Faba-Naturprojekt, Biodiversität stärkt belastete Kinderseelen (Faba Nature Project: Biodiversity for Emotional Balance)

The preventive health project offers a social, group-based approach to help provide balance and emotional support for children from families coping with addiction and/or impaired mental health. The central focus lies in teaching children about animals and plants, biological relationships and practical nature conservation.

Using orchard meadows to develop resilience

With 65 fruit trees and a huge farmer’s garden, the 8,000 m² site provides ideal conditions in which to conduct Faba activities. Faba stands for Families in Balance and is also the Latin name for the broad bean (Vicia faba), the plant used in the project’s logo.

Faba focuses on children from families coping with addiction or mental illness. These children have a higher risk of developing mental health issues or an addiction themselves. The supervised contact with peers, outdoor activities in the natural landscape and in gardens, encounters with pets and livestock all help the children to become more resilient – psychological resilience is an excellent skill to have in stressful situations.

The project area is home to hens and chickens, ten bee hives, 20 or more plant species found in typical Westphalian villages and a variety of dry grass and ruderal plant communities. And with an annual 50 pairs, it is also home to Westphalia’s largest tree sparrow (Passer montanus) population. Its hedges also house other species of birds as well as rodents, amphibians, hedgehogs (Erinaceus europaeus) and weasels (Mustela nivalis).

A wild bee house and flowering strips provide habitats for aculeates (stinging insects), grasshoppers and butterflies. In the summer months, Bentheimer sheep graze in the field, where the redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus) and the little owl (Athene noctua) also find food. The hedge-enclosed garden is used to grow vegetables, herbs and soft fruit.

In autumn 2015, a second Faba site was established at the Schulbauernhof Ummeln teaching farm, where the Bielefeld section of the German Child Protection Association offers the Faba programme all year round. As one of the oldest teaching farms in North Rhine-Westphalia and a recognised Ark open farm, Ummeln is home to numerous rare livestock breeds.


Holistic support for families

The Faba project targets children aged eight to eleven. It also offers a self-help group for parents on the topic of addiction. During the garden season, 12 meetings are held at the project site. Transport for the children is provided by volunteers.

Nature and the garden are ideal media in resilience development work. Engaging in activities with others in similar situations, observing the comings and goings on the farm and experiencing the seasonal processes of change all have a positive effect on the children and their families. The children quickly develop and make use of a relationship of trust with their mentors. In a scientific evaluation of the Faba project, a health researcher confirmed the benefits of the project for both children and their families. Through creative and imaginative use of natural materials, contact with animals on the farm and also with wild animals, use of various farming tools – and also by engaging in sporting activities and embracing new challenges – participants develop a belief in the protective nature of their personal efficacy and thus in their ability to face and deal with stressful situations.

The German Child Protection Association in Gütersloh offers a follow-up programme for the children and also provides both them and their families with additional support and advice. The City of Gütersloh has included the project in its volunteer programme and cites Faba as the seventh most popular option among its biodiversity-related offerings. Also, in a study on The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB), the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) cites Faba in illustrating the value of nature. The state of North Rhine-Westphalia plans to adopt the Faba approach.




33334 Gütersloh-Isselhorst

Opening times: Tours can be arranged by appointment from March to October.

Contact: Rainer Bethlehem




©Photo: Faba
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