How to grow food in urban spaces?

As a closing of the campaign «We all eat here«, academics of the INTA and the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences developed a practical guide with recommendations for the reduction of food waste and the local production of food in urban spaces. The initiative is part of the transdisciplinary work articulated by the Vice President for Research and Development (VID), as a response to the food insecurity that some sectors of the national population are going through in the face of the health crisis due to COVID-19.

On June 22, the Minister of Agriculture, Anthony Walker, pointed out in the Senate that close to 600 thousand people they have problems accessing essential foods for their nutrition, and the situation is likely to increase after the end of the pandemic. Along the same lines, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) indicated that around one million Chileans will be in this context due to lack of economic resources.

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Faced with this scenario and within the framework of the closure of the campaign «Here we all eat», academics from the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences and the Institute of Nutrition and Food Technology (INTA), prepared a guide with recommendations and practical advice to grow food in the home or common spaces, using easily accessible material. The initiative is part of the work promoted by the Transdisciplinary Networks Unit (Td Networks) of the Vice President for Research and Development (VINE).

Among the contents of the guide are advice and relevant information on urban gardens, soil preparation, exposing plants to the sun, planting or sowing, and alternative uses of food are also detailed so as not to waste them. For example, using fruit peels to make drinks, or adding vegetable stems to dressings or creams.

For the INTA professor and leader of the academic group behind the campaign, Cecilia Albala, it is essential that the University of Chile brings knowledge closer to society. “As experts, we have the obligation to contribute with our knowledge to improve the quality of life of people and their collective. In this sense, food and proper nutrition are priority areas in the face of the pandemic, and must be addressed at all times and in all contexts. This campaign has enormous value not only for the academic community, but also for the population”, he pointed out.

For his part, the head of the Td Networks Unit, Paul Riveros, indicated that the campaign sought to build a direct communication channel between the University and citizens. “As a space, we try to advance in the construction of transdisciplinary initiatives that go beyond intra-academic collaboration and that respond to our mission as a public institution. Although this will is pressured by reality, confinement and social precariousness, a series of transitory measures have emerged from community cooperation, which can be accompanied by our practical recommendations formulated from scientific work”, he added.

Waste reduction and personal or community cultivation

According to the expert commission of the campaign, the most extreme expression of food insecurity is hunger, being a worrying situation in the face of the health crisis and its subsequent outcome. For this reason, the academics indicate that it is necessary to implement alternatives to relax and complement the logistics supply chains for the national population.

Reducing, reusing and recycling are three key concepts to protect the environment, along with giving new possibilities of use to different products, thinking beyond the traditional. The academic of the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences and member of the drafting committee of this latest recommendation guide, Gabriela Lankinhighlighted that «this strategy, in addition to being a contribution to the context in which we find ourselves, allows us to learn a scaling production technique for food and is therapeutic.»

The FAO He states that in many cases it is thought that local food production is usually a field practice, but history indicates that it is a fundamental skill for Latin American culture, being present in cities such as Havana, Mexico City, Quito and Rosario. In this sense, urban space can be an opportunity to move towards self-sufficiency, support climate change mitigation, deliver a benefit to the ecosystem and, mainly, generate an increase in the efficiency of resources for society and community spaces.

By way of closing, Professor Lankin added that “this campaign allows us to take advantage of everything we have left over when cooking, in addition to the spaces we have, to grow crops in the city. In fact, you can start a garden from what you buy at the fair, without having to buy seeds. For this reason, the key message is to invite people to be motivated and dare to generate a change in their lives to rescue the culture of Latin America.”

Check the Guide provided by the University of Chile