Acquired skills and network of urban and peri-urban productive spaces as germs of agroecological urban planning

date: December 31st, 2022

Rosario's experience in the framework of the Sugi Project nexus Urbanizing in Place, has made it possible to deepen the theoretical and operational framework of agroecological development carried out in the city during the last 30 years.

From the proposed approach, the consequences in the region of the implementation of an agro-industrial production model have been analyzed, based on promoting an agricultural structure and policies under the philosophy of the "Green Revolution", which has caused the deterioration and degradation of natural goods, mainly soil and water, as well as the massive contamination of the environment and food, affecting people.

The identification and interpretation of urban and peri-urban processes related to food production and access, focusing on their relationship with soil, water and energy, made it possible to recognize dynamics on the basis of which to better understand their complexity and advance in their optimization.

The conceptual and operational framework proposed in the NEXUS Project, ordered the process of recognition and interpretation of components and relationships that enable an urban logic that integrates the production and access to healthy food, analyzing what exists and how it is expressed in Rosario's experience. , and reflecting on how they can be strengthened.

The thirty years of development of Agroecology in Rosario, of which for more than twenty years it was driven by sustained public policies, have configured spaces, generated relationships, built knowledge and consolidated capacities and identities in the producers, as well as in the technicians, officials and other local actors.

Initially, the management of the municipal Urban Agriculture Program (PAU) had the fundamental objective of attending to the Food Security of families in a condition of social vulnerability, providing conditions for the production, transformation and commercialization of agroecological foods. In order to promote and generate genuine income for this marginalized population, work was done to integrate them into a Social Economy circuit.

During 2016, the Green Belt Project was created with the purpose of revaluing and strengthening peri-urban horticultural producers and scaling agroecological production through productive reconversion processes.

Over the years, with the course of each experience developed, the initial objectives were deepened, expanded and made more complex with the goal of constituting a diverse and resilient urban and peri-urban agroecological system . A sustainable system permanently integrated into the dynamics of the city, exceeding the condition of strategy to face the consequences of political-economic crises.

Just as local cultivation traditions formed a fertile substrate for initial agroecological development, the experience of these thirty years has interwoven political, institutional, spatial and social components interconnected by an intense dynamic of relationships.

The components and relationships to be highlighted are the following:

  • The political will to support agroecology in the city, by successive political efforts, both in the Executive Power and in the Legislative Power, through the Municipal Council. 

  • The synergy generated by the multiple benefits of agroecological development between the different political Secretariats of the Municipality.

  • The awareness of municipal political decision-makers about the need to promote local production and access to healthy food, multidimensional in scope.

  • The complementarity of Programs, Plans and Projects linked to the promotion of agroecology, taking into account its multiple benefits. To the Secretariats in charge of the Urban Agriculture Program and the Peri-Urban Green Belt Program, others are articulated with actions aimed at optimizing the Green Infrastructure in the city and guaranteeing essential environmental services; promote actions to mitigate and adapt to Climate Change; requalify degraded neighborhoods and sectors; promote food safety and health, among others.

o   The Environment and Public Space Secretariat has integrated green spaces and the Green Belt Food Protection Area into the 2030 Climate Action Plan, directing preservation policies for these spaces by recognizing the contribution to the city's resilience.

o   The Planning Secretariat has integrated green and productive spaces as green infrastructure in city planning.

o   The Human Development and Habitat Secretariat in charge of food policies aimed at families in vulnerable conditions, has also expressed the possibility of covering part of the demand for food directed at soup kitchens with food produced by urban and peri-urban agriculture.

o   The Health Secretariat, which coordinates the Healthy Municipality Program , have incorporated the notion of healthy foods and the paradigm of good living to work on preventive health. In addition, it has been decided to incorporate the public purchase of local agroecological food in the next calls for tenders to supply health care providers (hospitals, primary health care centers).

This issue has been worked on within the framework of city exchanges on public purchasing of sustainable food, coordinated by the FAO, the German Institute for Development and Sustainability (IDOS), the RAMCC (Argentine Network of Municipalities against Climate Change) and ICLEI. . The reflections of this forum have served as a trigger to work from the Municipality on the concrete possibility of developing a pilot plan.

  • Today there is a network of support actors and shared work, committed to Agroecology in the city and the region, made up of organizations and institutions of various kinds:

o   Social, neighborhood, and environmental movements, academic and educational institutions of different levels of teaching, research, technology; governments of different jurisdictions (city, province, nation).

o   At the international level, there are also links and support relationships with organizations, institutions, universities and cities in various parts of the world.

  • The promotional work carried out by an interdisciplinary technical team with solid training in Agroecology has enabled farmers to gain self-confidence and ownership of ecological practices. These achievements have been the product of accompaniment in technical, organizational, motivational and commercial issues, through an action methodology that is transmitted in the fields of professional training and is enriched through experience in the territory.

  • Urban and peri-urban agriculture has been integrated into city planning as a strategy that enables various benefits. The productive spaces make up the permanent green infrastructure, providing environmental support, supply, regulation and cultural services to the population. There are protected spaces in the territory for food production, both in urban and peri-urban areas.

o   In Urban and Suburban territory, there are currently eight Garden-Parks and nine large-scale Group Gardens. They are spaces where gardeners can gain secure possession of a productive plot of sufficient surface to generate income from the sale of their harvest and for family supplies.

o   In peri-urban territory, 800ha of protected land have been regulated for food production (Ordinance No. 10.139/2020).

  • The creation of the Agrarian Parks Promotion Program (Ord. No. 10.142/2020), as a proposal for the management and protection of the territory through various productive strategies, where horticultural, agricultural and forestry activities coexist, prioritizing the production of healthy food and environmental protection.

  • The existing regulatory frameworks constitute important instruments to continue promoting the productive reconversion processes towards agroecology and stimulate the appropriate conditions that remain for this area to express its full potential.

  • There is an important network of producers located in the Green Belt, as well as orchard farmers settled in the urban area, which make up a productive community dedicated to the cultivation of resilient and fragmented horticultural plots, sustaining their use for the production of healthy food.

  • Around 450 urban and 60 Producers are registered in the Peri-urban Green Belt. Nine (9) Peri-urban Producers have completed the productive reconversion and many others are on that path. The conversion experience has shown that it is possible to produce under agroecological modalities in larger areas than those practiced in urban agriculture. In order to continue with agroecological development in the Peri-Urban Fruit and Vegetable Protection Area , it will be necessary to improve land tenure systems (now informal), optimize the quality of farmland, promote larger-scale sales channels, improve living conditions producer families (housing, health), improve road infrastructure, and the channeling of stormwater runoff.

  • The local population knows the attributes of agroecological food, which translates into a significant demand for this type of product. It is estimated that production from urban and peri-urban agriculture reaches 15% of the population, with increasing potential .

  • Short chains of commercialization of local agroecological products, through fairs located in public spaces (39 points). There are also permanent commercialization spaces (Agroecological Greengrocery of the “Patio Market” and a wholesale point of sale managed by the “common soil” organization (made up of women). These experiences indicate ways to strengthen

  • An institutional certification system to differentiate agroecological production provided by the Municipality, strengthened by the recent implementation of the Participatory Guarantee System (Ord. No. 9944). This certification is executed with the participation of different local institutions and organizations. A quality seal is granted to the products obtained under this control. These are public policies with the purpose of promoting the sale of producers in other marketing channels, such as public purchases and private businesses.

  • In order to move towards a "virtuous urban metabolism" and a "circular economy", a significant number of experiences have been developed in the city related to the productive use of organic waste generated by industries (bagasse from the brewing industry, waste from the refrigeration industry, chicken litter from poultry activity) and other activities ( for example, leaves and grass from public green spaces, urban trees, household waste, among others). These residues are used to make fertilizers from their composting, and are used for food production. In the urban fabric, this land improvement has made it possible to value a considerable number of vacant spaces, based on the regeneration of the soil life of marginal and degraded lands, improving their productive aptitude. In peri-urban areas, degraded soils have been remedied as a consequence of the Agro-industrial production model.

  • Based on the premise that healthy soils are needed to produce healthy food, based on their biological activity, these experiences developed are being studied, analyzed and evaluated in order to develop a restoration plan for degraded soils, based on scale recycling. of organic waste from large generators (poultry, meat processing, craft beer industry, rest of urban tree pruning). Within the framework of the SOIL NEXUS Project , the quality of this waste and its suitability for use in urban and peri-urban soil remediation processes for organic food production are being analysed.

  • Technology based on renewable energy has been integrated into peri-urban productive spaces -as a pilot experience- in production systems.

o   A demonstrative module of a groundwater extraction solar pump

o   An ecological bathroom, consisting of a water heater with a solar-powered hot water tank, with a sewage biodigester in the home of a producer, equipment that has meant a substantial improvement in the quality of life of the family nucleus.

A healthy vegetable washing module is in the development phase -based on the recirculation and filtering of water-, which has the purpose of saving water and achieving the safety of the harvested products . for the purpose of. This module will therefore allow us to offer an alternative to the current washing basins in which immersion washing is carried out.

  • At the regional level, there are numerous initiatives to promote agroecology by municipalities and communes, as well as institutions.

o   There is a good link with the municipalities and communes of the Rosario Metropolitan Area, where numerous experiences of agroecological producers are identified. Periodic exchange meetings are being held with these experiences to integrate them into a " Biodistrict " project.

o   The Faculty of Agricultural Sciences of the UNR that operates in the town of Zavalla, formed the so-called Zavalla Agroecological Node during 2022, which brings together organizations and institutions in the region with the intention of coordinating training, research, and extension activities

o   INTA, based in the town of Oliveros (50 km north of Rosario), where a demonstration module of agroecological practices operates, has recently formed a platform of "peri-urbans" (made up of representatives of governments of the region, and institutions ), in order to articulate actions in response to the problems that are identified in the peri-urban areas of its area of influence.

The situation described offers an encouraging panorama to advance in another stage towards the formation of a Sustainable and Resilient Food System . The components and relationships pointed out constitute "germs" of an urbanism that organically integrates Agroecology. These "seeds", efficiently managed, are constitutive of the Buildings blocks "Political Pedagogies"; “Cultivating the Fragmented Soil”; “Healthy Soil Landscape”, “ Agrarian Park ”; “Agroecological Centers”.

Cooking classes in Orchard Gardens for neighbors and gardeners (seed of community cooking)

Training by PCVR technicians in productive spaces (Germ of Political Pedagogies)

Agrarian and Environmental Law class in a farmer's farm. Producers - technicians - students and teachers Faculty of Law UNR (Germ of Political Pedagogies)

Training in agroecological peri-urban orchard (from producer to middle school students)