ASUNCION – Paraguay’s capital is promoting the planting of urban gardens on empty lots as part of an effort to restore the public’s appreciation for agricultural work and give new life to public spaces.
Over the weekend, volunteers worked on the project’s first garden in Lambare, a city in the Asuncion metropolitan area, planting lettuce and chard in a vacant lot.
The project’s goal is “to share a collective experience of food production in urban environments by using the large number of vacant lots in Asuncion,” Soledad Martinez, an agronomist with the Karu Mbegue Association, told EFE.
Karu Mbegue is the Paraguayan affiliate of Slow Food, the international organization promoting the project.
Asuncion, named Ibero-America’s Green Capital in 2014, is dotted with numerous vacant and unused lots, some of which have turned into dumps that become breeding grounds for the mosquitoes that carry dengue and chikungunya, Martinez said.
Chikungunya, which originated in Africa, is a viral disease transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which is also the vector for dengue, and the Aedes albopictus mosquito.
In addition to cleaning up and bringing new life to different areas, the organization wants “to bring people closer to the source of their food, so they can get in touch with the land and value the work of farmers and peasants, all of which should lead consumers to make conscious decisions,” Martinez said.
Climate change is causing “irregularities” in agricultural production cycles, creating difficulties and raising uncertainty for farmers, Martinez said.
“Government support for rural workers is insufficient” and “the expansion of soy bean and other mono-cultures that push indigenous communities out of ancestral lands increase inequality in farmers’ and peasants’ land distribution,” Martinez said.
Paraguay is one of the countries where land ownership is highly concentrated, with less than 3 percent of the population owning 85 percent of the land, the non-governmental organization Oxfam said.
Martinez said that despite all these problems, nearly 40 percent of the food reaching Asuncion came from family farms.