various technologies and practices available to farmers to support future farm profitability and sustainability.

“A cornerstone of the latest research here at Ballyhaise is the inclusion of clover in all turfs. Everything is going very well so far,” Mr Kelly said.

“There were a few issues, but we are learning.

“The plan is to reseed the entire farm within the next three years. We are already seeing a reduction in the demand for artificial nitrogen.

“Teagasc has been researching clover at farm level in Clonakilty since 2012. Our job is to see how it performs on the soil and weather conditions in Cavan.

About Keneth T. Graves

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