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Stories from Hubber: Muriel Hendrichs

edited by Sara Fedele

Muriel Hendrichs is an entrepreneur with a great passion for the protection of biodiversity, for our territory and for people. From this passion she decided to found the tree library, dedicating himself to the recovery of local biodiversity and traditional ecological knowledge, the design of biodiverse places and the involvement of young and old generations in activities of connection to nature. With this project she participated in the first edition of Impact Club 2022-23 and has recently obtained an impact loan from the investor club to carry on her activities. We interviewed her to learn more about her entrepreneurial reality in Ticino and with impact.

How did the idea of founding the tree library come about and what is your main mission?

The inspiration to create the tree library originates in my deep passion for studying, observing and exploring nature and the infinite relationships that human beings weave with it. After completing the master's degree in ethno-botany in 2007 and working in local realities dedicated to the care and knowledge of the territory, in 2015 I followed the push to create my own business in which my passions could become my professional reality and develop in 3 fundamental sectors the study and recovery of natural wonders, the design of places rich in biodiversity and the organization of workshops and experiences in nature at the service of environmental education. I left alone, today we are 3 people accompanied by various reference figures; thanks to the multidisciplinarity of the team, the tree library was able to further develop its interests and fields of action.Our mission is to recover local biodiversity and traditional ecological knowledge and then create places and activities where you can develop a deeper connection and understanding of your environment. We believe that only by rediscovering belonging to the local ecological fabric can we make more informed choices in favor of a better balance of life on our planet.

What are the main activities you carry out for the recovery of local biodiversity and traditional ecological knowledge?

In support of our mission, we conduct studies, in collaboration with associations and bodies for the protection of the territory. We study and value man's companion plants which often play an important role in our diet. Through an ethnobotanical approach, we value and promote the transmission of the sensitivities of people who are still holders of traditional knowledge. There are over 2000 trees mapped in Ticino and 250 varieties that we have helped to rediscover. We have created a large "virtual library" of trees that preserve this knowledge and contributed to the creation of biodiverse thematic gardens, vegetable gardens and orchards in order to conserve this heritage and make it accessible to people and schools. Furthermore, we have created gardens of aromatic plants, restored territories through the cultivation of ancient potato varieties and accompanied the encounter with wild plants

Could you provide examples of specific projects or initiatives that you have implemented to promote biodiversity?

The plants at the center of our interests have found a place in the conservation orchards of the ProFrutteti association, in some green thematic gardens of Lugano (Garden of pumpkins at the Tassino Park, Garden of smells at Villa Saroli, Educational orchard of Cornaredo), in the garden square of Sorengo, in the new playground of Gudo, in the mountain vegetable garden in Rossa and in various school gardens scattered throughout the territory. Places that we have co-created with the local community, with schools and institutions dedicated to the care and regeneration of green areas.

How did you involve the local community in your work and what was the response?

The places that we have helped create and that we are planning have a strong educational value and are eager to host schools, families and all the people who want to get closer to biodiversity and want to get their hands on the ground. There are several animation packages that we offer in the various environments and areas. In general, people who rediscover contact with the earth and biodiversity leave the field with joy and new knowledge.

How do you involve young and old generations in your activities to connect with nature?

In addition to animating and involving the population in the restoration of agricultural environments, we spend a lot of time in our natural habitats, especially the forest. Here we have sprouted countless activities of connection and co-creation with nature. We facilitate, for schools and individuals, seasonal projects in the woods, with thematic courses on cooking over a fire, using the pocketknife, building huts, ropes and knots, animals and plants. We offer events for groups, courses for adults and training for teachers. More recently, we have also included half days dedicated to specific topics such as ecological health and herbal medicine in our calendar.

What are your future goals and what projects do you have planned?

We would like to accompany and facilitate contact with nature for different age groups. The work with adults and adolescents is what we want to deepen in the coming years. We recognize the benefits of every single hour spent in nature, for the well-being of people, for the well-being of the environment and for the quality of relationships between the people who participate in our events.

How do you measure the impact of your activities and what results have you achieved so far?

The smile and light-heartedness of the person at the end of the activities connected to nature are the first evidence of the achievement of our impact: people find well-being through our activities. We currently conduct feedback questionnaires that measure the degree of satisfaction of the participants and we have conducted a series of qualitative interviews on the advice of Impact Hub Ticino. Through this second survey, we found that people benefit from greater personal well-being (physical and mental) as a result of the activities we offer. They also underlined that what they learn about the territory through practical and direct experiences remains over time and that sensitivity towards the territory is often awakened. Our desire is really to have an active role in changing the perception of one's way of feeling an integral part of nature and therefore favor choices that are more respectful of all the organisms that compose it, therefore we are now working with Impact Club to develop a valid strategy of impact measurement.

Do you have partnerships with other organizations or institutions to achieve your goals? If yes, could you provide some examples?

Our impact mission meets the mission of numerous other entities, project partners. We have already mentioned some of them: ProFrutteti, Schools, Municipalities and Cities, others are for example the Biodiversity Territory Alliance, the Meraviglie sul Brenno Association, Capriasca Ambiente, the Maggia Valley Nature Center, the Department of Training and Development, the Bavona Valley Foundation, Geasi, Impact Hub Ticino, WWF, Silvava, ProNatura, Federal Office of Agriculture, Land Department. The synergies with each of the bodies mentioned are specific to the individual projects according to the field of action which is scientific, educational and popular.

What is the added value of having participated in Impact Club?

The last year, in which we have benefited from the support of Impact Club, the network of investors and people who are part of the Impact Hub Community, we have been able to mature and grow our project and acquire many skills in the areas in which we were less strong. Furthermore, we have had the opportunity to build relationships with other realities that have participated in the project and with people who have supported and motivated us, not only in moments of celebration but also in the most difficult moments. Giving new life to a project also involves the dismantling of practices, beliefs and habits that hinder the flow of activities for full achievement of the mission. We have gone through some interesting upheavals which are bearing fruit over time. We are very grateful for all the experience and support we have received.


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