Urban Gardens for Peace. From Rioting to Sowing

PASO Colombia is supporting an urban agriculture project in marginalized neighborhoods of Cali, Colombia. It capitalizes the solidarity and desire for change present in these communities, to sow new forms of collective action that contribute to peace building.

Back in 2021, a tax reform proposal triggered strong riots throughout Colombia. The city of Cali was one of its epicenters and the younger generations, its main protagonists. The riots lasted almost six months, leaving 46 deaths verified by the UN Office, as well as 60 cases of sexual violence, more than 1100 people injured and 1970 arrests in the context of the protests. This urban crisis reached a magnitude unseen in the last 50 years of the country’s history. In response, PASO is supporting a project in which youngsters who participated in the demonstrations during the uprising combine their efforts in creating and sustaining community gardens within marginalized neighborhoods of Cali. Either recovering landfill areas, neglected fields or sidewalk corners, this network of gardens already has 7 nodes effectively bringing together youth organizations, women's organizations and victims of violence.

With the help of PASO Colombia, members of this network of community gardens have received permanent guidance from an agricultural extensionist, preparing organic fertilizers for their gardens, building five small greenhouses, and training in workshops on urban agriculture. Furthermore, they have received support to boost their associative capacity, managing to establish themselves as the "Squash (Zapallista) Gardens Association" to promote their networking with other urban agricultural spaces and potential allies.

Through the Urban Gardens for Peace project, participants have developed a system for training and leadership in agroecology, permaculture and community outreach. The production of food in these gardens contributes to the food security of the participants by supplying food for their homes, as well as for their neighborhoods through the supply of food to community kitchens in the sector.

The initiative has proven successful at building collaborative spaces and food resilience in the context of violence, making a positive impact thanks to the daily activities the gardens require and the products obtained. Learn more about the story of what these young men and women are sowing for a change in their country.

1. Figures taken from the Report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Available at: https://www.hchr.org.co/wp/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/211214-Colombia_Documento-lecciones-aprendidas-y-observaciones-Paro-Nacional-2021.pdf