Hortas Cariocas - Rio Urban Green Gardens
Aiming at enhancing food and nutrition security in the City of Rio, Hortas Cariocas encourages urban agroecology, provides healthy food and an income opportunity to vulnerable communities. The project offers inputs and material supplies to locals to develop organic agriculture and foster environmental education. Located in vulnerable areas, the gardens produce food without using agrochemicals or pesticides, promoting a healthy diet for more than 20 thousand beneficiaries. The garden located inside municipal schools shows the students the importance of agroecology, the process of food production, and the need to have a balanced and healthy diet. All food produced is used in school meals.
The initiative's main goal is to end hunger and achieve food and nutrition security for the local communities, where the gardens are located, by promoting sustainable and resilient agriculture to produce safe, nutritious, and sufficient food all year round. The farmers receive a government incentive for the agriculture activities. Half of the production can be used for its own consumption or sold in street fairs, transforming the program into a source of income for the local population. The other half of the production must be donated to local municipal schools for the preparation of school meals, as a healthy diet is key to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all ages. There are currently 48 production units, half of which are located inside municipal schools.
Food is, directly and indirectly, related to all SDGs. From production to consumption, food choices impact the environment and human health. The practice aims to reduce food insecurity in Rio and achieve zero hunger by promoting sustainable agriculture and reducing inequalities in food access. As gardens are located in geographically vulnerable areas - landslides-prone or in underutilized lands - the plantation process ensures the conservation, restoration and sustainable use of the soil, strengthening resilience and adaptability to climate-related and natural hazards.
The areas indicated for the implantation of the gardens are analyzed with respect to technical characteristics such as the history of land use, technical feasibility, existing initiative, and initial investment. If the land meets these criteria and according to budget availability, the municipality selects, in partnership with the local civil society organization, farmers willing to work on the land. Currently, 217 farmers work in the 48 production units: 87 women and 130 men. In 2020, to monitor and maintain the production units, Rio City Hall allocated US$218.534 - raised from tax exemption, and US$28.000 to purchase inputs, tools, seeds, and uniforms - raised from environmental compensation of environmental licensing processes. As an incentive for the production, the municipality directly pays grants to farmers - a total of US$256.300. The municipality monitors monthly the number of seedlings and food produced. The program is part of the quadrennial Strategic Plan of Rio de Janeiro City Hall and is aligned with SDGs 2, 12 e 15, in order to encourage organic urban agriculture targeting the production of 80 tons of fresh and nutritious food per year. There are gardens in all administrative regions of the City, but mostly in the north and west zones - regions with the lowest-income rates. Besides, the municipality aims to act as an incubator for urban agriculture. The support provided by the City Hall aims to be the first stage of the program, with the main goal to offer conditions and knowledge to local farmers so they can continue their activities independently of the municipal financial support. From 2016 to 2020, 10 green gardens were emancipated and are now auto financial-sustainable programs.
In 2020, around 60.000 families and 30.000 students were directly benefited. Generally, the production of the green gardens located at municipal schools is used to prepare school meals. However, due to the closure of schools in response to Covid-19, food was delivered to the students' families. The units produced 82 tons of food in 2020 and 70 tons in 2019, representing an increase of 17%. At the Manguinhos’ neighborhood, one of the most vulnerable communities in Rio, the green garden rehabilitated an area that was previously occupied by drug users and became the biggest community garden in Latin America. There, more than 800 families benefit from the healthy food produced. In 2018, Rio inaugurated the Municipal Center for Agroecology and Organic Production, the first in Brazil. It serves as a tool to develop actions linked to the consolidation of municipal agricultural policy and promotes training courses according to the National Policy on Agroecology and Organic Production.
It has been noticed that the communities selected for the implantation of the gardens must present initiatives that justify their adherence to the program, i.e. if other environmental activities were already held or if residents are mobilized. In schools, they must present political-pedagogical proposals related to agroecology and environmental education that justify the use of the garden as a teaching tool as children constantly present in the garden routine are the main multipliers and agents for transforming their family's eating habits.
The activities can be replicated in spaces available for growing food and by supporting the production chain, like public food procurement, street markets, and platforms that connect consumers to producers, as well as economic incentives for urban agriculture. Rio aims to extend the practice by implementing it in other public spaces; developing the aquaponics technology; and recovering the previous and original agricultural belt around the units. Rio also plans to hold workshops, exchange good practices and foster sustainable agriculture in partner cities. In line with environmental principles, Rio also invested in irrigation systems that reduce water consumption, like drip and/or micro-sprinkler systems. The mulching technique and the aquaponics system were also innovatively incorporated. It allows the sustainable production of animal protein as it enables the production of fish and vegetables in a single system, using the same water in a recirculation mechanism
The entire production is being donated to low-income communities experiencing economic and social difficulties due to the pandemic. The program is also donating other fortifying foods not produced at the gardens such as sweet potatoes, pumpkin, and cassava. Due to the necessity of ensuring food security, aquaponics systems (cultivation of vegetables associated with fish farming) were implemented, a mitigation measure that will continue after Covid-19. Sustainable agriculture is vital to a green recovery from Covid-19. It promotes food and nutrition security to consumers, gives farmers knowledge, experience, and new occupation opportunities, safeguards land and the ecosystem, and increases mental and health well-being since direct contact with nature is psychologically beneficial.
SDGS & Targets
Deliverables & Timeline
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City of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil