THE recommendations in the Iaith y Pridd (Language of the Land) report, published this week by Farming Connect, will be shared with Welsh Government and considered as part of proposals for the Welsh Government’s new Sustainable Farming Scheme.
The new scheme will help to support the long-term resilience of rural Welsh-speaking communities by ensuring the land can continue to be farmed sustainably in the future.
Eirwen Williams, director of rural services with Menter a Busnes, which together with Lantra Wales delivers Farming Connect on behalf of the Welsh Government and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development, said today:
“The ‘Iaith Y Pridd’ report sets out some of the measures that could help the agricultural community in Wales contribute towards the Welsh Government’s Welsh language strategy Cymraeg 2050: A million Welsh speakers.”
Mrs Williams said that grass-roots evidence was collected from both Welsh speakers and non-Welsh speakers from rural areas throughout Wales.
“Our aim was to involve as many individuals and families living, working and studying in rural areas as we could because it is an undisputed fact that family farms are a significant part of Welsh society and culture, which is why they need to be protected.
“Everyone was asked what they were doing at a personal level to support the Welsh language and for their views on Welsh language activities and opportunities which take place within their communities.”
The research involved farmers and foresters registered with Farming Connect as well as representatives from some of the key agricultural stakeholder organisations in Wales including the National Farmers Union, Farmers’ Union of Wales, Wales YFC and the agricultural colleges.
“Every individual was given the opportunity to voice their opinions, to answer questions honestly and openly and in many cases confidentially, in what has proved to be a very valuable information-gathering project,” said Mrs Williams.
The findings were sought through a number of research mechanisms ranging from an online questionnaire to face to face meetings, attendance at agricultural shows, facilitated focus groups and an ‘agri booth’ set up at last year’s Royal Welsh Show and the National Eisteddfod of Wales. The survey focused on activities which support farms, the environment and rural communities which all have an important role in terms of safeguarding and promoting the use of the Welsh language.
Many respondents believed that the structure and implementation of farm subsidies were vitally important in order to support and develop the Welsh language. There was a general consensus that providing support for family farm businesses enables families and young people to remain in rural areas which automatically leads to thriving schools, businesses, communities and in turn, supporting the long-term sustainability of the Welsh language.
The planning system was a key discussion topic for many participants. It was felt that support for farm diversification enterprises and rural initiatives as needed. Facilitating the building of new homes on farms, particularly in areas where there is a demand for second homes have pushed up property prices, could do much to help stem the outward migration of young people from rural communities. The case was also made for the planning system to protect the historical importance of Welsh place names, ensuring that the language and local heritage remained visible to local residents and visitors.
The YFC Movement was recognised as being the vanguard in supporting the Welsh language in rural communities and for also taking the language to non-Welsh-speaking communities through clubs and structures already in place. It was felt additional support was needed for Welsh-speaking leisure activities for those outside the YFC age bracket.
Consideration of how Welsh education could contribute to the overall agenda of promoting the use of the Welsh language flagged up a range of opportunities, including the provision of Welsh lessons with agricultural themes and setting up ‘conversation groups’ to encourage Welsh learners to develop a ‘twinning’ system, supporting rural schools and providing post-16 agricultural education through the medium of Welsh.
Mrs Williams said that the Iaith y Pridd report provides a clear and firm context to the challenges and opportunities facing the Welsh language and the industry which does so much to support it.
“By casting the net wide, a number of different voices were brought together from across Wales, from different rural backgrounds and age-groups.
“The true wealth of this report is the individual voices which have combined to create, validate and reinforce the findings and recommendations contained within it.
“This report is not the end of the journey, rather, if we are to help reach the target set of reaching a million Welsh speakers by 2050, it is a strong start for an even wider discussion within the agricultural industry and its communities.”