Mexico City launches community gardens
The 21 community gardens are part of the mayor's bid to improve the city's quality of life.
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The Mexican efforts follow a trend in the US. Backdoor gardens are blooming, with 25 million American households engaged in vegetable gardening last year, according to the National Garden Association (NGA). Bruce Butterfield, the research director of the NGA, says the group forecasts 10 percent growth in the number of households participating, as happened after the 2001 recession. The reason this time: high food and gas prices.Skip to next paragraph
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Mr. Butterfield says that part of the allure is a sense of control – a sentiment shared by Mexicans across the border, too. In a country where the minimum wage is $5 a day, and where nearly half the nation lives below the poverty line, growing their own food offers them a cushion of sorts. "This gives me security, if something happens, at least we can feed ourselves," says Marta Aguirre, a retired schoolteacher and cooperative member.
Rising food prices have dominated headlines and conversations in Mexico since the so-called "tortilla protests" of last year. In local markets, prices for vegetables are way up. Maria de los Angeles Lopez is now selling a kilogram of tomatoes for about $1 – double what she would have charged last year at this time, she says. But, in turn, the meals she eats at the local stall have also gone up. "I'm a mother; of course I'm worried about this," she says.
Some lifelong residents of Iztapalapa, such as Ms. Aguirre, had literally never stuck their fingers in the soil to plant a seed. For many others, it's a way to reexperience what they left behind in the countryside. "It had been a long time since I'd seen a plant in the ground, let alone do the actual planting," says Enrique Miguel Pazos, who moved to Mexico from the northern mountains of Oaxaca state 15 years ago and now makes a living selling tools at a local market.
The government wants this experience to spread throughout the city, and not just to neighborhoods but to schools and jails. The city is also promoting the planting of vegetables in backyards and on rooftop terraces.
The gardeners here in Iztapalapa eventually want to grow enough produce to sell at their own farmers' market. The aim, however, is not capital – it's philosophical, says Mariano Salazar, a group leader: "It's so that the residents of Mexico City learn how to be producers, and not just consumers."