Urban Communitary Gardens - Huertos comunitarios
I am in a councilwomen meeting and suddenly the phone vibrates in my purse, I try to silence it and by mistake I answer the call,
“Miss Marciana, I’m glad I caught you, I just wanted to call and …”
The other councilors look at me with a smile, waiting for me to accept the motion. I hung up the phone, I'm still focused on the meeting, but intrigue was sown in me.
The council meeting ends and I prepare to go to my office, just when someone calls again.
“Hello,” I manage to say, right when a journalist runs into me on the stairs and without giving me a chance to breathe, I have to hang up the call again. While I was sitting in the interview, all I could hear was my phone going off repeatedly.
I finish the interview, lock myself in my office, and the call from the unknown number comes in again:
“Hello, am I speaking with Miss Marciana?”
“Yes, this is her, and with whom am I speaking?”
“My name is Martha, you do not know me, but I am calling to thank you.”
“Oh, that is so sweet, but thank me for what?”
“Well, two months ago I was fired from my job where I worked for 20 years.”
“Ah, how unfortunate. But I must ask, why are you thanking me?”
“I am one of the beneficiaries of the community garden and thanks to this I have been able to have access to plentiful vegetables not only for me, but for my neighbors as well in the past two months. My neighbors have been so thankful that they also gifted me bananas, fish, and meat. I think my ‘saldo’ is going to run out, I just wanted to spend it thanking you.”
The woman finished thanking me and the call was cut off. I collapsed in my chair, tears flooding my eyes from all the warm feelings, I began to reflect on the impact the community gardens truly have. Mrs.Martha had been the beneficiary of the 37th out of 100 community gardens that we had made. That same afternoon I gathered the members of my team and invited them to coffee so they would not faint from the news and I was about to tell them:
“We are going to make 1000 gardens…”
They laughed to death, and then stunned they asked me:
"You're kidding, right?"
How were the community gardens born?
When I tell this story, it seems like our country is in chaos but the truth is that the event I am about to describe has not happened in Ecuador since the 90’s. In 2019, due to a disagreement with the price of fuel, the taxi driver’s union organized a “paro.” This term can be a bit difficult to understand, but I define it as a group that mobilizes to create a disruption. This meant that the taxi drivers stopped working, they blocked the streets, main access roads, and disrupted the supply that allows for food such as fruit and vegetables to be transported around the country, in order to call attention to a bigger problem.
Unfortunately, after a few days the situation was getting so bad that we only had rice, lentils and some non-perishable products left. Suddenly though, a good friend of mine, Benito, called to offer me some vegetables because he had some left over... I thought, ``how is that possible at a time like this?” He invited my husband and I to his house, and we were fascinated by his land that was full of all kinds of fruits and vegetables.
“Where did you get all of this?” I asked shockingly.
He smiled as he walked out to the patio of his house, that's when we saw it, paradise... A BEAUTIFUL GARDEN.
The 17 gardens in four years:
When the city was shut down due to the paro, we met online with the department of productive development to see how many gardens had been made in the city in the last four years. I was surprised to learn that only 17 gardens had been created in the past four years, which is why they may have thought I lost my mind when I told them I wanted to create 1000 more.
Everyone told me that I was crazy, that it was impossible, but by the grace of God he put strategic allies in front of me to make this project a reality. We started strong, in a week we made seven gardens without stopping and we realized that we could do one daily if we worked hard. In the next 100 days we made 100 gardens.
But just then the pandemic hit, everyone was forced to stay inside, and we became unmotivated. Unexpectedly though, the beneficiaries of the 100 gardens that we had made wrote to us to thank us for the fruits and vegetables that they were already receiving. Martha, being one of the most persevering and resilient people pushed us to continue to create the gardens despite the pandemic...Somethings are truly unexplainable and all we can do is remember that God blesses us when we least expect it. We not only reached our goal of 1000 gardens, but as of today while I write this article we have created 2553 gardens. People now come from all over to learn how to create gardens so quickly using our methodology.
We are excited to turn Manta, as our Mayor says, into a #MejorCiudad (#BetterCity) or as I say, we want to make a #CiudadDeOtroPlaneta (#CityFromAnotherPlanet)
Author: Manta City Councilwomen Marciana Valdiviezo