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In times of crisis: Rosario’s urban agriculture program

By Incredible Edible

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When the city of Rosario, in Argentina, faced the turmoil of economic collapse, flooding and fires, local authorities responded with an inspired plan to green the city with urban agriculture. The city launched the Programa de Agricultura Urbana, which supplied local groups with training, seeds, materials, tools and growing spaces on municipal land in 2002.

The support in terms of policy, investment and staffing has seen the program develop into a huge success. “The idea is this multiplies in every available space in Rossario, because agroecology benefits everyone, it doesn’t have any enemies. It transforms everything,” said Pablo Javkin, Mayor of Rosario.

There are now hundreds of urban farmers who have been granted temporary ownership of public and private land across the city, and about 65% of those are women growing produce to sell to the inhabitants of the city, which is an important boost for the local economy, and drives a shift towards consumer demand for local produce. The urban green spaces across the city deliver a host of benefits beyond just the food they produce, offering social and health benefits, reducing urban heat islands, and creating opportunities for wildlife to flourish within the city limits. The program has been such a success that in 2001 it won The World Resources Institute ‘Prize for Cities’ in recognition of the huge strides the city has made towards sustainability.

Rosario didn’t stop the revolutionary program at the city limits, though. In 2015 the program extended, using detailed mapping to create an agro-ecological green belt around the city, making large areas of land available to grow produce for the city’s inhabitants. The greenbelt really came into its own when fires broke out in the surrounding delta in 2020 and the Green Belt Project areas maintained soil integrity and reduced subsequent flooding and temperatures.

One element of the urban agriculture project that is of great significance according to Tomasa Ramos Celia, a gardener at Parque Huerta el Bosque, is how it brings people together in the face of adversity, which so many Argentinians have endured since the economic collapse; “My dream is to make the cultivation of all the green spaces that are still left inside the area a reality; to get out of poverty, we have to come together.”