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Urban gardening – a new form of active citizenship in Spain within the project COHEIRS

On 21 and 22 March, the Spanish cultural association RECREATURA_arts&culture organized its dissemination event within the COHEIRS project on Civic Observers for Health and Environment: Initiative for Responsibility and Sustainability in Valencia (Spain).RECREATURA had decided to link the event to the theme of urban gardens, a phenomenon which has been growing worldwide since the year 2008 and which has gained particular popularity in Valencia.

Although gardens have always existed where people settled, the trend to have vegetable gardens within the city centres or even on the roof tops is rather new and can also be connected to the new culture of sharing which manifests itself in networks such as couchsurfing, car-pooling or swapping clothes. Valencia is a city known for its long tradition of vegetable gardens and the knowledge of how to grow fruit and vegetable is now passed on to the new generation of urban gardeners. And often the urban gardens are a place of exchange where children play, their parents meet for a barbecue or somebody may even give language classes. In the current crisis, they are also spaces of survival which help to provide those in  need with food.

But setting up an urban garden is not always easy – many of them start illegally with the occupation of public land which is no longer used. With the end of the construction boom in Spain, there are many such derelict areas spread all over the city, some of them are full of waste. Other urban gardens were created as a private entrepreneurial initiative where the owner rents out pieces of land of 50m2 to people. Yet others were actually initiated by their own local governments, as is the case of Godella, a small city close to Valencia. And one successful example of active citizenship are the urban gardens of the neighbourhood of Benimaclet which had been fighting for almost 15 years for a legalization of an urban garden which at last was made legal by the local government last year and now counts up to 600 gardeners.

All these different forms of urban gardens were discussed during a round table debate with politicians and civil society representatives on the 21 March. The nutritionist Marta Ribó also linked the debated to the question of eating habits and why organic farmed vegetables are more healthy for us. The event was accompanied by an exhibition and a small networking reception.

On the second day, the participants were given the opportunity to visit some of the urban gardens in and around Valencia by bike and taste some organic vegetables during a final barbecue in one of the gardens. Have a look at this nice feature story by the photographer Pavla Vanicka:

The event was a great success with more than 80 people participating on the two days and RECREATURA is already thinking of repeating the bicycle tour this summer.


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