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Building vegetable gardens in Cartagena: a project for poverty reduction and social cohesion

Poverty and food insecurity are complex and interrelated issues that affect millions of people around the world, especially those living in low-income urban areas. In these areas, access to healthy and affordable food is often limited, often leading to malnutrition, poor physical wellbeing, and a cycle of poverty that is difficult to break. At the same time, many people in these communities have limited access to upward economic mobility, making it difficult for them to improve their overall quality of life.

Urban vegetable gardening projects offer a promising solution to these challenges. By building vegetable gardens and small-scale agricultural production, communities can not only gain access to fresh, healthy food, but also create economic employment opportunities. By empowering communities to take control of their food systems and build resilience, such projects can help break poverty, establish greater food security, and promote improved well-being.

For several years, we have been working with our partner organization Granitos de Paz to promote the construction of backyard gardens in a poverty-stricken suburban settlement in Cartagena, Colombia. With this project, we are pursuing the goal of creating a sustainable and local food system while promoting the improvement of local living conditions. Through the cultivation and marketing of vegetables, the supply level of the target group is increased and alternatives for income improvement are developed. In addition, by involving young people, the project serves to reduce the potential for violence in the settlement and to strengthen resilience to climate change through other local activities.

The produce from the private allotments, which are mainly cultivated by women, is used for consumption in the community and for sale to local restaurants. Every day, an employee of the organization drives through the settlement on the shore of the bay and picks up some of the vegetables harvested by the growers in the early morning hours. From here, the food is taken to the headquarters, where it undergoes quality control and is prepared for further distribution.

In this way, freshly harvested and locally produced salads, sprouts and flowers end up daily on the plates of the families in the settlement and all those who visit the supplied restaurants.

By marketing the products outside the settlement, a brand has been established in recent years that is enjoying growing recognition in Cartagena. The income generated from the sale of the products already contributes significantly to improving the living conditions of the participating families.

When you're out and about in Cartagena, look out for Granitos de Paz products, which are now on the menus of many restaurants!

A local food system is emerging that benefits many.

In recent years, we have had the privilege of seeing the positive impact that productive gardens have on individual families and the community.

In the current project area, due to a lack of space in the family homes, additional community gardens are now being created that will be cultivated collectively. In addition to providing fresh produce and financial stability for local families, the project thus also contributes to strengthening social cohesion among families in the settlement.

Our goal is to encourage the emergence of similar initiatives that seek to build local urban food systems. To achieve this, we will be working with local and international scientific partners in the coming months to analyze the socioeconomic and environmental aspects of the project. The goal is to document the successful approach to vegetable production in Cartagena and make it accessible for implementation in various other settings.

We are excited about strengthening local stability in this way, advancing the production of nutritious and low-emission food in Cartagena, and leveraging the lessons learned from this project to build other localized food systems.


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