Report: Community gardens as a place to cultivate relationships

“I have always been close to cultivation. As a child, we always went with my grandmother to the cottage, where she grew various things, so I subconsciously perceived it. We were used to digging in the ground. But the main thing for us is meeting people – the fact that here you have flower beds where you can grow something is a nice bonus. It is a joy and absolute relaxation, digging in the earth and dirt. It is also a form of rest for me. You completely calm down here, it seems to me like an oasis of calm.” 40-year-old Radka describes the reasons why she and her husband decided to buy a flower bed in the Vidimova community garden.

“It’s another safe place, an extended living space.” Source: REFRESHER/Lucie Kotvalová

The community garden, located on a housing estate in South Town in Prague, was created nine years ago thanks to the Kokoza project as a demonstration garden for the purposes of community cultivation and composting. Gradually, however, a sufficiently stable community was formed here for the garden to pass from Kokoza’s ownership to the hands of the local community. Currently, around sixty families farm here. However, there are only fifty beds, some members only use the opportunity to compost.

Grow and compost with ease

Kokoza was founded in 2012 as a non-profit organization. “Our main goal is to promote growing and composting in the city. To show people, organizations, companies and public institutions that growing and composting in the city is a joy and can be done with ease and with a positive impact on the planet.” Lucie Matoušková Lankašová, who founded the project together with Kristina Regalová, explains for Refresher.

Although the environment is currently a central theme for Kokoza, it also employs people with experience of mental illness: “The fact that I founded a business that deals with ecological issues is a bit of a coincidence. It happened because I am so personally based and I care about the environment. On taking care of the planet,” describes Lucie.

Biowaste currently makes up 40 to 60% of municipal waste.

Creating jobs for people with mental illness has always been primary for her. “Gardens are a space where utility value is created quite naturally, and we can integrate these people into such work very easily. It’s a simple manual job that anyone can do. It can be easily planned and adapted to the needs of individual employees. And there’s a social element as well,” explains.

The environmental aspect of both composting and growing is essential for Kokoza. Bio-waste currently makes up 40 to 60% of municipal waste – it is then dumped in landfills, where it causes the production of greenhouse gases and has a negative impact on the environment.

Vidimova Community Garden. Source: REFRESHER/Lucie Kotvalová

“However, such organic material can be easily and locally processed. And that’s why we show people that they can take the 40-60% of the waste bin directly at home or in the company and create new value from it using an affordable method. It’s something each of us can do. It is important to us that waste does not travel, that it stays where it is generated. That means even in the city. Emissions, energy consumption are also associated with waste transportation itself, and at the end there is a landfill, where the waste only smolders and causes harm. Composting as such is also one of the methods to prevent the creation of waste.’

Cultivation itself also has a positive environmental impact. The creation of new community gardens increases the amount of green space in cities, which, for example, makes it possible to lower the temperature in a given location, grow your own food or better treat rainwater.

We don’t wait, we change

“Yes, one garden won’t make a big difference, but we aim for there to be more such places in the Czech Republic and ideally throughout Europe, and together they create a kind of functional ecosystem – i.e. a systemic solution at the local level. This means we want to involve people and organizations in solutions. We are not waiting for the legislation to change and someone to arrange it for us. We meet the changes with specific activities,” says Matoušková Lankašová.

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Source: plos.orgPreview image: REFRESHER/Lucie Kotvalová

The article is in Czech

Tags: Report Community gardens place cultivate relationships

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