Vegetable plot

Urban gardens: Food and health against the crisis

Urban gardens: Food and health against the crisis

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In emergency situations the idea of ​​growing one's own vegetables arises. A garden program at the UBA (University of Buenos Aires) indicated that horticulture in the city contributes to self-sufficiency and, above all, strengthens people's ties with each other and with nature.

Members of the University Extension Program in School and Community Gardens of the UBA pointed out that the gardening activity in urban centers puts the right to food and to live with dignity in the city in debate.

(SLT-FAUBA) People living in cities are becoming more and more interested in urban gardening. Between the cement and the buildings, the orchards became spaces for production, socialization and encounter with the earth, plants and insects. "In contexts of socio-economic crisis in which access to food is difficult, the number of urban gardens increases because they are thought of as spaces to produce their own vegetables”, Said teachers from the Faculty of Agronomy of the UBA (FAUBA) who are part of the University Extension Program in School and Community Gardens (PEUHEC), of the same institution. Urban horticulture can help self-sufficiency, and strengthen relationships between citizens and nature. They highlight the relationship between urban gardens and the right to food.

Both in the mid-90s and in the crises we went through in 2002, 2008 and in the face of the present pandemic, we observed a growth in the number of urban gardens. During socioeconomic crises, many people begin to grow gardens in their homes with the idea of ​​self-sufficiency”Said María Ximena Arqueros, professor of the Department of Rural Sociology and Extension at FAUBA.

Although urban gardens start out with a desire to produce their own food, then that goal often changes. They are not exclusively productive experiences or popular sectors of the city. In recent years, people with different expectations and interests have approached urban horticulture, such as the link with food, with biological processes, with the recycling of waste and even with the occupation of spaces. Regardless of how much is produced and who does it, orchards have a great symbolic content”Said Nela Gallardo, professor of the Department of Rural Sociology and Extension at FAUBA.

Arqueros added that when making a garden, many senses related to the land, the original, physical work, dignity and health are put into play. With practice, the purposes of the activity can be diversified to include therapeutic, educational, and recreational purposes. "For many people, being outdoors and in contact with flowers and butterflies is already pleasant. It symbolizes connecting with the vital energy in the middle of the cement. Horticultural practices allow satisfying human needs such as participating, creating, generating identity, subsisting and freedom, among others, simultaneously and synergistically”.

In this sense, Gallardo told Sobre la Tierra that in emergencies like the current one, many groups turn to the community garden as a space to rebuild and strengthen the social fabric and relationships between people. "Although today people cannot meet physically, the gardening teams are still active exchanging information and generating new proposals through different communication channels”.

Food and learning

Although it is very difficult to achieve self-sufficiency with an urban garden, we can collaborate in feeding our families. It is possible to grow vegetables in the garden, on the balcony or even in a window. The most important thing is to find the site with the highest direct solar radiation. To build the garden we can reuse materials that we have in the house such as drawers or pots. There are as many ways as there are ideas, depending on the resources we have at our disposal.”, Explained Marcela Harris, professor of the Horticulture chair at FAUBA.

And he added: "Then we have to choose the species we want to grow depending on the time of year and the area in which we are. For that we must consult a sowing and planting calendar for the region in which our home is located. You have to know the growth cycle of the species we select. This way we can plan when to sow, plant or transplant in a staggered way depending on how much each family consumes”.

The teacher said that in winter everything grows slower, but it is possible to grow leafy vegetables such as lettuce, chard, spinach, cabbage and kale, among others. "It can also be useful to start with fast-growing vegetables, which are harvested approximately a month and a half after being sown, such as radish, arugula or radicheta”.

Harris also said that it is key to build a compost bin or a vermicomposter in which 'fertile soil' can be generated for the garden based on household organic waste. He emphasized that in addition to reducing the volume of waste, these practices are useful to learn about the recycling of organic matter.

If we have a limited space, we can produce sprouts, which are fresh and nutritious food. There are very simple techniques such as placing organic radish, alfalfa, leek, onion or fenugreek seeds in cloth bags. In less than two weeks we can have sprouts ready to eat. These are just a few ideas. There are many tips and techniques to share. Much of the experience of the 20 years of PEUHEC, in which we accompany more than 100 orchards in CABA and the AMBA, is systematized in the publication ‘Agroecological urban gardens: spaces for action and reflection’.

The right to food and the city

Talking about food production and urban gardens makes us think about certain structural problems that are enhanced in the current context. For horticulture in the city to really help alleviate hunger, malnutrition and poverty, there must be public policies that integrate this activity into broader programs that ensure that the right to healthy food is fulfilled for the entire population"Arqueros said.

For his part, Gallardo stressed that “The pandemic allows us to reflect on the inequalities in access to quality food and its commercialization, and it was asked why the provision of the food we need to live depends on the prices established by a supermarket? And why do food distributors have to expose themselves?”.

Nela referred to the fact that talking about urban gardens also puts the accent on questioning the city as an environment in which biodiversity and human life can develop.

The right to the city is the possibility that all people can develop with dignity in it. That there is equitable access to housing, recreation sites, health centers and transportation, among others. "In itself, CABA has 6.1 square meters of green space per inhabitant, while the World Health Organization recommends between 10 and 15. Now, how can a person feel the biological processes in this context of isolation if he lives in a neighborhood of apartments, surrounded by buildings and with little access to green spaces?”.

Growing your own food is a powerful, thoughtful, and transformative experience. We saw it in many people who passed through PEUHEC and who took "the seed" from the agroecological urban garden in their bodies. In this context of health crisis, we created a virtual space to share garden experiences and answer questions. You can find us on Instagram”, Concluded Arqueros.

Video: Growing Food in Urban Small Spaces - Urban Gardening (August 2022).