Community Gardens Around the World: successes and benefits for healthy communities Mia Rizzi and Jillian Miller ABSTRACT Our research focused on the ways in which community gardens can foster ecological and social sustainability. We first completed a literature review in order to identify the benefits of community gardens. We then assessed several case studies in order to ascertain what makes a community garden successful and the ways in which projects have positively altered communities. Finally, w e conducted an interview with Sergio Aray who is involved with a community garden project in the Monteverde area, in order to gain an understanding of what he is hoping to accomplish through the creation and maintenance of a community garden . Nuestras inv estigaciones se centraron en las maneras en cual las huertas comunales pueden fomentar sostenible social y ecolÃ³gico. Primero, nosotros completamos un repaso literatura para identificar los beneficios de las huertas comunales. Entonces, nosotros revisamos unos estudios de casos para aprender cual cosas hacen una huerta comunal exitosa y las maneras en cual los proyectos cambiaban las comunidades en maneras positivas. Fina lmente, nosotoros completamos una entrevista con Sergio Araya quien es INVOLVED WITH A COMMUNITY GARDEN PROJECT IN THE MONTEVERDE AREA para entender su esperanzas y visiones de la huerta comunale . INTRODUCTION Communities benefit from community gardens in all sorts of ways. Bethaney Turner, in her article , Â€Embodied connections: sustainability, food systems and community gardensÂ identifies two types of sustainability that community gardens promote: physical and ecological sustainability and socio cultural sustainability 510. Social benefits include increased food security and h uman health, generation of social capital, and the development of community autonomy through education and training Firth et al. 2011 . Ecological benefits include reduced use of energy because food travels less distance, a positive effect on micro climac tic conditions in urban areas, and increas ed waste management Turner, 2011 . Community gardens create a space Â€that brings people together and inspires s hared actionÂ Firth et al. 2011 , often transcending gaps in age, ethnicity, and
socioeconomic statu s. Through coming together for a common goal, residents gain a pride and appreciation for the environment that surrounds them through Â€micro level engagement which connects them to the broader lifewor l dÂ Turner, 2011 . This connection and engagement can o ften inspire people to take better care of their community spaces and adopt more sustainable practices in general . Furthermore, this unity can overcome social barriers that can often tear apart neighborhoods. Gardens can, in fact, Â€act as a catalyst for re sidents to begin to address other issues in t he communityÂ Firth et al. 2011 . For our project, we analyzed examples of successful gardens in order to identify what aspects of gardens make them the most successful in uniting a community around the goal o f sustainability. We then conducted personal interviews with members of the Monteverde community who are working to create gardens to identify why they believe gardens to be important and what theyÂ‚re hoping to achieve by creating these gardens. METHOD S T o gather information on this topic we took several different approaches. First , we heard about community members who were starting community garden projects that we could contact. We helped with the construc tion of the garden at Parque E copaz where we also interviewed the owner, Sergio Ar aya, to learn about his visions and goals for the garden and the park as a whole. We also did a literature review to learn about other projects that have been successful and what have made them successful. We were then able to compare our literature review with the people we have talked to in the Monteverde region that have community garden projects.
RESULTS SUCCESSFUL GLOBAL CASE STUDIES One project in particular, The Opal Food Project, seeks to shift the focus of food ac cess and hea lth from Â€I nessÂ to Â€we nessÂ by using community garden s as a way to bring people working together to provide healthy and nutritious foods to communities. The Opal Food Project is currently in practice in several communiti es throughout the Phi lippines. This project provides jobs for people i n the community, access to healthy food for children in the schools as well as families in the community and allows communal bonding in the way the garden is run. The project gets funding from the government , which is increasing government interest in other communal garden projects in the country. The government support had a large impact on the success of these gardens. Â€not only are there community limits such as Âƒvolunteer energyÂ‚ but there are also limit s to what community based initiatives can achieve unless they are working in a supportive policy environment Â Hill, 2011 . At first , there was no way for communities to communicate with one another. While there was sometimes one large meeting among all of the communities, many people felt they didnÂ‚t have a voice so decided not to go. When Dixon Yasay was elected president he decided t o create a network so that the zones could communicate about economic and political decision making . This change in function of the communication allowed for more community interaction and bonding, which also allows the people to practice how to make decis ions democratically. Yasay also built a training center to of fer the farmers weekly training. This engaged the communities Â‚
interest and passion because they were able to improve skills and learn new techniques. The Opol local government unit LGU also es tablished a volunteer assembly every three months where awards are given to honor the members of the communities. Sometimes the zone leaders are paid a small honorarium as a symbol of appreciation. Establishing this community center attracted more interest from the members of the garden and gained more attention from a larger majority of the communities. From these case studies, it is possible to draw out key components of the successful creation and implementation of these gardens that can be applied to community gardens in the Monteverde area. One component of this project that seemed to be a key factor in its success was the role of local government and the Â€helping hand approachÂ. The government provided some funding for the start of the project and f or education of the people in the community to gain their interest and activity in the decisions of the garden. The government role also spread information to more rural areas that otherwise would not have heard about the project. This could be useful in M onteverde because there is so much land that could be used for this type of gardening and so much interest in gardening sustainably so people already have more of an interest and incentive to help out. Also this would allow for people in all corners of the area to hear about the project and offer help. Monteverde is a community that enjoys activities that allow them to come together and bond. However, it could benefit from more togetherness, especially among the Â€gringosÂ and Â€ticosÂ. The area also would be nefit from a healthy and more nutritious diet. FOOD SECURITY IN MONTEVERDE
Jennifer Andia et al. 2002, in their paper Assessing Food Security in the Monteverde Zone: A Multi Method Approach , define food security as Â€access by all people at all times to enough food for an active, healthy lifeÂ, including the availability of nutritionally adequate foods and the ability to acquire said foods. Unfortunately, in the Monteverde area, food security has been decreasing. This can be attributed to an increase i n consumption of unhealthy foods, leading to obesity and tourist induced price increases that have limited purchasing capacities of local residents. Tourism has also influenced the types of foods available in most stores, as many supermarkets have taken mo re interest in catering to the needs of foreigners, rather than locals Andia et al. 2002. In a survey of 49 Monteverde area households, only 8 16% reported being food secure. The rest ranged from Household Food Insecurity 20 households or 41% to the most extreme, Child Hunger 19 households or 39%. Based on these results, a focus group was created, and the overwhelming majority of women expressed interest in the creation of a community garden, as well as their willingness to help. Their interest was inspired by multiple factors including a lack of things to do and a desire to get out of the house, the want to renew and continue old traditions, and the hope of teaching their children how to plant and grow food Andia et al. 2002. PARQUE ECOPAZ COMMUNITY GARDEN INITIATIVE Parque EcoP az began two years ago in 2012 by Sergio Ar aya and his part ner Liz. With the help of his son, Ricardo , and multiple f riends and volunteers, he has turned what was once a patch of deforested land in to a beautiful park for the community. Sergio has many long term goals for the park that he routinely and consistently works towards every day , little by little. The park is comprised of a multitude of smaller specified portions
with different purposes. For example, he is currently working on clearing out a plot of land for a yoga platform. He uses sustainable methods as much as he c an, for example using the epiphy tes growing from the trees as the roof of a gazebo. During our interview with Sergio, he highlighted key themes that drove him to want to create a garden and specific benefits that he believes comes from commu nity gardens. These included social health benefits from eating fresh, healthy, homegrown food, and working together as a community. Another important benefit of community gardens in Monteverde is helping the people to remember their identity as farmers th at has been lost in recent years, especially among the youth, many of whom have never experienced growing their own food. Finally, community gardens are a perfect way to provide education to the community, especially concerning sustainability issues. DIS CUSSION Overall, through our research, we can conclude that community gardens can bring a variety of ecological and social benefits to a community. Based on the research on food security in Monteverde, there is an obvious need for more access to healthy, fresh food, and there is definite interest among the residents in aiding in a community garden project. Through our work in Parque EcoPaz and our interview with Sergio, we were able to see the progress being made towards the goal of implementing a community garden in the area and learn about the motivations behind this project. We hope that this project will continue to be a success and will inspire others in the area to get involved with not only this project but other emerging gardens as well.
Works Cited: Andia, J., Davis, E., Klein, R., Wirsing, E. 2002. Accessing food security in the Monteverde zone: A multi method approach. Globalization and Health: 1 21. Firth, C., Maye, D., and Pearson, D. 2011. Developing ÂƒcommunityÂ‚ in community garden s. Local Environment 16: 555 568. Turn er, Bethaney . 2011 Embodied connections: sustainability, food systems and community gardens. Local Environment 16: 509 522. Hill, Ann. "A Helping Hand And Many Green Thumbs: Local Government, Citizens And The Growth Of A Community Based Food Economy." Local Environment 16.6 2011: 539 553. Academic Search Complete . Web. 14 Apr. 2014.