In the working-class area of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the largest urban garden in Latin America has plans to become the biggest in the world. The produce goes towards families in the area, helping to remedy food insecurity and hunger in Brazil.
Hunger in Brazil
Brazil is a large nation with a sizeable population of 212 million, so any social safety net shortcomings reflect on a larger scale, affecting millions. As of 2022, 60% of families in Brazil face some form of food insecurity; this equates to 125 million people.
The situation is not improving either as the number of those facing hunger doubled from 19.1 million to 33.1 million over the past two years, according to The Brazilian Report. Hunger in Brazil now is similar to rates from 30 years ago.
Urban Garden in Rio de Janeiro
Beginning in 2013, the Manguinhos community garden started in a patch of land previously used as part of the Rio Olympics. Around one football field of land became a workable garden thus far, BBC reports. Prior to its transformation, the land was infamous for being a slum, home to many displaced persons struggling with addiction.
There are currently 35 gardeners who assist in managing the land. They receive a monthly stipend of $95 in addition to access to fresh produce which they can take for free. The majority of the produce, however, goes to the tables of families in need in the area. Currently, the garden feeds 800 families a month. The food is always pesticide free, a rare option in the area.
Julio Cesar Barros, a soil and crop expert leading much of the project, stresses the importance of providing organic food in low-income areas. “Why do poor people have to be doomed to eating poisoned food? My goal is to stop organic food from just being for the elite,” he says.
Plans for the Future
The Manguinhos urban garden does not plan to stop at being the largest urban garden in Latin America. By the end of the year, the garden could expand to nearly 27 acres, according to BBC. This development would make it the largest urban garden in the world.
The plan is to donate half of the produce to those in the area in need, while the other half will be sold at inexpensive prices. All of the money will be divided amongst the gardeners, according to BBC. As such, the garden acts both as a means of accessible fresh and healthy food and as a source of income for those that dedicate their time to maintaining the land.
The Manguinhos urban garden is an innovative and sustainable way for Rio de Janeiro to combat growing food insecurity in Brazil. Once expanded, the garden should be able to feed 50,000 local families by 2024.
– Eleanor Corbin