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SALEWA Garden – solidarity with refugees


Like many other cities across Europe, Bolzano has become home to people who have fled countries ravaged by war and human rights abuses. Many of them are young men uncertain about their future. They are willing to work and ready to learn, yet finding a job is often far from straightforward.

As a number of employees were already involved in refugee and asylum seeker support groups, Salewa decided that it wanted to do something as a company to show its solidarity with refugees.

Next to our headquarters in Bolzano is a 3,000 m² plot of land. We decided to turn it into a horticultural nursery where refugees can grow organic fruit and vegetables.

Together with help from Josef Zemmer, a professional gardener from Biason, a local garden centre, and tools donated from the Bolzano agricultural cooperative, refugees prepared the field to grow 30 different types of plants, including vegetables, herbs and raspberries – all using organic methods. Start-up capital was raised by donations from employees which was then generously topped up by the Oberrauch family.

Cooperative organisations, local businesses and volunteers all joined together to form a solidarity network (for example, organic compost is supplied by Bioenergia Trentino, an energy supplier, and tools are stored in a container donated by Niederstätter, a local construction company). Together, we support 15 young men from Bolzano refugee centres, some of whom already have agricultural experience of growing crops in their own countries.

The project has borne fruit, the produce is sold to restaurant Bad Schörgau, run by top chefs Egon Heiss and Gregor Wenter in Sarntal, and the SALEWA “Bivac” bistro. In addition, SALEWA employees can also get fresh fruit and veg direct from the nursery in the evenings after work in exchange for donations, which are shared between the refugees.

The project has since been registered as a social cooperative. I think that it plays a small but important role in giving refugees an opportunity to get involved with local people, improve their German and Italian and improve their employment skills. 

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