This Erasmus+ project will develop and deliver a training program for future Forests for Health Coaches linking the health and forestry sectors.
These Forests for Health Coaches will raise awareness among the public of the role of forests in health and their restorative benefits. They will also work to improve the health and well-being of individuals and communities through forest-based activities.
This project progresses work that began in Geneva as part of the Think Tank on Green Jobs in the forest sector (Team of Specialists on Green Jobs in the Forest Sector – Joint United Nations Economic Commission for Europe / Food and Agriculture Organization / International Labour Organization [FAO/ECE/ILO] Expert Network). Its aim is to educate Forests for Health Coaches using an inno-ative training programme developed by experts from the forest and health sectors. This training programme will integrate the expertise of professionals working in forests and human health in different countries throughout Europe. All activities connected with the programme will have a deep respect for the natural environment. It will foster nature connectedness, an awareness of the impact of contact with nature on wellbeing, and recognition of the value of Sustainable Forest Management among its trainees.
The project has been developed based on two observations:
– The first observation, relating to Health. Some countries have begun to organise forest health sessions to educate the public on how they can “reconnect” physically and psychologically with the natural environment. To date, most of these programmes have not been grounded in empirical science and many have been implemented without an understanding of, or respect for, preserving and conserving the natural environment. This is of major concern in light of the increasing interest in sylvo-therapy and Shinrin Yoku (Forest Bathing) and the need to protect biodiversity in the current climate emergency. At present many practices are taking place in unadapted forests and/or without adhering to the rules and regulations of the forest environment and its requirements.
– The second observation, relating to Sustainable Forest Management. Today in Europe, 80% of the population live in cities. Empir-ical data indicate that urbanicity is associated with an increased risk of both clinical depression and occupational burn-out. Accord-ing to the ecologist Robert Michael Pyle, due to rapid urbanisation people can also struggle to know how to be in, and what to expect from, the natural environment. As a result of a recent surge in awareness among the general population of the need to protect natural spaces, many people perceive the forest as the last refuge of wild nature. Therefore, some people prioritise forests as places to be respected, protected, and above all preserved. This position however is in direct conflict with the harvesting of trees which is necessary for sustainable forest management. We note that countries such as Ireland, Austria, Sweden, Germany, and Spain have eco-therapists or silvicultural guides who facilitate people to fully utilise the health benefits of forest environ-ments. A well-known example is the development of the practice of “Forest Bathing”. UNECE has also discussed the best ways of bringing the public closer to the forest by taking account of changes in society (Building Bridges between People and Forests FAO/ECE/ILO Joint Committee on Forest Technology, Management, and Training).
To respond to these findings, this project will train qualified Forests for Health Coaches who will be able to build bridges between the health and forestry sectors. The Forests for Health Coaches will train in an innovative area that combines forest knowledge and health. This training programme will enhance the credibility and professionalization of Forests for Health Coaches in Europe, leading to more inclusive, safe, and comprehensive practices in the forest environment.
The Forests for Health project brings together forestry training centers specializing in education and communication, as well as in sustainable forest management, and Institutes with expertise in forest bathing and forest health. This symbiotic partnership will ensure the quality and sustainability of the project long after its completion.
A partnership of seven countries will ensure the quality and sustainability of the project long after its completion (supported by four external experts who will provide key information, make recommendations), and contribute to the effectiveness of the partnership).
Last modified: 10 May 2021