A really nice forest chat

#ForestRestorationStory by Åsa Granberg, practical coordinator in SUPERB’s Swedish demo

Last Friday, I had one of the best forest moments in a long time. It all started in the morning when I scanned through the post of the day. I have recently helped our Swiss project colleagues Moses Kazungu and Marcel Hunziker to distribute letters of invitation to a digital questionnaire about people’s perceptions on forests and forest restoration among 1500 randomly sampled citizens in my county. Since not everybody lives at the address where they are registered, I have had a couple of letters returning each day the last week. When checking these letters on Friday morning I noticed that one of them had a note written on it: “Sorry, I can only participate with pen and paper. I have sold my forest to a bird hunter. You can erase this 85-year-old lady”. I imagined the old lady, smiled, and put the letter aside. Then I picked it up again and looked at the address… And realized it was in the village next to mine. I started thinking, what if this lady actually wanted to complete the questionnaire, but was unable to do so because it was digital? After a short search I found her phone number, called and she answered almost immediately. – “Yes, I would very much like to answer your questionnaire!”. We decided that I would take an earlier bus home from work that day to drop by at her house and help her fill in the questionnaire on my computer.

In the afternoon the rain was pouring down as I got on the earlier bus. Once on the bus, I called her back to check that she still wanted to participate. Absolutely! she answered, and 30 minutes later I knocked on her door.

And it turned out to be one of the nicest conversations about forest I have ever had! Margareta, 85 years old, shared with me the story of her life and how the forest had been part of it the whole time. She told me about the forest she inherited some 30 km away, her thoughts on how to manage the forest to keep the berries, the mushrooms, and the wildlife, but also the trade-offs when it came to economic outcome from the forest. She also explained that her sister, who had inherited the neighbouring forest but had other interests, had chosen to manage her forest in a different way. Margareta also introduced me to her “everyday forests”. How she and her husband had run, walked, and biked almost everywhere in the forests surrounding where she lives. That she knows almost all paths. Finally, Margareta told me about the joy she felt when meeting the children from the day-care next door, hand in hand, happily announcing to her that they were on their way to “their” forest – a small forest patch nearby Margareta’s house, not very special for a grown-up, but an adventure for small children!

After one and a half hour, several cups of coffee and a handful of biscuits, we had managed to fill in Margareta’s answers in the questionnaire. Best spent Friday afternoon in ages!