Both of rural origins and in love with the island, Celina Beltrame, 65, and Maria Helena Spindler, 62, live at opposite points of the island of Florianópolis, Brazil, but have many other things in common. One of these is the satisfaction of getting their hands dirty every day in growing crops without agrotoxins. Free of charge, the fertilizer used in the gardens that they cultivate in urban areas of the city comes from their own kitchen leftovers.
In Celina’s house, organic material is never thrown in the trash. Egg shells or greens, fruits and vegetables picked right there in the backyard, and other leftovers from meals, are buried in small layers and covered with lawn clippings and pruned garden foliage.
“In 30 days, everything becomes fertilizer, without smell or bugs. The important thing is to know how to take advantage of every corner of the land,” she explains. Celina learned to garden from a young age, and uses it as a therapy for stress. She calls attention to one of the eggplant plants. It is almost a bush, at 1.70 m tall (roughly 5.6 feet) and bearing dozens of ripe fruit. "It's the strength of the organic fertilizer," says the housewife, who takes pride in her granddaughter's taste for "Grandma's vegetable garden," and is keen to share the harvest with relatives and close neighbors.
Neighbors Get Involved with Composting
The sounds of the sea was an important factor for Maria Helena, who arrived 18 years ago and has never returned to her home in Paraná, Brazil. Surrounded with wire mesh and covered with a nylon screen, the lot looks more like a community street fair, with an abundant supply of vegetables, fruits, spices, and teas. Compost comes from household scraps, augmented by contributions from neighbors. “I provide buckets and people bring organic waste every day,” explains Maria Helena. Whoever helps with the raw material can take whatever they need.
“It is the cycle of nature, the food returns to the earth and yields more food. Recycling and production without environmental impact.” Since not everyone contributes, part of the production is sold on site, or in the Rio Tavares "Farmers Direct" grocery store.
“The objective is not money, but to offer sustainable food and stimulate recycling,” said Maria Helena, who found gardening as a remedy for depression after the loss of her husband seven years ago.
Comap Seeking New Partners
Examples like Celena and Maria Helena have led the President of Comcap (Capital Improvement Company) Marius Bagnatti to expand the collection of organic waste for decentralized treatment - and the production of pesticide-free fresh produce in Florianópolis. The idea is to spread the culture of recycling and create home, community, and commercial gardens in the city.
Comcap’s proposal, according Bagnatti, is to coordinate partners for the separation of organic waste at the source, selective collection, composting, and food production. “Since 2008, Brazil has been the world’s largest consumer of agrotoxins.” Meanwhile, Florianópolis spends R$ 20 million per month (6.4 million USD) to transport and bury 7,000 tons of organic waste in the Biguaçu landfill.
The CDL (Board of Shopkeepers) plays a key role in implementing the concept of urban agriculture in Florianópolis. The first step, as agreed by the business manager, Hélio Leite, and the Executive Secretary of Public Services of the City Hall, Aldo Lopes Sebastião Martins, is the inclusion of organic stalls in the Viva City project on Saturdays. Martins ensures that there is demand for the consumption of organic food. "It is basically the green belt of Florianópolis.”
Areas for Development on the Island and on the Continent
The architect João Maria Lopes from Susp (the Municipal Secretary of Urbanism and Public Services), who is also a Comcap partner for the new endeavor, informs that a new map for areas of social interest is being drafted for the installation of community gardens. One of the areas are the hills of Morro da Cruz, where tight alleys and steep staircases hinder the daily collection. According to Lopes, the legislation incentivises environmentally sustainable practices.
Comap’s intention is to expand its partnerships to involve Cepagro (Center for Promotion of Collective Agriculture), Epagri/SC (Agriculture Research Corporation of Santa Catarina), and composting businesses. On the continent, for example, a 5,000 square meter (roughly 1.3 acres) area is in the process of expanding the “Bucket Revolution” project for community gardens in the Chico Mendes community.
Does your city have community gardens? Is the approach of collecting kitchen scraps for compost viable in your city? Share your thoughts and city’s stories in the comments area below.
Original article, originally published in Portuguese, here.
Credits: Data and images linked to sources.