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Urban agriculture: Rosario, Argentina reaps the benefits

October 6, 2010

Thousands of families in the city of Rosario, Argentina, were able to feed themselves during the country’s recent economic crisis by growing their own food. Now more than 800 community gardens in the city feed some 40,000 people and produce surplus for sale.

Urban agriculture has become a permanent part of the city’s fabric, thanks to research funded by IDRC, technical support from the UN Urban Management Program, and the support of local governments. IDRC was the first major international agency to undertake formal research in the field of urban agriculture in 1983. It has since supported research to advance urban agriculture in Africa and Asia, as well as Latin America.

Vilma Cala is typical of the new city farmers. The mother of four had to turn to soup kitchens when the value of the peso plummeted in 2002. “It was terrible, having to depend on others,” she said. That was before she started tending a large garden in a field criss-crossed by inactive power lines. Today, she feeds her family, sells fresh vegetables at one of seven farmers’ markets, and produces cosmetics from natural ingredients alongside 12 other urban farmers. Others prepare platters of fresh fruit and vegetables for sale, as well as soups and pies.

Research launched in 2003 helped Rosario move from crisis management to a long-term strategy for integrating agriculture into urban planning. This included an inventory of vacant lands onto which to expand gardens, the provision of water sources, and the creation of garden parks to provide food and recreation facilities in residential areas.

Rosario is now an international showcase for city farming.

What is clear is that urban agriculture is here to stay. While no panacea for any global level of food insecurity, it provides millions with some secure access to food and reduces their exposure to volatile changes in price outside their control.

Mark Redwood, Program Leader, Climate Change and Water, IDRC