Hortas Cariocas: Community Gardens Cultivate the Blossoming of Favelas
Inside the dense urban favelas of Rio de Janeiro, gardening is an active and powerful social practice that influences, reshapes, and re-imagines places where people are living under extreme environmental and socio-economic stress. Our lack of imagination and creative involvement with informal or irregular urban communities (frequently referred to as slums, or in Brazil, favelas)—are emblematic of some of the most neglected places on the planet. They are also representative of some of the most critical crises we face in the 21st century.
Inside the favelas, the gardens are a mean to build and use human and social capital. Gardening can be a mean of engaging with a wide range of stakeholders, frameworks, and organizational structures and aid in developing and cultivating basic forms of economic, social, political, and environmental values. Gardens strain to emerge as sites of defiance, assertion, resourcefulness, and peacefulness, important not only for their ability to increase food and nutrition security or offset income, but because of their psychological components. Programs such as Hortas Cariocas, a directive of the Municipal Department for the Environment, has worked with residents to establish more than forty community food gardens city-wide in approximately 25 inner-city favelas and schools. Hortas Cariocas initiative is also responsible for setting up the biggest urban organic vegetable garden in Latin America located in the Complexo de Manguinhos, a cluster of these low-income communities of Rio de Janeiro.