Several weeks ago we attended an open house of a community organic garden in an outer suburb of Lima, Villa Maria del Triunfo. It is about a hectare and operated by a large group of neighbourhood families. The project began with funding from a United Nations grant and the support of the municipality. Another volunteer has been conducting an ethnographic survey of this place so I had wanted to visit for some time, and this open house presented a perfect opportunity.
The day involved tours of the garden, workshops on composting, planting, and there was a small market for the visitors. It certainly was amazing to step out of the above ground metro line station, looking around for the garden and seeing this huge green space in the middle of a high density poor desert neighbourhood. It was easy to spot the green!
I learned that the way the place is organized is that each family gets a small plot and they decide what to grow. If a family doesn’t use their plot they forfeit it and it gets used by someone else. The initial aim of the project was to grow food for the families, families who had come from the countryside but had to escape the violence during 1980-2000 and so came to Lima with nothing. Some of them do go to organic farmers markets to sell their produce.
I was surprised that there wasn’t a coordinated program where they collectively decide what to grow, instead it is an individual family’s decision. This place seemed to me to be the perfect opportunity for a cooperative. I was also surprised that from what I could see it seemed each family for the most part grew the same fruits and vegetables. Alas the available produce was limited at this time of year so I wasn’t able to get my weekly produce. I also learned that they didn’t really eat many vegetables prior to coming to Lima, only mainly corn & potatoes, which really surprised me. I always thought if folks eat mainly meat then this isn’t a sign of poverty, but not here it seems. (I have to say I am becoming quite disgusted by the quantity of meat consumed). Many were actually growing eggplant which isn’t a common veg for Peruvians at all (and not one of my favs either). They do grow lots of greens but mainly to make various sauces, not so much eating fresh.
The view from the road walking up from the metro station
Info sign – no need for words!
Some of the plants under cultivation: bananas, various greens, peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, sweet potato, beans, etc…
Passion flower vines with fruit
Staircases – we are in what is called the ceros – desert mountains/hills, quite colourful in a sea of desert
Fencing: scrap anything wood or metal, stones/rocks, tires and bushes
Me & Moises Quispe, executive director of the Asociacion Nacional de Productores Agroecologicos (National Association of Organic Producers), in one of the greenhouses before he facilitated a workshop.
Cacti seedlings – these are like the prickly cactus I am familiar with but of course they grow much larger. The fruit they bare is actually called ‘tuna’ here. It has beautiful pink flesh with lots of seeds so not my cuppa tea for just eating as is, and I have to say the juice tastes a bit odd so I prefer it mixed with other juices.
Electricity towers in the middle of the garden
The sports field
Overall it was very impressive. Little by little these families and this neighbourhood are improving their quality of life, a great model for other communities in the greater metropolitan area of Lima, especially considering this is situated in a desert. They will need all the help they can get with climate change.