For two months, residents of La Laguna have transformed a forgotten area into a community cultivation area of 870 square meters to configure the first urban garden for the elderly in the municipality. It is a pilot project of the City Council in collaboration with the MAYE Association (Movement, Self-Management and Education) that has had the dedication of about twenty people, the majority over 60 years of age from different parts of the municipality, which has converted a plot of land abandoned in the heart of San Benito in the garden that they have informally baptized as “San Bonito”.
The City Council of La Laguna informs in a statement that the objective is to constitute an agroecological lung in the middle of the buildings to fight against loneliness, share experiences, promote intergenerational and community ties, and for which there is already a waiting list. To this surface are added two other large plots reserved for the CEIP San Benito and the AFES Mental Health Association, which will allow sharing experiences and knowledge, studying the therapeutic properties and the benefits for the reinforcement of social cohesion that this type of initiatives, as well as contributing to progress in the area of food sovereignty promoted by the municipal strategy La Laguna: Municipality in Transition (LLMT 2030).
The only premise to make use of the orchards is that agrochemical products are not used, as explained by Francisco Duque, from the MAYE Association, who stressed that “the crops are free to the choice of each person, although we do want to promote the use of seeds Canary Islands, for which we are working with the Red Canaria de Semillas, which is here in La Laguna ”.
This urban garden has all the resources, such as a greenhouse, nursery, compost, in addition to the seven already enabled plots, of about 20 m2 each, to start cultivating them in small groups. It includes raised terraces, as well as a Canarian garden and aromatic plants to attract pollinators or a common space to share meals and talks. And all this with an extensive training schedule, which will run until December.
In this sense, the Councilor for Social Welfare, Rubens Ascanio explained that “here we have an extraordinary living library, because the elderly who participate also contribute all their experience in the field and generate a space of shared knowledge that is increasingly necessary. This garden is an example of what can be done when there is a willingness to work together, where different institutional areas, the elderly, groups of people with disabilities and children and young people have come together to create a therapeutic and health promoting proposal aimed at improving the quality of life of the elderly and promoting active aging in contact with nature ”.
Ascanio pointed out that the space includes “terraces in height adapted for use by people with reduced mobility or wheelchairs, being a place where accessibility and inclusion are very present.” In addition to its “important intergenerational vision and its ability to generate neighborhood and social fabric, this initiative offers a place against unwanted loneliness and in favor of something so apparently simple, but far-reaching, such as the illusion of seeing the results of the own effort ”. The mayor assured that this project “comes at the best time and the best sign is the great reception it is having, hence we are already working to generate new spaces in collaboration with other areas.”
José Luis Hernández, Councilor for the Environment, also expressed his enthusiasm when he saw the great changes in an abandoned land full of weeds, which was a source of risk from fires or the development of pests. “After having seen how this was a few months ago, all the work done and the social and community processes that are taking place here reflect an admirable citizen will.”
In addition, he announced that “in this garden the Circular Communities composting project is going to be activated, which is coordinated by the Cabildo de Tenerife and in which the City Council of La Laguna participates, which will also allow working with the users of the garden and neighbors and residents of the area in the benefits of composting the organic matter that is generated in the homes ”.
The Councilor for the Environment, Health and the Fight against Climate Change stressed that “we are working with citizens to create the first Municipal Network of Community Gardens of La Laguna, a proposal to advance agroecological self-consumption and citizen food sovereignty, which incorporates also important social and ecological values, as well as generating new places of urban recreation ”.
This transversal pilot project, in which the MAYE Association has been involved, is committed to community gardens as spaces capable of responding to a wide variety of needs and that go beyond the purely food. In fact, they are an increasingly common resource in the care of the elderly group and constitute an important tool to combat unwanted loneliness and certain pathologies, since horticulture allows the development of memory, attention, routines, motor skills, self-esteem or the establishment of bonds with a group of people.
The general objectives of the initiative include generating healthy, supportive and sustainable communities, with a culture of participation and neighborhood solidarity towards vulnerable groups; facilitate a framework of reference towards preventive health, which can face the current situation and unpredictable futures in this vulnerable sector; identify and diagnose hidden realities due to lack of social participation, as well as train in knowledge about healthy food, medicinal plants or waste management.
During the rest of the year, all the resources, materials and knowledge about permaculture and organic farming will continue to be offered to the participants, with the help of professionals, with a commitment to recycling and reuse. Experts in pest management, fruit pruning or homemade fertilizers will also be invited to complement the knowledge.
In addition to the physical fitness of the area, this first 6-month phase will focus on the psychosocial and cultural dimension of the project, with aspects such as education for physical, mental and emotional health; awareness of the resources of the environment and their collective use; the recovery and conservation of heritage, as well as the adaptation of the project to the real needs of the beneficiaries and a basic mapping of urgent needs and the sustainability of long-term objectives. The following phases will focus on participatory updates and already in the hands of the participants, as proactive, trained and organized agents.
This pilot project is also committed to promoting the use of permaculture and ecological agriculture as health resources for people and the environment, together with a strategy to recover empty public lands for the creation of community gardens. Added to all this is the promotion of community self-management and active aging strategies, offering tools for community participation, making visible the reality and capacities of the elderly in contributing to the sustainable development of the municipality, as well as creating risk-free spaces to promote physical exercise and sociocultural recreation in vulnerable sectors.