Urban gardens keep on growing

Urban allotment gardening has boomed since the global economic crisis erupted in 2008. However, research has revealed that a need to grow cheap fruit and vegetables was only part of the story in the Spanish city of Sevilla.

The global economic crisis that began in 2008 had many far-reaching effects. However, its impact on the growing trend for urban allotment gardens would not have been one that many people would have considered.

Spain was hit particularly hard by the economic downturn, but the southern city of Sevilla’s established network of urban gardens expanded in its wake. It might be assumed that resourceful Sevillanos were using the land to grow their own produce and save money. But research helped by COST revealed a more complex story.

Dr Jeanne Pourias was in the second year of a PhD thesis on urban allotment gardens of Paris and Montreal when she first went to working group meetings for the COST Action ‘Urban Allotment Gardens in European Cities - Future, Challenges and Lessons Learned’.

“The meetings were a great opportunity for me to exchange ideas and concepts with other researchers involved in research about urban gardening across Europe,” she says.

Dr Pourias received funding from COST in 2015 just after she had completed her PhD. This allowed her to start a postdoctoral research project that looked at the impact of the economic crisis on urban gardens in Sevilla.

Working alongside Raul Puente, Assistant Professor in Physical Geography at the city’s Universidad Pablo de Olavide, Dr Pourias carried out her research first hand in Sevilla itself.  

“Exchanging concepts and theories of urban gardening with other researchers, as well as getting feedback from the field from practitioners, were a huge benefit,” Dr Pourias declares.

 “We focused on the role that urban agriculture is likely to play for vulnerable people with respect to access to food, comparing Sevilla and Paris in this respect. We wrote a research project named AUPA on this topic, which has been funded since 2016 by the Foundation Carrefour in France.”

It emerged that while allotment gardening had increased in Sevilla after 2008, it was not merely to grow more food. Knowledge on how to manage land in urban areas is now more widely shared, and there are new levels of entrepreneurship among users of the allotments. With some backing the city and regional governments, urban gardeners have become involved in projects to create jobs, rather than just grow cheap food.

But importantly for Dr Pourias, the research undertaken with COST’s funding has helped her career progress significantly. She is now a postdoctoral fellow in charge of the coordination of the AUPA project at AgroParisTech , and building upon what she discovered with COST’s help.  

“COST is a great way of developing a European network of researchers and practitioners that remains over the COST action itself,” Dr Pourias adds.  “It is also a fantastic opportunity to get a broader view of one’s research topic through visits to various European cities.”

COST Action website - http://www.cost.eu/COST_Actions/tud/TU1201

Project website - http://www.urbanallotments.eu/index.php

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Last updated: 01 March 2018 top of page