In December 2011, we secured access to a vacant lot of land that had long been used as a dumping ground by local residents. Years of trash had built up on the site in an area measuring approximately 8 square meters. In January this year, with the help of 14 Australian volunteers, Tio Lino and the kids from his children’s center, and some local workers, we began transforming the space. We first removed the layers of trash, repurposing some of the materials to use in the garden. There were piles of bricks which we used to help build a series of terraces, steps, pathways, and garden beds, as the land is quite steep. We raked out the remaining trash from the soil, tilled it, sealed the old trash-filled water supply, lay pipes to a clean water supply, and have laid mulch and organic fertilizer as a top layer. We have planted flowers and shrubs (non-edibles), and are about to install an irrigation system. We are now relying on the children to plant, cultivate, and maintain the garden on a daily basis. Addressing concerns about growing food on the site of a former abandoned trash lot, we had scientists from the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (EMBRAPA) test four soil points from the site for fertility. We are currently looking to test for heavy metals before planting our edibles. We are also beginning to map other vacant lots and are preparing to identify them by branding them with signage, and are strategizing how to secure and conserve them as green spaces. As we move forward, our overall aim is to see Rocinha socially and environmentally restored through providing Rocinha’s children with creative purpose, real-world education, affection, motivation, and healthy, organic food to help improve their quality of life.
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