Since spring 2020, a vegetable and biodiversity garden is flourishing at UNESCO’s Headquarters in Paris, France. It is composed of two complementary projects that represent a coherent spatial entity and send a strong symbolic message about the Organization’s commitment to biodiversity and sustainable development in a context of climate change and ecological transition. It also resonates with UN celebration of 2021 as the International Year of Fruits and Vegetables and the launch of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration.
One of the projects, developed and presented by the French National Commission for UNESCO (CNFU), was the subject of a Convention with UNESCO signed in May 2020 for a renewable three-year period and targets young generations with a mostly pedagogical aim. With the support of several partners (Deyrolle, Nexity PM, La Française de Gestion, the Ile de France Region and the city of Tianjin), this garden epitomises the tryptic Nature-Art-Education. To create this garden, the CNFU called upon a renowned French landscape designer, Louis Albert de Broglie, known as the “Prince Gardener”.
The different plant varieties can be identified with a QR code. The smart automatic watering of the garden, which works with a humidity sensor and a drip irrigation system, reduces water consumption to its strict minimum. Birdhouses and ‘insect hotels’ have just been installed, as well as educative plaques which give information for instance on pollination and urban agriculture. New seasonal plantations are underway, notably the planting of ancient tomatoes that come from the French National tomato conservatory. And for the pleasure of colleagues who wish to take a few minutes of rest amid this laboratory of biodiversity, deckchairs will equally be made available!
The second project was promoted through an initiative in collaboration with the City of Paris to bring urban farming to UNESCO. Noocity, a Portuguese company in association with Cultures d’entreprises, has installed low-tech and sustainable grow beds to cultivate vegetables, aromatic herbs and small fruits. Since summer 2020, UNESCO staff can subscribe to receive regular vegetable baskets and participate in gardening workshops.
In the future, as soon as the situation will allow it, it is planned to organize regular on-site pedagogical workshops on sustainable development for schools, NGOs, UNESCO staff and other groups, focusing on life sciences education, sustainable food, sustainable cities, biodiversity and climate change. There will also be the possibility for interested staff and Member State delegations to participate in the life of the garden and thus create a sense of cohesion and reappropriation of this space.