Fertile foundations in Debrecen, Hungary
With the support of the University of Debrecen, a student organisation, the Student Committee on Environmental Protection, created a 1000 m2 community garden
The idea came from an innovation at the University of Debrecen. The Student Committee on Environmental Protection invited students to join them and populate the area with plants and vegetables, trying out different growing techniques and interesting species. The experiment led to enhanced community, gave students a practical way to put insights from their lectures into practice, and supplied food.
When the city pitched the idea of taking the university’s model of a community garden and organising something similar in Vénkert, the locals were elated. “The construction was a little noisy, and it was hard to imagine a beautiful garden blooming there,” locals say, “but once the beds went in, we really got going!”
The communal garden has 14 raised beds, with two plots each. Would-be gardeners pay a small fee of €10 for a year’s access to a 4.5 m2 plot, where they can plant whatever they like. The fee goes into a money box that the gardeners can decide collectively how to spend each year. Besides the raised beds, there is a brand-new playground and some green areas – not a shred of asphalt is left.
One restriction that is put in place is that gardeners are not to use chemicals and fertilisers – instead, they rely on organic solutions for plant feeding and protection. Composting bins ensure that any green waste can be collected and reused in the garden. “The city provides the beds, the irrigation, and the seeds – though of course, people can use their own seeds if they prefer.”
Erika Jacsmenik, Senior Expert of Debrecen’s Urban and Economic Development Centre, EDC Debrecen says, “We used European and municipal funds to create the garden, and running costs are also paid for by the municipality.” The students from the original university garden visit this new plot and engage the gardeners in discussions about soil types, planting techniques and any advice they might need. The gardeners reap plenty of rewards from their endeavours: they learn about nature, get free organic food, and enjoy a deeper sense of community. The dramatic effects of industrial food production and waste on our ecosystems and climate are well documented. At the same time, interventions like community gardens can help cities adapt to the effects of climate change while creating more socially inclusive neighbourhoods.
If you are interested in the example of Debrecen, check out the following link.