Sao Paulo, Brazil
The project’s objective is to implement a farming nucleus and satellite agricultural sites to generate urban jobs and skill-building.
Malnutrition is one of the most immediate problem that Sao Paulo has to face. The Cities without Hunger-community gardens project seeks to connect the production of food in disadvantaged communities with high population density to ameliorate the situation. The responsible organisation tries to empower communities to improve the social, environmental, and economic issues affecting them. The project aims to implement a farming nucleus and satellite agricultural sites in order to generate urban job opportunities, skill-building for participants and their dependents, systematic income generation from selling the produce and value-added processed goods, and social integration between communities and their environments. These objectives are to be achieved using a participatory process.
The main steps and instruments are to search, clean, and use abandoned sites as gardens. Inhabitants work in the fields to produce vegetables to donate to poor families, and sell at markets. The project not only fights malnutrition, but also creates jobs and income for workers in the gardens.
Measurable results include: improved nutrition and job creation. Many cities around the world face malnutrition problems. Cities without Hunger offers a smart pattern to transfer community gardens. The project won the UN HABITAT Award 2010.
This project was awarded the 'Dubai International Award for Best Practices' in 2010. Learn more about the award.
Background and objectives
Sao Paulo East Side, which constitutes the target group for the project, stands out as a grim sprawl of poverty and violence within Brazil. Some 3.3 million people (33% of the city population or 17.76% of the metropolitan region entire population) live in the East Side. Though located in the metropolitan region, poor social conditions, precarious road access, and low economic activity keep the East Side segregated from the rest of the metropolis. The major part of social exclusion and lack of work affects teenagers and middle-aged inhabitants the most. The East Side population is formed mostly by migrants moving from poorer north-eastern Brazilian states in search of job opportunities and better living conditions. Yet most of the area workforce is unemployed and distribution of food baskets by Sao Paulo is often the only source of nourishment for many families.
The overall project objective is to reduce the number of people suffering malnutrition in Sao Paulo East Side. But there are a number of specific objectives involved in this plan. Adopting a pragmatic point of view, the project tries to:
- set up incoming-generating jobs by means of gardens;
- foster food education;
- introduce environmental and sanitary education;
- set up small processing units;
- create and implement mechanisms stimulating producers to process value-added fresh vegetables and fruits;
- foster organising urban farmers' associations and cooperatives, aiming at marketing their produce.
The main project work is carried out by Hans Dieter Temp and Cities without Hunger, an NGO founded in 2003. The first gardens were established in 2004, followed by the first partnership for financing the community gardens programme. Since 2010, 21 gardens have been established and 665 community beneficiaries. Whereas this overall planning time frame is relatively easy to follow, steps and timeframes in individual community gardens differ from one another. This section summarises a pattern for creating a community garden in general.
The project’s main steps are mostly to search for abandoned sites and find out who owns them. Thereafter, the project contacts the owner to arrange to use the site as a garden, and takes soil samples. Most people or companies agree to the project, because it secures the value of the property by cleaning the site and deterring informal settlers.
The cycle starts with fencing in, cleaning, and restoring sites. Organic waste is separated from other waste, pieces of wood, tree bark, and leaves. Potato peel and other organic waste are composted into fertiliser. To record revenue as soon as possible, the first crops to be cultivated have a short cultivation time, e.g. kitchen herbs and lettuce. These crops need 35 to 40 days until they can be sold.
The next phase is to check whether other crops can be cultivated. Regional dietary habits play an important role in this decision.
The last step includes diversifying cultivation, and introducing food products that are rich in nutrients.
‘Cities without Hunger’ provides communities with resources for professional training and income generation through marketing products obtained through participants' projects.
Official site owners retain their right to use the land for their own plans.
The whole cycle is accompanied by community meetings to inform and involve neighbourhood members about / with the gardens.
'Cities without Hunger’ invites the community to form a committee composed of representatives from public institutions, local organisations, NGOs operating in the area, and representatives of beneficiaries. This committee has the task of selecting families to participate in agricultural activities, and coordinating participatory planning to implement work plans developed by urban farmers. Committee activities fall under two headings: formal work (meetings and lectures) and information work (meetings and training). The project aims to foster participatory management additionally through awareness in project participants, encouraging, strengthening their capacity to intervene in systematic community issues, and to value their contributions in solving local problems.
Participation in chat rooms, community decision making, and negotiation with local authorities provides opportunities for community members to participate in forming the principles and actions which increase social inclusion and promote participatory governance.
In all initiative measures, Cities without Hunger uses a participatory community educator method. The NGO trains involved community members in technical (or 'hard' skills) as well as 'soft' leadership skills. They are then responsible for training newly involved community members. In this way, the NGO keeps staffing costs low, and builds greater capacity and resiliency among the communities in which it works.
Financing and resources
Funds for the work of Cities without Hunger come from participation in public bids, awards, multilateral organisations, embassies and consulates, private companies, and foundations in the United States and Europe. All funds are managed by the Cities without Hunger staff, together with project beneficiaries.
The Cities without Hunger project / community gardens has support from various institutions and bodies in municipal, state, and federal government as well as national and international funding for social projects such as IAF, Inter-American Development Foundation (USA), a foundation that funds projects for human development worldwide.
The project has financial support from the Caixa Economica Federal, which provided investment for resources in 2004, 2005, and 2006. The NGO is developing projects to raise funds internationally. It counts on support from the joint Brazil-Germany Chamber of Commerce and Industry, from the City of Sao Paulo, where negotiation work on implementing partnerships is at an advanced stage.
Results and impacts
There are many and varied already evident results of Cities without Hunger / community gardens. The project evaluates its work by means of three performance indicators.
- Food, basic needs: through interviews with community members, Cities without Hunger identified improvement and diversification in beneficiaries' and dependents' diets and changes in eating habits with use of more vegetables in their daily diets. Beneficiaries' strengths also improved by means of training processes to improve handling and food preparation.
- Application of knowledge: by means of verification and list of participants at project courses, training meetings, and workshops; the project encouraged entrepreneurship training for community members to secure sustainability in the project.
- Employment and income: through interviews, it was found that increased income generation improved beneficiaries' and dependents' quality of life and positively influenced the economy in the community in which they live.
Furthermore, there are several quantitative and qualitative results. Quantitative results include a great number of workshops held to improve participation opportunities for community members. Building greenhouses, buying vehicles and other needed equipment is also included in quantitative results.
Qualitative results comprise job opportunities created for community members, empowerment for urban farmers in agro-ecology, preserving green areas, and using land for agricultural production in general.
Barriers and challenges
Although, the project is successful in reducing malnutrition and creating income-generating jobs, there are barriers and conflicts. Only three of the 21 gardens are financially self-sufficient. Other gardens depend on sponsoring by foundations and companies.
The problem has been recognised and will be addressed through efforts to increase gardens' economic outputs.
Furthermore there are dependencies on the land owners for land used. The person or company has the right to shut down the garden and use the land otherwise. According to Hans Dieter Temp, this circumstance does not seriously affect community gardens, because there are numerous unused sites in Sao Paulo East Side. H. D. Temp denied that there were high levels of dependency on the sites used, because of the fact that Sao Paulo is supporting the project and there was enough land to create gardens.
The next problem occurs when a community garden is planned. Although the project is successful in other areas, the community where a garden is planned can have many doubts about the project. To overcome community doubts was, according to H. D. Temp, the greatest hurdle. The way to handle this problem is to hold extensive community meetings and to enter into a dialogue with community members who have doubts.
A potential future barrier for the project could be dependency on Hans Dieter Temp and the Cities without Hunger NGO. Although Temp plans to leave the project, it will probably continue to depend on the NGO and its staff. This potential future barrier is denied by Temp who states that the gardens are constructed to be independent after 12 to 18 months.
Lessons learned and transferability
Further development in the course of the project will be in decreasing dependence on companies and NGO staff. This challenge has to be faced by improving economic outcomes of the gardens to make them independent from funding. The next step will be on-going training for community members in areas such as: food production, marketing, and rural credits. Results already in evidence give an indication of upcoming work which needs to be done.
Main success factors in the project are work by the Cities without Hunger NGO, funding by several governmental and private actors, work of all involved community membersand the opportunity to use abandoned land in Sao Paulo East Side.
These factors are more or less necessary to transfer the project to other cities. Dependencies on private companies are questionable and may have to be reduced, but overall project planning can be used as a pattern for other cities.
The project itself is not the result of transfer, but urban farming projects already exist in a lot of cities all around the world, proving that elements in the Cities without Hunger project can be transferred.
Empowering the inhabitants involved is an important aspect. It provides them with awareness of urban planning and offers opportunities actively to influence urban development, although their social circumstances may be marginal.
Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, 25. November 2012, Nr. 47, S. 7