The UN Office at Geneva opens its gates to...sheep?

Fri, 28/10/11

Since the 1990s, about 200 to 300 sheep are invited every year to graze on the 68,000 square metres of grassland surrounding the sprawling Palais des Nations in October and November.

The sheep are made available by a local farmer from a village located at about 5 kilometres from the Palais des Nations.  They make the journey using the normal road and are "escorted" by two border collies, a dog breed specialized in herding livestock.

The sheep were exceptionally authorized by the Security and Safety Service to access the Palais through the Chemin de l'Impératrice gate, especially opened for this occasion, without the usual controls and without being badged!

The purpose of hosting these special guests is to have them graze the meadow, thereby cutting the grass in an ecologically sustainable manner and providing natural fertilizer for the grass and flowers that will grow in the spring.

Electric fences for sheep are installed within a large meadow of the compound located on the lake side of the building and are repositioned every two or three days to ungrazed areas given that they show a voracious appetite!

This initiative is part of the many actions taken by UNOG in the context of its firm commitment to climate neutrality, as the grazing sheep reduce the need to use lawnmowers and the fossil fuels required to operate them.

In this connection, in 2009 UNOG won a prestigious environmental award, the "Nature Reserve Certificate", for using sheep to maintain some of its lawns as well as other organic maintenance work done at the Palais des Nations compound.  The award is from the Swiss non-profit organization "Fondation Nature & Économie".  This label is awarded for initiatives that protect nature and contribute to biological diversity by managing at least 30 percent of the green areas around buildings in a natural manner and thereby avoiding ecological damage.

It should be noted that this initiative is very popular and successful in view of the fact that having sheep in the Ariana Park is a friendly reminder of how we can maintain the grounds in an ecological way, beneficial to all.  It is also quite unusual for most visitors.

The sheep will remain UNOG's guests for a period of two to three weeks, which means as long as they have sufficient grass to eat to feed them, before returning to their farm … looking forward to hosting them again next year.

UNOG is proud of this environmentally friendly tradition.