A story of active citizenship and participation. An urban garden for…

When an area of land is intended to be a Park, it becomes a park and the Municipality is in charge of its creation and maintenance. Sometimes a green area is green only because wild plants are growing inside it.

This is the story of the Rosa Raimondi Park, its neighborhood and a group of citizens and associations that have created the Garbatella Urban Gardens, citizens that acted for preserving the area from building development. The Garbatella Urban Gardens is a story of active citizenship and participation.

Urban policy should look at sustainable building and livable cities; urban planners and representatives should look at preserving green areas and compensating the advance of buildings and cement, strictly connected with the living conditions of citizens.

During the last 15 years, the city of Rome saw an expansion of its territory. In the south west zone of the eternal city there is one of the nicest and popular neighborhoods of the Capital, Garbatella, close to the business area of E.U.R., where Companies and Public Institutions set up their headquarters and business are running every day, as well cars, new roads and new buildings.

The fight for the Rosa Raimondi Park started years ago, after several enquiries to the Municipality about the neglected area and the committed public money that disappeared. The Public Institutions didn’t act, nor did they answer the requests of the citizens that asked for the creation of the park, so ,in 2009 the citizens decided to occupy the “green area” by creating urban gardens: a way to permanently maintain the area free from building development.

It has not been easy, the ground was made of rocks and gravel, to dig it and plant something was seen as impossible by the skeptics. But the group didn’t give up and they sought out some good soil to bring there. Then there was an issue of funding: this was not so problematic, as they self taxed themselves and organized some fund raising dinners in the neighborhood. The only problem was the water, to create urban gardens without a water source close by could appear an insurmountable obstacle: but not for the “Garbatelli” – they used water that had already been stored.

Today about 50 families have their own plot, and there are also plots for the schools, and for other organizations – Legambiente Garbatella an environmental organization, Casetta Rossa, Hagape 2000 that works with disabled people and Asinitas that works with migrants.

All together, the group of gardeners and citizens have organised events, as well as social and recreational activities: Tree day, Spring day, Permacultural training, auto production (soaps, bread,etc), Japanese garden training, activities with the school, a workshop about recycling.

The group of gardeners and citizens is made up of volunteers. The activities in the gardens are regulated by an internal committee, shared by all the participants of the project. Modifications to the internal regulations are made collectively and based on the experiences of every day. The activities are coordinated by a Management committee, responsible for the respect of the common rules and the maintenance of the common areas inside the garden: water system, fruit trees, external hedges as well as the management and administration of the annual fee re-invested in the urban garden.

The Urban garden Garbatella’s story continues today and after 5 years of permanent presence in the park, finally the Municipality of Rome gave them the legal right to assume the responsibility of the green area.

The experience of the Garbatella’s urban garden shows us that a self organized group can create a place that belongs to the citizens. An area that, thanks to the active participation of the citizens, can be re-born and represent not only a green area to preserve but also a place of socialization, where people can meet each other, exchange experiences, time and seeds, where intergenerational and intercultural dialogues occur.

Hence an urban garden.

Nowadays in Rome, the phenomena of the urban gardens is growing and growing, in number(almost 150) and also in receiving formal recognition from the Public Institutions. In this the Garbatella’s urban gardeners are among the pioneers. They are in the frontline in the Roma’s informal network of urban gardens that is working together for the formal recognition of the existing urban gardens and the creation of common guide lines for new gardens in the Eternal city.