GMF was invited by the Municipal Department for the Environment’s Hortas Cariocas program to establish volunteer-run community gardens in the Manguinhos favela in Rio’s North Zone. GMF has two gardens here that are part of a larger series of gardens created by Hortas Cariocas. GMF works with residents in approximately a third of the overall space. Hortas Cariocas gardens are maintained by government paid workers who receive a stipend to tend the gardens. Overall, the garden is more than a kilometer long and is the largest urban organic food garden in Latin America.
The objective of the gardens is to remediate a large socially and environmentally impoverished tract of land, to produce food for the community, to offset or provide a form of income for residents, to offer environmental education to local children, and to create a safe and appealing public space. We work with a range of volunteers and residents to grow fruits, vegetables, and medicinal herbs. The gardeners govern the space and make most decisions about food production, distribution and garden infrastructure. The garden is a clean, attractive place for the public to garden and socialize in, for children to play, for families to spend time, and for community members to stop by anytime and pick free healthy, and pesticide free food.
The project involves the rehabilitation of a large strip of land previously known as the ‘Gaza Strip’ due to its intense levels of violence. It was, until recently, one of Rio’s most notorious ‘cracolândias’ — a large shanty town built on top of a garbage dump and controlled by drug traffickers.
Rocinha Mais Verde
Rocinha Mais Verde was GMF’s pilot green space. The project was a coproduction between Green My Favela, the late community leader Tio Lino and his NGO, Rocinha Mundo da Arte, and the Alegria das Crianças creche in Rocinha. This children’s garden provided critical therapeutic respite from the chaos of living in the Valão, a particularly vulnerable neighborhood of Rocinha. The project was showcased at the 2012 United Nations Rio+20 Summit on Sustainable Development. Rocinha Mais Verde was co-governed by Tio Lino and his community of children at Rocinha Mundo da Arte, with periodic monitoring conducted by GMF. Recently, due to increased insecurity in the area, and with instability befalling the governing bodies of the project with the death of Tio Lino, the project has fallen into disrepair.
Eco-Parque Vertical Garden
GMF planted a vertical garden with a mix of mint and strawberries, augmented with hanging ornamentals and succulents at the entrance to the eco-parque in Rocinha. This is the first truly public space GMF planted, and our first vertical garden. The wall is approximately 45 meters in length by 3 meters in height. The project was given support by residents, the park’s architect, and the city’s public works department. The space is maintained by community volunteers.
GMF temporarily collaborated with the Hortas Cariocas program (Municipal Dept. for the Environment), the State Secretary of Social Assistance and Human Rights (Rocinha), and the NGO Territorios da Paz (Territories of Peace) to help establish this food security project located in Macega, a particularly isolated and impoverished neighborhood on the upper rim of Rocinha. One independent gardener continues to maintain a large series of terraced gardens that cascade down the massive hillside space. One of the poorest neighborhoods in Rocinha, Macega’s main occupants are squatters who live in wooden shanty constructions built from the debris of demolished housing. Squash, greens, melons and fruits and vegetables have all been harvested from this space, which is consumed by the gardener and distributed among nearby residents. Neighbors already gather the mangos, papayas, bananas, jackfruit, jabuticaba, acerola, jamelao, and jambo that grow wild on the hillside.
This space for a large food garden in the Laboriaux neighborhood of Rocinha was built as a collaboration between by GMF, Amanda Bradshaw from Columbia University, who has received a Davis Peace Fellowship to work on this project, the Hortas Cariocas program, (Municipal Dept. for the Environment), and residents of the community. The space was located on an overlook with stunning views of the Cristo Redentor and Lagoa, but was taken over and destroyed by the Dept. of Works, which is a currently using it as a space to park heavy machinery. Its future is uncertain.
This is a food garden on the grounds of the Escola Municipal Abelardo Chacrinha Barbosa, a public elementary school in the Laboriaux neighborhood of Rocinha. GMF donated a range of tools, equipment, and seeds to the project, which is managed by the school in collaboration with Hortas Cariocas).
Eco-Parque Food Garden
GMF created a temporary food foraging experiment in Rochina’s eco-parque in a large terraced section of the park. We planted low maintenance vines that produce melons, pumpkins, and cucumbers. We are also planted pineapples and papaya, ginger and garlic, as well as jabuticaba, a tropical fruit tree.
Pedacinho da Terra
Pedacinho da Terra is a small triangle of land in a well-traveled alley connecting Cachopa, a neighborhood perched on a particularly steep hillside, to Estrada da Gávea, Rocinha’s main street. Though it receives little sunlight and measures only a couple meters square, this little plot has a dramatic view of Dois Irmãos mountain, and forms the scenery for many residents’ journeys to and from work. The space had fallen into disrepair due to several obstacles. Water pipes run just below the surface of the soil, and one side of the plot is a sheer drop-off. GMF has regenerated this space with ground cover and shade plants, vertical planters, herbs, and vines trained along the fence.
This was GMF’s first private garden, located on a small rooftop in Cachopa, a steep neighborhood in Rocinha. The garden’s caretaker, Carlos, grew up on farms in Bahia and has extensive knowledge of medicinal herbs. He has lived in Rocinha for the past 15 years and cultivated collard greens, tomatoes, peppers, cilantro, basil, aloe vera, and boldo (an herb used for detox) in an assortment of salvaged planters until he was forced to move. Because the neighborhood occasionally experiences weeks-long water shortages, Carlos watered the garden using a rainwater catchment and greywater recycling system. A worm compost bin created soil, and two pet quails lived on the roof and provide fertilizer.
GMF worked with residents on a series of small protest gardens in the Ladeira dos Tabajaras favela community, located alongside the Morro dos Cabritos favela in the South Zone of Rio de Janeiro, near Copacabana. Both communities have been pacified under the UPP campaign since 2010. For the thirty years preceding the pacification, the favelas were under control of the Comando Vermelho (CV) drug trafficking gang. The communities collectively have about five thousand residents, having risen by 37% in a decade. All households have electricity and almost all residents have access to water, sewerage, garbage collection, and street lighting. However, many homeowners are at-risk of eviction due to the steep slopes on which their houses are built, and because developers are preparing to capitalize on this highly sought after prime real estate.
The Vidigal favela is built on a particularly steep mountainside prone to landslide that is exasperated by flash flooding. GMF was asked by residents to create a garden in Vidigal on a steep, chronically eroded space shared by several neighbors. We used repurposed materials from the site to create a series of terraced vegetable gardens to help replenish eroded topsoil. Taking advantage of the wild fruit trees that were already growing in the area, we worked on developing an orchard that could help secure the space, and that could be easily foraged by neighbors. In addition, we established a series of large compost and mulch piles to nourish, protect, and enrich the soil. However residents were displaced due to a housing collapse, and the garden was abandoned after only one harvest cycle.