Award-winning project Urban Agriculture Programme (UAP)

Rosario, Argentina

The objective of the UAP is to implement a participatory process of production, transformation, and commercialisation to improve food supply

The UAP was created as a reaction to the economic crisis in Argentina in 2001. As a result of this crisis, more than half of the inhabitants of Rosario were officially living in poverty. The overall objective of the UAP is to implement a participatory process of production, transformation, and commercialisation to improve healthy food consumption in Rosario. To fulfil this objective, productive communal enterprises were created. They generate a genuine income for the beneficiaries and facilitate food security for the inhabitants, who are affected by poverty. Another step of the policy is to transform the uncultivated areas into productive spaces to improve the neighbourhood landscape.

The main results of the UAP are the improvement of the living conditions of the urban poor, the improvement of the conditions and positions of women, the access to save land ownership, and the appreciation of the products that were produced by the community.

It is an example for good practice because it has been transferred to other cities in Argentina and Brazil, is executed by municipal and central government actors and uses a highly participatory approach.

Award-winning project

This project was awarded the 'Dubai International Award for Best Practices' in 2004. Learn more about the award.


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City information
City
Rosario

Size and population development
2011: 1,283,000; 1990: 1,084,000; 2025: 1,567,000; 2010-2015: 1,53% / year

Main functions
industrial centre and transportation hub, port complex

Main industries / business
agro industry, oil processing, chemicals, machine industry

Political structure
Mayor elected for a period of four years and a deliberative Council elected every two years

Administrative structure
six districts: Center, North, Northwest, West, Southwest and South

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Background and objectives

The main challenge and problem covered by the project was that Rosario suffered continuous bankruptcies in the industry and in small and middle sized businesses since the 1980s, which led to less employment opportunities for the local inhabitants. The peri-urban zone transformed itself into irregular settlements. In order to develope the objectives; emphasis was put on a participatory process, which was executed by female gardeners.

The objectives are as follows: use vacant lands for food production and securing land tenure to attend to the food security of poor urban families, accelerate an easily adoptable food production system to guarantee faster results without making the gardeners involved dependent on resources, supply important vitamins and minerals by producing food which is biological and healthy for the urban poor, create a system of direct commercialization, which can be found at easily accessible public spaces around the urban area, and put urban agriculture on the public agenda to promote the sustainability of the UAP.

The target groups are Rosario inhabitants and migrants from the northern provinces of Argentina, especially women, seniors, and youth because they have the most disadvantages being employed formally.

Implementation

In February 2002, the main steps of the UAP were taken. In September 2002, the first weekly garden fair to sell vegetables was launched to give the productive families a chance to receive a space on their own to start the commercialisation of their products. In November 2002, the project "Optimising Vacant Land Use for Urban Agriculture,” co-ordinated by the Urban Management Programme of the United Nations, began. It led to the advancement of the process of obtaining secure tenancy of vacant land for productive groups. In May 2003, the first food processing micro-plant, with which trained and organised groups can give added value to their production, was inaugurated. In December 2003, the municipal government changed, but the UAP continued. Over the years, the IDRC (International Development Research Centre) and the McGill University of Canada helped with technical assistance and training to develop more spaces to produce vegetables (gardens) around new areas of public housing projects by recovering degraded soil. Examples for the new gardens are the “La Tablada” – established in May 2007 –, the “Molino-Blanco-Las-Flores” – established in 2006 – and the “Bosque de los Constituyentes”.

During the phase of implementing the UAP, the main task was to strengthen the food production and commercialization. The most essential instruments to strengthen the food production are workshops to train the unemployed people in technical and practical knowledge. With the help of technicians and promoters of the UAP, a city network of urban producer groups was set up, producers were trained in management and project formulation, technical assistance was thought and quality seed and compost was provided. The large number of beneficiaries, who participated in the workshops, afterwards fulfilled the roll of promoters and educators at home.

Instruments to strengthen the commercialization are workshops on food safety and hygiene, product quality control, the establishment of farmers markets, and home delivery schemes in the community of Rosario. The farmers markets are validated by the general population because the productive groups successfully present their products of high quality with continuity. The Municipality installs the fairs, approves them administratively and recognises them politically. Another factor contributing to the commercialization is the mass media, who in the beginning diffused the new farmer’s market city wide.

The establishment of small scale industries is fulfilled by training the beneficiaries in market analysis and business planning to allow short term production planning achieving a continuous production around the year. By negotiating with the proprietors and facilitating access to loans, the UAP technical team and the gardeners gain security for long term planning. Additionally, providing access to old infrastructure and supporting its rehabilitation contribute to a growing agricultural industry in Rosario.

One of the most important instruments for the UAP was producing families’ needed access to land tenure for urban agriculture. First, strategies were delineated, and proposals for the regulation of the private and public spaces were agreed on in participatory workshops after mapping of vacant land. Together, the Planning Department, Cadastral Department, Housing Services, and Parks and Recreation later decided to give the (adjusted) proposals up for legislation. The proposals included the inclusion of urban agriculture in the urban development plan and social housing schemes, the exemption of landowners from property tax, and setting up a Land Bank.

The stakeholders involved are over 10.000 productive families, who are the protagonists of the UAP. Women play a special role because they could be identified as the most dynamic actors in the productive families. The families are involved in over 340 productive groups and produce food for 40.000 inhabitants. Indirectly, the whole population of Rosario benefits from the UAP because urban spaces are regenerated and healthy food and employment are provided.

Financing and resources

The UAP has very mixed financial and personnel resources. The Social Promotion Secretariat of the Municipality of Rosario provides the logistic support, technical assistance and training, input supply, and infrastructures. The Municipality also provides financial resources. With the prize money of the Dubai Award for Best Practice from UN-Habitat, the UAP purchased a tractor for the collective use of the gardeners. The National Food Security Programme Pro Huerta contributes by providing seeds.

Besides this, NGOs like the ASPA, Ñanderoga, and CEPAR contribute specialized technical resources and their connections to international financing organisations. The Schools of Engineering and Architecture at the University of Rosario and the local network of consumers “Movimiento de Agricultura Sustentada por la Comunidad” cooperate with the UAP on a technical level.

Results and impacts

The success of the UAP was evaluated by executing surveys at the farmer markets with the results of a great support of the products because of their high quality, better flavour, conservation, and presentation. Larger consumers, like pasta factories, soup kitchens, and school cafeterias, also show a great demand of the products. The local press reacted positively to the UAP: there was a high amount of published articles that emphasized the achievements of the gardeners. The activities of the UAP are legitimized by the high social valuations of the products.

A survey of 400 gardeners showed that the inclusion of women in society was successful and all beneficiaries involved in the UAP raised their self-esteem and strengthened social and community ties. In total, 791 gardens, five markets in different parts of the city and 342 entrepreneurs registered with the UAP and close to 2000 citizens gained a new source of income. Over 10,000 families are directly linked to the production of chemical free vegetables and secure the food supply for about 40,000 inhabitants of Rosario. The UAP promotes environmental sustainability by giving the urban poor access to abandoned spaces and helping them to create more green areas in the neighbourhood landscape of the city.

Not only the health, employment and social position of the beneficiaries, but also the economy and cultural diversity of the City of Rosario profit from the UAP.

Barriers and challenges

Barriers of the UAP are insufficient knowledge of farming and a high demand for secure tenancy of the land on the part of the beneficiaries.

The barriers were handled by developing a technical training plan for the beneficiaries with a participatory approach to allow the farmers to contribute their traditional and cultural know-how. Various municipal departments formulated the legal instruments for ceding the land together. The Faculty of Architecture of the National University of Rosario developed database of vacant spaces. The production process was planned to grow crops throughout the year; products were prepared to improve productivity; mechanisms to promote the sale of agricultural products were developed and a Municipal Agricultural Land Bank was founded to bring together the landowners and beneficiaries. In order for abandoned spaces to become productive areas, the beneficiaries and cities need to have information on ownership, soil quality, contamination and characteristics, accessibility, and land use regulations, which are up-to-date and reliable.

Lessons learned and transferability

Implementing a policy familiar to the UAP is only possible if the political will is clearly present and an integrated network between different organizations is established, while keeping the productive families as protagonists of the program. Anchorage with them and a direct commercialization strategy from the beginning are both essential for its rapid adoption. The urban agriculture must be situated within the strategic urban plan and incorporated in the physical planning of the city. The city must also regulate vacant spaces in the urban area and allow the beneficiaries secure tenancy of the farming land.

The UAP was inspired by lessons learned in the Brazilian Verticalization programme (PROVE), where the urban poor successfully produced and sold high quality products, benefiting from it at the same time.

The following international organizations have used the UAP as a good practise example: the IPES in Peru (Promoción para el Desarrollo Sostenible), the RUAF Foundation in the Netherlands (International Network of Resource Centres on Urban Agriculture and Food Security), the IDRC in Canada (International Development and Research Centre), the ICEI in Italy (International Institute of Economic Cooperation), and the GVC in Italy (Grupo de Volontariato Civile).

Other Argentinean cities visited Rosario in the past years to take it as a reference point, such as Mar del Plata, Localidad de Moreno, 9 of Julio and Camilo Aldao. The Brazilian cities of Puerto Alegre, Santa María, Viamao and Caxias do Sul have been developing a consultant’s post to adopt the UAP as part of the Federal Program of Hambre Cero.

References