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Author(s): Robert Wurm
Editorial office: BFW, Austria
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Green Care FOREST - diversification as an opportunity for forestry

Since 2014 Green Care Forest represents a focus of the Austrian Research Centre for Forests. In close collaboration with the Green Care Agriculture project we want to support the Austrian agriculture and forestry to face the challenges of the future.

Green Care constitutes an additional source of income for farmers in the context of diversification, alongside tourism opportunities. These initiatives provide a wonderful opportunity for our country's agricultural family businesses, from which not only individual customers but also the entire health, education and social system benefits.

Basic requirement

There are manifold opportunities for farmers to participate actively in Green Care projects: Whether by hiring out vacant infrastructure at their farms (using existing premises) and offering agricultural or silvicultural services, or by contributing their pre-existing qualifications as nursery school teachers, occupational health nurses, occupational therapists and/or social workers. 

Group of children
One target group of Green Care FOREST: children

As a result, employment at the farm is ensured for the long term and the farming family's quality of life is increased. New sources of income as well as additional job opportunities are created, which in turn result in an improved rural economy and in rural areas being vitalised. Of course, Green Care cannot serve as a panacea for every farm. The Green Care product must be suited to the farming family's business and to their living conditions.

Additionally, investments are often necessary before a Green Care product can be offered, for example to ensure disabled access. In every case, the basic requirement for participation in Green Care is that a social contribution of this kind is a matter close to the farmer's heart.

Well-being in woodlands

2014 the focus of Green Care Forest is on Forest-kindergarten, Forest-youth project weeks and educational programs for seniors.

To prove the effects of Forests the Study "Green Public Health - Benefits of Woodlands on Human Health and Well-being" (Download) was commissioned. The study was coducted in cooperation with the Medical University of Vienna and the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna. 

This study aims to provide an overview of the scientific literature on the benefits of wood lands on people’s health, well-being, and quality of life. Woodland can have numerous positive effects on physical, psychological and social health as well as human well-being.  

Relaxing (Photo: Birgitta Hohenester/Pixelio.de)
Spending time in forests has positive effects to human beings

Spending time in forests increases positive emotions, decreases negative emotions and helps in coping with subjectively experienced stressors. With respect to physiological stress indicators, most of the studies reported positive effects and prevention of stressrelated diseases. 

Social forestry projects make use of the forest’s inclusive potential for the benefit of the socially vulnerable. Wilderness therapy programmes as well as therapeutic activities in a healing forest are cited as practical examples that make use of the forest’s healing powers.  

In woodlands, well-being can be affected by the duration of the stay, the activities undertaken and the physical exercise performed as well as the social context. Even short visits can have recreational effects.

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