Molengreen: a vegetable garden at the Foyer in Molenbeek

Roots & Shoots at Foyer

Within the Roots&Shoots programme JGI Belgium has been animating some nature workshops at the Foyer des jeunes in Molenbeek since 2012. The aim was twofold :

  • To make young people aware of all the benefits of a vegetable garden for people, animals and the environment in town.
  • To sustain the project by developing the desire among young people and their educators in the Youth Foyer to become involved in the management of the vegetable garden.

It all started in the Sonian Forest

During the tree planting event in 2012 Jane Goodall Institute Belgium had the pleasure to invite a group of young people aged 5 to 16 from the Foyer des jeunes of Molenbeek. Fascinated by the nearby omnipresent fauna and flora, the group members planted autographed trees and took part in a guided walk about biodiversity in the forest. Among them, many discovered for the first time the majesty of the « cathedral » beech forest inside the Sonian Forest. JGI Belgium decided to bring this serene and natural atmosphere to Molenbeek by creating a vegetable garden with the young from the Foyer.

Two years of activity

Several workshops were held at the Youth Foyer in Molenbeek :
– Creating the plan of the vegetable garden
– Building a spiral with aromatic herbs
– Protecting insects and birds
– Planting seeds for a healthy food

Creating the plan of the vegetal garden

First of all, young people of the Foyer created the plan of their future green space. With only a large white sheet of paper, coloured paper and stickers, a genuine plant paradise germinated in their imagination !

Building a spiral with aromatic herbs

A spiral for aromatic herbs has a specific shape that allows aromatic plants to grow.
Such plants as basil, sage, thyme, rosemary… are very interesting and can be used to perfume several dishes!
Aromatic plants are also very useful to feed pollinating insects.
Small mammals also enjoy the spiral and take refuge between the stones.

Protecting insects and birds

This workshop reviews the value of birds and insects in town and aims at making young people understand the importance of protecting them ! A healthy city needs green spaces, and the plants present in these spaces most often need pollinating insects for their breeding. It is essential to foresee shelters for those insects, mostly in winter time. Birds are true indicators of the good health of nature in the city. Their absence means that nature isn’t doing well. Among the variety of birds, many of them eat insects. What a chance ! Without birds, insects would be too numerous and disrupt the biological balance of our vegetable garden. Placing bird feeders and houses will help them to feed and survive during the winter, when insects are no longer available and when it is very cold.

Planting seeds for healthy food

Here is the star workshop ! It is so successful because it invites participants to use all their senses.
Sometimes reluctant at first, the young tames the soil by smelling and touching it. He will plant small seeds and keep an eye on it once it is sowed. The outdoor activity offers him the joy of hearing the noise of wind in the trees, and the sound of shovels digging the soil. Evenually the result of the harvest can be used to make a healthy and fresh food preparation that will delight everyone.

Jane Goodall visits the Youth Foyer of Molenbeek

On May 7 2014 Jane Goodall came to visit the Youth Foyer in Molenbeek. She was delighted to discover the vegetable garden, wishing to offer a haven for urban biodiversity, promote sustainable food and make Molenbeek greener and more beautiful.

With the help of young people of the Foyer, Jane Goodall planted a cherry tree that perfectly complements the vegetable garden.

The visit ended with the inauguration of the first Belgian Roots&Shoots plate that proudly adorns the entrance of the foyer. This plate represents the involvement of the young people from the association to continue the project and contribute to a greener Molenbeek for everyone’s benefit.

A big thank to the volunteers: the project would not have been possible without Chris, Ingrid, Madeleine, Magda, Martine, Moutsy and Yumi.

Photo credits: Ingrid Bezikofer, Ilke Bee/Sunbeams, Laurence and Moutsy.