In this article, experts from the Transilvania University of Brașov describe the situation of the Green Care sector in Romania.
Green Care is a developing concept with roots in Europe and in the USA. Despite its self-explanatory name, the concept is much more complex than its name could reveal. It has also been quite dynamic in the last years, evolving from social farming to therapeutic horticulture, and expanding to healing gardens and green exercises in urban areas. Nowadays, it is present in four major economic branches, namely Forest-based Care, Urban Green Care, Social Agriculture and Green Care Tourism (Green4C thematic sectors).
What is Green Care?
Green Care links aspects of the traditional healthcare systems to agriculture as care farming, animal-assisted therapy, animal-assisted pedagogic therapy, horticultural therapy, but also landscape and nature conservation as ecotherapy. Thus, green care establishes a link between areas that were not formerly linked, and therefore creates new benefits for all the areas involved (find out more about Green Care meaning and background).
Forest therapy in Romania
Romania is home to the largest remnant areas of intact and old-growth forests in Europe apart from Scandinavia. It hosts Europe’s largest and most healthy populations of bears, wolves and lynx. The Romanian forests provide an excellent environment for green care based on forest therapy.
Forest therapy is a natural therapeutic method of preventing and curing diseases through trees and forests. In Romania, this concept is growing as more and more accommodation units offer forest therapy packages, which consists in leading tourists through the woods and teaching them to take best advantage of everything around in order to change their mood and even health condition.
An example thereof can be found in the forests around Brașov, where entities such as Forest Therapy Romania and Asociatia Prietenii Padurilor provide walks on specialized trails particularly designed for forest therapy
Green care as social farming in Romania
Beginning in the 1990s, Romania has experimented with various modes of social farming, combining these methods as a novel experience of enhanced sustainability. Though they do not use terms like “treatment farming”, “farming for wellbeing”, “green care”, “green therapies”, or “social farming”, Romanians have implicitly practiced social farming in a variety of ways, undertaking diverse operations or activities in the treatment, recovery, social reintegration, and preparation of vulnerable individuals or people with special needs. Their goal has been to boost self-esteem and social engagement, to contribute to people’s well-being, to facilitate learning, to improve health and social inclusion, to re-establish interaction with the natural world, and to foster pro-social behaviour.
The legislation in Romania defines green care farming or social agriculture as “those farming practices aimed at promoting disadvantaged people’s rehabilitation and care and/or at integrating people with low contractual capacity’”.
In Romania, Social Farming is integrated in a national strategy which includes guides to setting up “social enterprises for beneficiaries of guaranteed minimum income”, for persons with disabilities, for Roma people, and for “young people over 18 who leave the institutionalised child protection system”.
Green care tourism in Romania
Though Romania remains a captivating time capsule of unspoiled nature and rural culture, key Romanian green care tourism concerns include safeguarding these priceless assets from commercialisation and careless modernization. At every stage, rural tourism is a vital supporter of wonderful traditions, favouring characterful lodging over bland hotels, for example. Nature is an important part of most touristic offers: mineral water, lakes, muds, sulphurous water from lakes or salt in salt mines.
Romania is promoting green care tourism through the National House of Public Pensions. The state offers financial support for nature-based treatment of various types for different social categories. There are categories of both employees and retirees who can benefit from completely free treatment. Legal provisions stipulate that the state covers all the costs for people with disabilities, victims of political persecution, war veterans, people who suffered work accidents and occupational diseases, employees with radioactive activities.
A very interesting case study about Romanian green care tourism is Sano Touring: a tour-operator specialized in inbound tourism and promoting accessible tourism for all by offering opportunities to discover Romania. Learn more about them and other case studies here!
Future of Green Care
Green Care in Romania is mostly based on the natural forests and intact landscapes. In the context of the European Green Deal, forests can be at the heart of a revolutionary sustainable transformation of Romanian economy and society. Such novel ways of thinking are not limited to new and improved ways of managing forests, but they also include new (adaptive) governance models, creative approaches to innovation management and business models. Hence, green care can be one of the pillars of co-creating a truly sustainable future.
- Forest Road in Brasov County – photo credit Mihai Daniel Niță
- Touristic trail in Brasov used for forest therapy – photo credit Mihai Daniel Niță
- Ursu therapeutical Lake in Sovata balneoclimateric station – photo credit Mihai Daniel Niță