“The best way to help a community is to give it the faith and knowledge to help itself” – New Scientist, 2nd August, 1962
Rosario, estimated population 1.7 million, is located 300kms (186 miles) North West of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Following the collapse of the country’s economy in 1989, unemployment reached 21.1% in 1995 and by 2001 an estimated 60 per cent of the city’s population had incomes below the poverty line. In 2002, to address the problem, the municipal government partnered with Pro-Puerto (Pro-garden) and the Centre for Agroecological Production Studies (CEPAR) to launch an urban agricultural programme. The idea was to equip 20 gardening groups with the seeds, tools and training to grow their own food crops. Within two years, some 800 community gardens had been established and were producing vegetables for some 40,000 people. Additionally, all the land that was not built on and was deemed to be unsuitable for urban development had been allocated to residents for agricultural use under a regulation introduced by the Mayor in 2004. This had the added advantage of ridding the derelict and degraded land of debris and weeds, as well as controlling squatting.
By 2004, the project was so successful that Rosario was awarded the UN-Habitat International Award for best practices in urban development with 10,000 low-income families directly involved, each earning up to US$150 a month. Since then, the economy has improved. Some people have abandoned their gardens, but around 600 groups remain and 7 weekly markets have been established in different areas of Rosario to which the farmers can take and sell their produce. While most of the farmers, 65 per cent of whom are women, sell their vegetables on their farms and at the markets, others are adding value selling, for example, jams, sauces and pickled fruits or cutting and mixing vegetables for salads and soups, while “Rosario Natural” sells natural cosmetic products supplied by local cosmetic producers who use their own plants supplemented by plants grown by other farmers.
Over the years, the programme has expanded and in 2015, the municipality launched a Green Belt Project that designated 800 hectares of peri urban land to be used for Agroecological fruit and vegetable production. Also, innovative vegetable garden parks, landscaped green areas that are used for agriculture and cultural, sporting and educational activities have been developed. These have become important locations for training people, particularly the youth, in Agroecological production. As a result, Rosario produces some 2500 tons of fruit and vegetables each year and not only has urban agriculture become part of the culture of the city and a vehicle for job creation, but it is a strategy for climate change. Instead of importing foodstuffs and generating greenhouses gases (GHG), in the process, the localised production of fruit and. vegetables has reduced GHG emissions by 95 per cent. Because of this the programme is as much an environmental programme as it is an economic and social one.
The programme has an annual budget of almost US$ 400,000. It engages 25 agronomists and is supported by an Agroecological nursery that raises seedlings and produces compost and liquid fertiliser. As a result, all of the crops are 100 per cent organic and the soil has been enriched as a consequence. According to Antonio Luis Lattuca, an engineer and one of the founders of the programme, the Agroecological farming improves the soil which “becomes spongier and more absorbent. Instead of sliding and creating floods water penetrates”. So the project does not just sustain the livelihoods of low-income citizens, but it improves the environment and impacts positively on climate change. Hence it can be seen to be bringing profit, people and planet into harmony and to be addressing SDGs 1 (No Poverty), 2 (No Hunger), 3 (Good Health and Well-being), 5 (Gender Equality), 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth), 10 (Reduced Inequalities), 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities), 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production), 13 (Climate Action) and 15 (Life on Land) plus 17 (Partnerships for the Goals).
On June 29th, 2021, the “Sustainable Food Production for a Resilient Rosario” project won the grand prize in the 2020/21 Prize for Cities.
According to Munoz et. al. (2014) all such projects require a catalytic outsider. Here it was the municipal Government, in Borgo a Mozzano it was Shell, in The Chito Shrimp Project, it was the al-Azhar University, while with SEKEM it was Professor Abouleish. Could this be a role for you or your organisation? The planet needs you.
Anonymous (1962), The Brave New World of Borgo a Mozzano. New Scientist. 298, 2nd August, p. 232.
Anonymous (2020), Sustainable Food Production for a resilient Rosario.WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities. December. Https://prizeforcities.org
F.A.O (Undated) Growing Greener Cities in Latin America and the Caribbean: Rosario. Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations.
Guenette, L., (2010). Case study: Rosario Argentina – A City hooked on Urban Farming. International Development Research Centre (IDRC). Canada. December, 17.
Munoz, S-A., Steiner A., and Farmer, J., (2014), Process of community-led social enterprise development: learning from the rural context. Community Development Journal. 50(3), 478-493.
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