By Susan Morgan
A professional association has recently launched in France to connect a network of horticultural therapy, ecotherapy, and other allied practitioners across the country. The Fédération Française Jardins, Nature et Santé (French Federation of Gardens, Nature, and Health) has been years in the making. After many discussions among its founding members and a lengthy application process, the Fédération officially received non-profit status in mid-2018. “Our broad mission is to promote the use of plants and nature to enhance human health and wellbeing,” says Fédération president and former Horticultural Therapy Institute blog contributor Isabelle Boucq. “The Minister of Health doesn’t recognize horticultural therapy and understand its benefits. It is a valid intervention and has proven benefits. We feel the need to gather people together and help get this intervention more professionally recognized.”
Sowing the Seeds of a Professional Association
In recent years, French practitioners have increasingly used plants, nature, and gardening activities to improve human health and well-being, serving a variety of populations and using varied applications and techniques in connecting people with the outdoors. Yet, they have worked primarily in isolation spread out across the country. There are a limited number of training programs in horticultural therapy and related disciplines, as well as few French-language publications and research projects supporting the benefits of facilitated people-plant interactions.
As interest grew, practitioners sought out opportunities to learn and network with each other through informal gatherings, trainings offered by universities, and a symposium held every other year by Jardins et Santé (Gardens and Health). The latter organization is a historical association based in Paris that hosts this biennial symposium and funds the development of therapeutic gardens. “For some time now, we have been talking about creating an umbrella association to bring together people who work in horticultural therapy and more broadly with nature and health. It feels that the level of interest has really picked up in the last couple years,” says Boucq.
Following the Jardins et Santé symposium in late 2017, a group of attendees met for an informal exploratory conversation and decided to organize their network more officially. “At our first meeting in January , we had 30 people around the table,” says Boucq. They organized several working groups, including charter establishment, event coordination, communications, and membership, and started the charter registration process, with the Fédération Française Jardins, Nature et Santé granted status in mid 2018.
Fédération Française Jardins, Nature et Santé
“The purpose of this association is:
– to federate the actors concerned by the creation, implementation, development, uses of therapeutic gardens, and practices of prevention and care by the relationship to nature or natural elements (including ecotherapy and horticultural therapy);
– to promote the development of gardens and practices previously mentioned; and
– to support professionals in these different fields.”
The 40 founding Fédération members, including elected president Isabelle Boucq, secretary Jérôme Pellissier, and treasurer Tamara Singh, come from a variety of professional disciplines, philosophies, and backgrounds, including health care, horticulture, recreational therapy, art therapy, and nature based therapy. “We use nature based interventions as practitioners and, as an organization, seek to promote the development of therapeutic gardens, push awareness in each region of the country, and support professionals as a resource and information exchange.” Through their efforts to promote the benefits of therapeutic horticulture interactions, Boucq says the group hopes that French leaders and citizens will recognize that everyone has the right to access nature, including in hospitals, assisted living communities, and prisons where practitioners work.