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Mercy Corps promotes community urban gardens for sustainability

The nonprofit organization Mercy Corps is advancing an educational initiative through its Participatory Urban Agriculture Project (Agrupar, in Spanish) to encourage the development of community urban gardens in vacant and abandoned spaces. 

The project aims to promote food security and sustainability, enhance the urban environment, and strengthen neighborhood bonds, announced César Ramírez, agricultural officer at Mercy Corps.

Agrupar’s objective is to foster urban agriculture in vulnerable communities as a sustainable method for increasing local food production and developing an independent food supply. It provides a learning space for program beneficiaries, including youth, the LGBT community, elderly individuals and low-income families, to learn urban agriculture basics and develop their urban gardens with limited resources.

Ramírez stated that these projects empower individuals to control their food and well-being, fostering independence and resilience in their communities. Additionally, involvement in garden planning and management enhances community leadership and enables residents to make impactful environmental decisions.

“Community urban gardens provide food security by allowing communities to produce fresh and healthy food locally,” said Ramírez. “These gardens provide an environment where people can learn about agriculture, natural resource conservation and the importance of a healthy diet. Furthermore, they become centers for sharing knowledge about promoting sustainable agricultural practices.”

Additional benefits of these gardens include converting abandoned areas into productive green spaces, beautifying urban areas, improving air quality and providing wildlife habitats.

Agrupar has created a free agricultural manual for communities interested in starting their gardens. It offers important information on the organizational aspects vital for community engagement in garden use and maintenance, ensuring its longevity. 

The manual covers agricultural considerations, including location, soil quality, size, lighting, drainage and safety. It also includes details on suitable plant varieties, propagation, harvesting and garden upkeep.

“Our goal is for communities to recognize the value of this initiative and to connect with each other to learn from replicable models,” Ramírez concluded. “Through AGRUPAR, two community urban gardens have been started in Tras Talleres, and one in Waves Ahead. Another 11 gardens have been created since 2018 under the Resilient Centers program. They all demonstrate that successful development is possible when there is an educated, committed and united community.”

For more information and to access the guide, visit the Mercy Corps website

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