The Green Employment Project – Social Forest’s proposition

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This month, our estimated forest engineer Àlex Ralita went on a trip to the Basque region. While he usually acts as our expert for the technical aspect of our work, on the 31st of January he went to present Social Forest in a Green Employment project.

The Euskadi government, specifically Lanbide, the Department of Employment, decided to combat unemployment in the Basque region by fostering so called green jobs, employment opportunities that put people and the environment first. In order to achieve this, they initiated the project ‘Empleo Verde en Euskadi’ together with UpSocial, an organization dedicated to social innovation and its scalability. For this project, Lanbide and UpSocial search for green businesses that could be replicated in the municipality with the highest unemployment rate in each territory of the Basque region: Sestao (Bizkaia), Urretxu (Gipuzkoa) and Oyón-Oion (Araba). 127 organizations from all over the world were evaluated concerning their innovation, value and their adaptability to the Basque region. After an extensive evaluation, six organizations were considered the best fits for this project and were invited to Bilbao on the 31st of January to present their concepts and discuss their potential with local agents.

 

Treffen mit upsocial para hablar de sinergias, proyecto pais vasco

Joachim talking to UpSocial about possible synergies

 

We are happy to announce that Social Forest was one of the six organizations invited to Bilbao! Àlex got the chance to explain to various representatives of the local government our underlying vision to reconnect people with nature and what meaning it has for us.

What we are seeing in the news lately tells us that this reconnection is more necessary than ever, it is indispensable. Large fires that approach large cities closer than ever, such as those in Galicia and Australia, are caused in large part by the combination of climate change and the lack of forest management. There has also been a worrying increase in extreme weather events, like large overflows of rivers that cause floods. All this reminds us that we live in a natural environment that we have to respect and that we, as a society, must become more sustainable. And this is our goal, to create sustainable minds through the reconnection with nature.

Àlex explained further that our approach for achieving this is to actually bring people into nature and since we are foresters, the forest is where we take them. Once there, we can explain to them where they are and what benefits and services the forest and all of nature in general brings us.

 
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The forest captures the CO2 we emit to generate energy or for mobility and it gives us O2 through the photosynthesis of plants. Forests are responsible for regulating the climate, they protect the soil against erosion because the trees hold the soil with their roots and protect it from the direct impact of raindrops with their tops, which prevents large mud avenues from coming down from the mountains when there is a storm. The mud would fill the reservoirs and could bury populations as has happened more than once in areas where the forests had been overexploited. Thanks to the forests, the capacity of infiltration of water in the subsoil increases, thus increasing the water reserves for our consumption and at the same time preventing large floods that rivers would have if the water was not retained in the headwaters of the rivers. Also, it is shown that walking through the forest improves our health. In Japan, doctors even prescribe it. It is good to reduce stress and improve our immune system. That is also one reason why forests are such a great place to practice recreational activities.

With this in mind, the great benefit of forests and therefore the necessity to manage them accordingly becomes undeniably obvious. Managing them in a way that allows and encourages the forest to grow healthily and sustainably is what Social Forest does. Public as well as private organizations play a big role in this. Companies have the opportunity to participate in this sustainable forestry in two ways.

 
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For one thing, they can partake in our Team Building events. This means, that their workers leave their everyday routine and come with us for a day, to get to know the forest while actively participating in its management, be it by planting trees to recover some degraded area or one affected by a fire, or cleaning the undergrowth to prevent fires. Another possibility for companies to participate in the protection of our forests is by sponsoring a forest area. This way, companies can compensate for the inevitable environmental impact generated by their activity by helping to increase the forest area managed by SocialForest.

Our third axis, besides Team Buildings and sponsoring forest areas, is training of forest workers. We train people who need work, whether they are young people who are unable to find work and who because of their circumstances have not been able to obtain education, people who have been unemployed for a long time or immigrants who have left their country in search of a job.

We educate them to work in the management of forests, but we do not only train them in the handling of the chainsaw or the brushcutter. Our goal is that they gather a holistic understanding of the environment they work in, that they understand what the objective or sought improvement is with each type of work, what function each plant has in that ecosystem. With this education we achieve our goal to reconnect these people with the forest. At the same time we are helping them to be workers with added value, because if they understand the forest and forest management they will be able to make correct decisions autonomously when they are working, be it for Social Forest or any other company. At the same time, this improves the confidence and self-esteem of these people, which in some cases has been somewhat damaged by their circumstances.

 
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For Lanbide and UpSocial to choose to invite us for their Green Employment project, as well as for other organizations to decide whether they want to collaborate with us, it is of course important to know what impact we actually have. So let us put the impact we generated in numbers.

We have trained more than 100 people in sustainable forestry since we started in 2014. This includes both our training of people for our Social Forest team and trainings commissioned by other entities. Of these 100 people more than 20 are or have been part of the Social Forest team and many others are currently working in the forest in other companies within the sector. More than 300 people have already participated in our Team Building activities. Those people can now look at the forest in a different way and be more aware of the connection between them and the nature. As for companies, in 2017, thanks to the sponsorship of forests, we were able to manage 2 ha of forest, in 2018 it was 4 ha, in 2019 we obtained 19.5 ha and so far in 2020 12 ha have been sponsored. These are the hectares that we have been able to manage thanks to the help of private companies. However, since most of the actions have the prevention of forest fires and their spreading as a main objective, the protected area is actually much greater.

 
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We would be delighted to begin new collaborations in the Basque region through this project. This would help the vision and mission behind Social Forest to spread, amplifying our impact and our reach, thereby connecting more parts of society with nature and forests. However, we are also happy to see that the sector of green employment has grown so much and has produced such admirable concepts to better our society and our environmental impact. We greatly value the intention of the Basque region’s government to combat social issues in this way.

 
 
Find out more about the project here and here
Find out more about SocialForest here and here
 
 

Related SDGs

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