Urban micro-forest project in Geneva

Dahl, Arthur


The city of Geneva, Switzerland, and its surrounding suburbs have a project to bring nature back into the city, planting more trees along streets, renewing parks, creating raised beds around apartment buildings so residents can grow their own vegetables, and even providing gardening spaces where a local resident and a newly arrived immigrant or refugee can grow vegetables together while facilitating integration into the community.

In November 2021, I participated in the initiation of an urban micro-forest across the street from the Parc des Franchises near where I live. One of two experiments in the city, it is alongside the old industrial zone of Charmilles, while the other is on the Butte Ferdinand-Hodler. They follow the Miyawaki method that imitates a primary forest by densely planting a wide variety of indigenous species, with 800 young trees and shrubs planted along the slope between the factory buildings and the street. These micro-forests are expected to counteract the heat-island effect, clean the air, absorb rainwater, and improve the neighbourhood quality of life, while enriching local biodiversity. This is part of the city government's plan for an ecological transition.

The Miyiwaki method also offers to the local population the opportunity to contribute directly to the planting and maintenance of the forest during its first two years of establishment, until it becomes self-sufficient. I thus joined 115 people from 3 to 80 years old in planting 800 trees in three and a half days in the area and then taking care of the forest. The children will be able to grow up with their trees.

Before the project, the slope along a busy road below the factory buildings was just covered in weeds. These were cleared and some terraces constructed with natural materials to control erosion while the forest gets established.

weed-covered slope. building terraces
The slope before clearing; building terraces

Different groups of volunteers planted each of the terraces, and the ground was covered in straw after planting to maintain soil humidity and prevent erosion while the roots grow and the trees get established.

planting the upper terrace . planting other terraces
Groups of volunteers planting each of the terraces

The children really enjoyed the work, which was more like play.

tree planting . tree planting
All ages planting trees in the micro-forest

My group planted the bottom terraces. Here I am pushing soil around the roots of a newly planted young tree.

planting the lowest terracesme helping to plant a tree
My group planted the two lowest terraces; me helping to plant a tree

A sign was put up for the micro-forest project when the planting was completed. The tree planting was written up in a local magazine and covered on the radio and television.

signcompleted tree planting
Sign for the micro-forest; the slopes after planting

site of the microforest . article in Migros Magazine
Site of the micro-forest outside the factory buildings; a press article (some photos courtesy of Forêt B)