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New project aims to record true-life stories of rural Swansea

A new project aimed at creating an oral history of the lives, and mental health experiences of those working on the land has been launched in Swansea.

gower scenic generic

The Mental Health and Oral Histories project aims to raise awareness of existing support for the agricultural sector and land-based workers in rural Swansea and new resources.

The project's been put together by Swansea Rural Development Partnership Local Area Group (LAG). Along with farming support, partners want to strengthen and support agricultural communities and create a resilient rural Swansea and increase health and wellbeing.

Membership of the LAG has been widened to include more agricultural representation and this has provided a clearer understanding of the needs and challenges faced by of our farming communities in Swansea.

The project will provide the opportunity for farmers and agricultural workers to talk about the heritage of farming in rural Swansea, about the successes and the difficulties experienced, which will be captured for future generations to learn from.

The commission will also voice a message that mental health issues can affect anyone, but it will also highlight existing support, which is available to be accessed locally. Resources will signpost people to useful information and services, and offer opportunities to connect with peers and start conversations. 

Andrew Stevens, the council's cabinet member for business improvement and performance, said: "Being a farmer can come with many struggles that can have an impact on your mental mental health.

"That can include working long hours often in isolation or financial worries. Due to the nature of food production, you are completely tied to your work and at the mercy of the weather.

"Most rural workers live where they work, and this makes it all more the difficult to separate work and personal life."

Cllr Stevens said: "Farmers can be viewed as very tough, hardworking, and strong characters and this perception is what makes it even more difficult to tackle mental health.

"Hopefully, the project will help showcase farming and rural life in Swansea and Gower and show just how important it is to our economy and history. But more importantly it can shine a spotlight on what services are available to help, hopefully help break down some barriers and raise awareness on mental health."

Rachael Aka, member of the Local Action Group and Farming Community Regional Support Officer for Wales said: "The demanding and often volatile work involved in the farming and agricultural sector not only takes a physical toil on those working in the field, but it can also place immense strain on some farmers' and land-based worker's mental health.

"It is hoped that the commission will normalise discussions around the subject, highlight that poor mental health is sadly not unusual nor something to be ashamed of and will support farmers and land-based workers who may be quietly struggling."

The commission will deliver three elements:

The project has been supported by a number of organisations including the Farming Community Network, The DPJ Foundation, Public Health Wales, Bangor University and RABI.

The oral history project 'Stories of a Changing Landscape, a Farmer's Perspective' will offer a space for Swansea-based rural workers to discuss their farming history, the changing landscape of their family farm and highlight the struggles and successes, mental health concerns and what the future will bring.  This will be captured in an exhibition, which will be made available across different digital platforms and in physical exhibition spaces.

A local and sector specific directory offering contact detail of organisations, which offer support with respect to mental health concerns, and other aspects such as legal advice and family support will be produced and distributed.

The exhibition events will showcase 'Stories of a Changing Landscape, a Farmers Perspective which will bring together Swansea's communities to celebrate farming heritage, address mental health issues and provide information for support organisations.

Are you a farmer or agricultural land based worker, who would like to share your heritage and experiences as part of this commission, or you need support for mental health services ?  Please contact the RDP team at Swansea Council for further details. 

The RDP is a seven-year European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development programme funded by the European Union and the Welsh Government's Rural Communities - Rural Development Programme 2014-2020, ending next year.

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