Community gardens are shared spaces where people design collectively what they want to grow and work together on it. They are different in in their structure, purpose and format. Community gardens are run similarly to allotments, everyone is allocated a certain piece of land for which they are responsible for it.
The modern technologies of transport made it easy for food to be transferred from a place to another. It has derived people to be dependent on the economic system which can bring food anytime to anywhere all over the world. After the Economic crisis in 2008 and the rise of food prices, People could not afford buying some basic kinds of food and the crisis affected the most vulnerable people in the community; young children, women, and the elderly especially in developing countries. Community gardens became as a long standing traditional way of producing local food with economic, social, environmental, political and psychological benefits for the community members in addition to a critical role in post conflict contexts.
Community gardens have many Social Benefits as they create a space for social interaction. They work as a collective social-ecological memory of producing the food which strengthen the relationship between the food growers and the nature. They improve relations community integration because people from different ages, races, cultures and backgrounds meet to participate in growing their food. They encourage physical activity for the community members.
In all examples of community gardens, they are always leaders who start taking the initiative and inviting the community to participate. In all the initiatives of gardening projects all around UK, community gardens offered community leaders who have led their communities in implementing and organizing the meetings.
In the article “The potential of ‘Urban Green Commons’ in the resilience building of cities” by J. Colding and S. Barthel, they argued that community gardens work as a social-ecological memory for the family linking human actions and ecological processes. Memories are passed from one generation to the other.
Community gardens play a major role in conflict areas in food security and in creating employment for the affected communities. In Palestine, A small enterprise called Refutress created by a Palestinian women who observed that many development projects increase the dependence of the community on aid. She wanted to create a sustainable impact on the community responding to the community needs. They created Rooftop gardens project in the refugee camps providing access to healthy and organic food, increasing food sovereignty and making the best of the limited space within the camps.
In India, in “Dharavi” Asia’s largest slum that has a population of approximately of 1 million people, community gardens have provided low-income people with opportunity to grow their own food.
In South Sudan, the world youngest country, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has created community gardens project empowering women and creating a sustainable source of income for households. The project aimed at responding to gender based violence by reducing poverty which is the major cause of it. People tend to fight when there is a scarcity of food or when they feel unsecured economically. Community gardens have connected areas to exchange their harvests covering their needs and even increased access to education of the children of these households.
Many studies have shown that Community gardens have economic benefits. They provide the community members with low-cost food that the community members have chosen to grow. The real estate value increases where community gardens are located. They added to the city tax revenue 9,000 dollars annually in Milwaukee, United States.
Community Gardens are green spaces that have the same great positive impacts on the environment. They reduce air pollution, reduce the carbon footprint in the air and give the space for recycling.
Community gardens as a green space have a positive psychological factor on mental health. They a place to retreat from the noise of urban areas.
Community gardens reduce inequalities by influencing local politics or melting injustices between local people. Race forward which is an American organization works on advancing racial justice suggested that community gardening provide non-hierarchical forms of leadership which eradicate all forms of racial discrimination between people. They have found that there is a dominance of white people over communities in color in community groups of urban areas in New York. In this article “Food and Green Space in Cities: A Resilience Lens on Gardens and Urban Environmental Movements”, the writers suggested that social justice should be reinforced by policy makers to help underrepresented groups building their capacity, Nonprofit organizations, researchers, in community gardens and raising awareness of communities on any kind of structural oppression.
Community gardens work are identified by many police departments as an effective community crime prevention strategy as they increase eyes on the streets. Community gardens provide opportunities to meet neighbors as they reduce mental fatigue, the main cause of violent behavior.
Community gardens confronts neo-liberal capitalism forms of private ownership and land investment by reinventing the public space and empowering communities. They are useful tools for recreating the relationship between food producers and consumers producing products outside the mainstream of a capitalist economy.
Community gardening projects re-localize food production by producing wide variety of a fruit or a vegetable. For example, there is 123 varieties of coffee but because of capitalist approaches, we only drink few kinds of coffee.
One successful model that made are City Seed Farms. They started as a community garden and expanded to five markets of a producer-only farmers’ market in Connecticut, United States. They empower nutritionally at-risk women, infants, children and senior citizens.
Finally, I argue with all the benefits that community gardens offer in alleviating poverty and having economic, social and environmental impacts, there is still minor efforts on providing the practical knowledge of how to grow food especially in low-income contexts. We should make food available in front of our backyards instead of looking to have a land in order to cultivate our own food. Growing our own food has been our own choice and it should remain so!