Community gardens bring employment and sustenance to the east of Sao PauloPor Jenifer Correa - 01/10/2012
Community gardens bring employment and sustenance to the east of Sao Paulo
Malnutrition, unemployment and floods. These are three very serious problems present in the suburbs of Sao Paulo, but all of them can be solved at once. You want to know the seemingly magical solution? It’s the implementation of community gardens.
“Food production incurs various types of gains: it’s good for the economy, health and the mind. Especially among the elderly. Gardens rescue them from oblivion, from staying all day in front of the television. As they begin to work with nature, they rejuvenate. It’s really cool to see that. It is a process of social inclusion,” said Hans Dieter Temp, who created the Project Urban Agriculture and Community Gardens through the organization Cities Without Hunger in 2004.
The idea is to find urban areas in eastern São Paulo that are not being utilized and establish partnerships with landowners for agricultural use. “We ask the owner for a written authorization allowing us to create a garden on that property. In return, we keep the area clean at all times, so he will no longer receive complaints from neighbors at the City Hall or, worse still, fines. And when he needs the land back, he just lets us know, and we vacate the premises.”
Those who take care of the garden are the very residents of the surrounding area. People with a greater degree of social vulnerability and, preferably, not receiving any assistance are often chosen. They then go through a training course, where they learn to plant and take care of the soil, using organic methods.
“Our project is based on three goals,” said Hans. “First, to provide work for people who can not enter the formal market, usually because of low education or because they are much older. Second, to empower people to grow in urban areas. Third, to generate income.”
All surplus production is sold and the money is divided among all project participants. “But the priority is to solve the problem of hunger. All families who participate can take the food they grow home, at no cost,” he adds.
The Project Urban Agriculture and Community Gardens now has 21 gardens, directly benefiting more than 700 people. There are gardens in Sapopemba, São Miguel, São Mateus, Jardim Vitória, Guaianases and Favela do Pantanal.
“The organization Cities Without Hunger wants to be a model that people can expand and apply in Sao Paulo as well as in other parts of the country,” says Hans. The whole methodology of the project is available on its website and in the NGO’s page on Facebook.
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