Tiny Forest Belgium

Profile: Anna Pleonard
Organization: Goodplanet Belgium
Email address: a.leonard@goodplanet.be
Telephone number: 0032 474 11 85 43

What was your personal motivation to plant your first forest?
Anna: We were motivated by the fact that participation of schools and neighborhood in the Tiny Forests is essential. Contact with nature is a first step towards caring for nature and environment. Together with the advantages for biodiversity, planting a tiny forest was an offer we could not resist!

Can you describe the surroundings of your first forest, what type of place did you convert?
Anna: We created two forests, which are both very different. In Brussels, the Tiny Forest is planted on a public lawn, located between two streets and next to a parking lot. A whole row of apartments overlooks the new forest. The Tiny Forest is not far from a park with large trees. So it forms a stepping stone between the park and a sports field further away. In Schoten (Flanders), the forest was planted in a green environment, surrounded by trees (mostly conifers). The school had an underused terrain and was very enthusiastic to plant and learn about Tiny Forests.

What were the biggest obstacles in planting this forest?
Anna: a first challenge in Brussels was to find a place in the densely built-up municipality of Sint Joost-ten-Node. We did not find a place at first, but an artist (and dad) found a solution. The schoolchildren will each bring a tree in a backpack to another municipality (the municipality of Vorst) and plant the forest with the local children there. The concept of ‘The Walking Forest’ was created. Also, the measures for Corona virus started when we planned our planting days, which was challenging for our planning. In Schoten we had to cancel the participation of media and neighbours, but the children could still plant their Tiny Forest. In Brussels, GoodPlanet and some volunteers planted 900 of the 1000 trees without the children because of the Corona virus. Later on, the children of St Joost will come with their trees in their backpack to plant them in Vorst. After that happened, we will organize an official opening of the Tiny Forest with everyone involved. For this event, we will invite the Belgian Minister for Environment, which is very exciting!

Who did you cooperate with? How did the local community respond to the forest?
Anna: In Schoten we cooperated with the local school and the municipality. They were all very excited and worked together with all their heart. In Brussels we work together with 3 primary schools and an art school, with local organizations and the municipality. Here, most of the people are very enthusiastic and grateful!

What did you learn from your first forest?
Anna: Every Tiny Forest is unique: the planting method is the same, but the context makes every Tiny Forest different: the school, the site, the neighborhood, volunteers… I also learned that communication is very important. People have to know what is going on, they are worried when they see something changing in their neighborhood. Social media can be a good means of communication, but unfortunately you do not reach everybody. By being present and talking to the (older) people in the area, you reach more people, which is very useful!

What is the next thing you want to learn about forest making?
Anna: I am very curious to find out how Tiny Forsts will evolve during the years in the Belgian context. What species will work the best or will be attracted to the Tiny Forests? And how will they grow?