Clonakilty Community Garden and Direct Provision Centre

What is the Clonakilty Community Garden? 

Established in 2014, it was started as a resource for asylum seekers living in Clonakilty. It gave them a space for growing their food and, perhaps more importantly, a space where they could do something meaningful, take a break from living with little privacy or autonomy, and produce something by themselves, for themselves and their families.

Why is it important?

The lifestyle enforced by Direct Provision in Ireland is not a natural, or healthy, one for typical families. Meals are taken communally, cooked by strangers and with little or no choice in what to eat. Food is the communal language. In many cultures, including Irish, it is used to express celebration, commiseration, to comfort to congratulate to show community, caring and love. Living in Direct Provision takes all those opportunities away from the residents, sometimes for years at a time. Having a space to grow some food, from their home countries, gives them the opportunity to share memories and culture with their families and children. Cooking facilities are badly needed as the next step to provide dignity and respect to asylum seekers.

Listen to our GIY Food Matters panel discussion at Bloom last year; Ireland’s Food Shame. 

Clonakilty Community garden and asylum centre on grow cook eat
Karen O' Donohoe and Sean Bradley

Living as a family in Direct Provision

The living arrangements enforced by Direct Provision are totally removed from what most people would recognise as a “home life”. Families sleep, relax, live and study in a single shared space. There is no concept of a home. Watch Caroline Reid from the Irish Refugee Council recount an experience one mother had of trying to explain to a teacher why her daughter couldn’t name or identify objects that belong in a kitchen, because she had never had access to one.

Food in Direct Provision

Nutritionally the food provided in Direct Provision may or may not be balanced or adequate, depending on the private contractor used by the centre. If a family wishes to buy more they have an allowance of €21.60 per week from which all expenses beyond bed, board and medical must be met. This includes travel and transport, sanitary products, clothing, school books, toiletries, formula or baby food, exam fees for junior or leaving cert, personal grooming etc. 

You can read here about how this has impacted on one of the residents we spoke to in GROW COOK EAT tonight. Dr. Karzan Zangana, a nanochemist with a PHD in material science, from northern Iraq volunteers in UCC to help Professor Justin Holmes, Head of the School of Nanochemistry. To do so he commutes to Cork City from Clonakilty. A bus ticket to Cork costs more than his weekly allowance, he cannot be employed by UCC as an asylum seeker and he cannot claim expenses for travel as a non-employee. 

Clonakilty Community Garden and Asylum Centre on GRPOW COOK EAT on RTE 1
Karen O' Donohoe and Dr. Karzan Zangana and his daughters

In this context a space to grow some food, get some fresh air, engage in a productive task and share knowledge with their children is an invaluable resource. It offers a link to the family’s culture and past, an area to relax, to exercise, to teach and learn and to socialise.

The wider Clonakilty community has rallied around to support the project. It is evolving as a Community Sustainable Innovation Hub and will house various education and demonstration initiatives ranging from gardening to sustainable energy to biodiversity.

Social and Therapeutic Horticulture programmes by GIY in Direct Provision Centres

GIY has employed a full time therapeutic horticulturalist since 2017. One of the programmes we ran in 2017 was a course of horticultural therapy in a direct provision centre. The results of that were very positive for the residents and we would love to continue to provide this kind of support and therapy for residents. Find out more about our Social and Therapeutic Horticulture programme here. If you, or your company or organisation, would like to support GIY's Social and Therapeutic Horticulture Programmes find out how here. 

Visit the Citizens Information Centre for more information about living in Direct Provision.