Did you know that the Aberystwyth area is recognised by the United Nations as a site of excellence and innovation in sustainable development? ’Biosffer Dyfi Biosphere’ has had this accolade since 2009, and is the only such area in Wales. Since then businesses, academics and many others have started to work together to take advantage of the opportunities arising from this status. Now the locally-led Partnership responsible for the initiative is asking whether the area should be expanded.

The UNESCO Dyfi Biosphere inspires people and organisations to work together in creating sustainable futures we can all be proud of. It connects people with nature and cultural heritage while strengthening the local economy. The status is voluntary. Any funding needed for activities is contributed by partners or is brought into the area as grants. For example, at the moment a ‘Development Project’ is supported by the Rural Development Programme Local Action Groups for Ceredigion, Powys and Gwynedd.

This project is paying Jane Powell to help schools explore how they can use the Dyfi Biosphere in their teaching, including through out-of-school activities provided by members of the Dyfi Biosphere Education Group. In addition, it’s paying ecodyfi to help cafes and restaurants work out how to increase and promote their use of fresh, seasonal and local produce. This new business network will build on the successful Showcase event held recently at the Wynnstay in Machynlleth. The project has received funding through the Welsh Government Rural Communities – Rural Development Programme 2014-2020, which is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Welsh Government.

One benefit of the UNESCO status is that Visit Wales recognises the area as a ‘destination’ worthy of development support. They have grant-aided several collaborative activities, including the production of the Dyfi Biosphere Legends videos and the Activities series, both available on YouTube. However, the largest project so far has been the EU-funded Citizen’s Observatory Web (COBWEB), which explored how people can contribute to land and sea management by recording observations on mobiles and tablets. This project supported jobs in Aberystwyth University, Environment Systems and ecodyfi. Amongst many other activities, Penparcau Forum volunteers mapped butterflies and their food plants.

A successful Annual Meeting was held recently by the Biosphere in the newly-refurbished Ceredigion Museum. One of the topics was how to reduce single-use plastics. Discussion featured Aberystwyth Beach Buddies, Tywyn Beach Guardians and Greener Tywyn and covered the climate change pros and cons of alternatives available to shops and cafes, as well as reducing beach litter. Can we build on Aberystwyth’s success and work towards a Plastic Free Biosphere?

Discussions are underway with Town and Community Councils, including Llanbadarn Fawr and Vaenor, about the possibility of extending the internationally recognised area. Residents and businesses in Waunfawr, Comins Coch and elsewhere are asked to visit www.dyfibiosphere.wales or www.biosfferdyfi.cymru and to join the conversation @biosfferdyfibiosphere on facebook or twitter.

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