The Sheep Trust successfully completed a COPUS award from the Royal Society. This provided funding for a two year programme of interactions and communications with hill sheep farming communities across the UK. The final report was submitted in 2007. The following section is taken from the introduction to the project.
Our objective is to bring a new scientific awareness and understanding to the under-represented audience of isolated hill farming communities throughout the UK
The target communities for this project's objective often comprise tenant farmers who have little interaction with urban centres, cannot be reached electronically through the internet and generally will have left the formal educational system at secondary school stage. Their livelihoods depend most often on sheepbreeding and farming. But, through this activity, these communities also play a key, central role as keepers of the countryside: hill, mountain and moorland environments of outstanding natural beauty and ecological importance. For survival, these environments crucially depend on integration of sheep livestock farming into the wild plant and animal ecology of the moorlands. Scientific understanding of these issues is a requirement for this integration - without it, the farmers will simply lack the knowledge and interest to become effective guardians of environmental sustainability.
Our strategy is to: (1) build on the passion and expertise of these communities for sheep breeding and farming; (2) work with sheepbreeder associations which know these communities, have extensive networks already established and will share these networks and knowledge with us; (3) prepare new materials and hold small group discussions to communicate science to the farmers on subjects of direct interest to them; and (4) develop the trust gained through these interactions, as a foundation to explore wider subjects of sustainability, the environment and the increasingly important role of farmers as guardians of the countryside.
The Sheep Trust is uniquely placed to reach these remote and under-represented audiences. Sheepbreeder societies are the one class of organisation with extensive networks and knowledge of these communities. The Sheep Trust is already known to these societies through joint initiatives aimed at the protection of genetic biodiversity. Through working with these societies on this COPUS project, a gateway is provided for scientists to interact directly with these isolated farming communities. This close collaboration is the bedrock of our strategy.