“If there is an area where there is now a garden, and it is being very well developed – the community is going there to buy food, and if everybody is happy – no mayor will have the courage to come and say ‘no, we will take it away from here”
(Representative from Abastecimento Publico, as cited in Yates & Gutberlet, 2010)
Community Gardens are public urban agricultural plots under the management of local residents, rather than local government. While they may fall on public land and may be provided with assistance from the local governments through either start up or capacity building, the gardens are open to public involvement. Groups of gardeners manage both the land and food distribution, and it is these groups and their families who consume the food. Surplus is directed towards supporting community members and institutions or to markets.
Many of these community gardens have emerged in the municipality of Diadema as a result of the cities proactive policies aimed at enhancing food security. In 2003, the city established CONSEAD (the Diadema Council on Food Security) to operate within Brazil’s Fome Zero programme, a strategy to ensure the human right to adequate nutrition for people with difficult food access.
In spite of these progressive policies facilitating the implementation of community gardens, political turmoil in Brazil often results in chronic instability, negatively impacting recycling groups. Periods of instability where enforcement of government legislation rapidly disintegrates poses a particular problem to community gardens, as a lack of collective organization leaves them vulnerable to land tenure agreements. Should there be a shift in political emphasis away from Fome Zero and towards, for example, building infrastructure to relieve overcrowded slums, the municipality possesses the power and right to retract their land offerings so as to meet the infrastructure or housing objectives. Without legal protection, community gardeners are disempowered in the legal fight for land-use rights. Diadema in particular has a high demand for land. Consequently, the municipal government is under extreme pressure to find available land and provide affordable housing, which makes the tenure of community gardens extremely fragile without the sufficient legal support.
*This blog is based on:
Yates, J. & Gutberlet, J. (2010). Enhancing Livelihoods and the Urban Environment: The Local Political Framework for Integrated Organic Waste Management in Diadema, Brazil. Journal of Development Studies 47(4), 1-18.