• Manuterra

Protecting the environment is one of the four axes structuring the actions of the Fondation d’entreprise Hermès. Mindful of the fragility of our ecosystems and the importance of handing them down to future generations, the Foundation has strengthened its efforts for a more sustainable world by launching the Manuterra programme. Taking place in school environments, this environmental education initiative aims to raise awareness among young people of the living world that surrounds us.
Manuterra session © Sophie Wetterwald

In order to ensure and support the continuity of ecological balances, we must first develop a detailed knowledge of local flora and fauna and a keen awareness of nature’s cycles. Faced with the challenges posed by climate change, the Fondation d’entreprise Hermès has devised Manuterra, an educational programme dedicated to the living world. Introducing young generations to permaculture, Manuterra seeks to enlighten tomorrow’s citizens on the crucial role played by nature and to highlight the major challenges in protecting and preserving it.

Launched in 2021 by the Foundation, in partnership with the Saline Royale d’Arc-et-Senans, the Compagnons du Devoir et du Tour de France and the Besançon Board of Education, the Manuterra programme consists of immersive sessions for primary and secondary school pupils in a garden of edible plants. During school hours, and under the guidance of a horticultural professional (gardener, horticulturalist, market gardener, etc.) and a mediator, pupils are invited to create, plant and maintain a plot of land using a range of permaculture techniques.

Different environmental topics are explored through a hands-on approach over the sessions: the skills of gardeners and other nature professionals, water management, the life cycles and identification of plants, the life of the soil and natural fertilisers, to name but a few. These in situ sessions call for the active participation of pupils, who are invited to get their hands dirty, work the soil, use tools and learn key gestures. Crucially, Manuterra allows the children and teenagers to appropriate their own living space as a way to understand the importance of preserving biodiversity. At the end of the year, the pupils are responsible for passing on their cultivated plot to a new class, who will care for it the following year.

Saline Royale d'Arc-et-Senans © Vents du futur

Manuterra combines sensitivity and responsibility: by sharing the beauty of nature and promoting knowledge of the living world, this programme invites society’s youngest members to be attentive to our unique ecological heritage, which it is up to us to protect. It is also a precious educational tool that enables teachers to diversify their pedagogical methods by offering pupils a highly original collective experience outdoors. Bringing together the worlds of education and environmental issues, Manuterra perfectly embodies the engagement of the Fondation d’entreprise Hermès in these two fields.

The pilot year of Manuterra began at the start of the 2021 school year in six schools administered by the Besançon Board of Education that have a garden on-site or nearby. Immersive group sessions for all the 150 pupils who participated in this first year were organised in the gardens of the Saline Royale d’Arc-et-Senans.

Following this pilot year, the Manuterra programme was extended beyond Besançon to include three further boards of education from the start of the 2022-2023 school year: Bordeaux, Créteil and Paris. In eleven classes spread over these four boards of education, more than 270 primary- and secondary-school pupils are now taking part in this programme that seeks to raise awareness of the living world.

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