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Foro Global sobre Seguridad Alimentaria y Nutrición • Foro FSN

Re: Call for experiences and effective policy approaches in addressing food security and nutrition in the context of changing rural-urban dynamics

Marina Lauri
Marina LauriAnci ToscanaItaly

Anci Toscana

The below contribution is a Tuscany experience "One hundred thousand gardens in Tuscany", a new concept of urban and rural garden with a strong aggregative, social and educational value to recover traditions, foster sustainable farming practices, to promote environmental education, nutrition issues and poverty reduction. A new policy that take into consideration the changing relationship between rural and urban areas and a new approach of development of rural economy in different contests.

One hundred thousand gardens in Tuscany

Anci Toscana

The Association of Municipalities of Tuscany, ANCI Tuscany (, is a non-profit association established to achieve the system of local and regional Tuscan autonomies founded on the principles of freedom, democracy and citizen participation. ANCI Tuscany represents 269 Municipalities (99% of the Tuscan Municipalities and 98% of total population) and constitutes the regional branch of the National Association of Italian Municipalities that represents 7318 Italian Municipalities (90% of the Italian population). The Association's main aim is the promotion and strengthening of institutional, regulatory, financial and organizational autonomy of municipalities and other Tuscan autonomies derived by the municipalities through continuous action aimed at promoting and supporting the effective implementation of the principles established by the Constitution of the Republic, the Statute of the Tuscany Region and European Charter of Local Autonomies. The Association represents the system of Tuscan municipalities, promotes development and growth of local autonomies system, protects and represents its interests, even in relations with other institutions and administrations, with economic, political, and social organizations at regional context. The Association takes care of the collection, analysis and dissemination of data and information concerning Tuscan municipalities and delivers support, technical assistance and provision of services to Tuscan municipalities. It promotes the coordination of activities of municipalities and associated bodies and organizational integration in areas where it can achieve the same levels of greater efficiency, effectiveness and economy, the decentralization of the functions of public interest at every level in a logic of institutional subsidiarity and simplification of administrative procedures, forms of coordination among the entities associated at level of territorial areas and on specific thematic needs. Thanks to its high experience designing, managing and implementing EU projects and its high-skilled staff, ANCI Tuscany is very active in the field of EU funded projects, both as Lead Partner that Partner. Through its subsidiary company, Anci Innovazione, ANCI Tuscany supports local public administrations in the management of innovation at technical and organizational level alongside the Tuscany Region and other Italian public administrations in the realization of innovative projects and services to citizens. It participates and supports proactively initiatives related to the Europe 2020 strategic pillars and in particular to the Digital Agenda at a regional, national and European level.

Regione Toscana through Ente Terre Regionali Toscane and Anci Toscana

From 2015 to 2018

The main funding sources are public, they comes from Regione Toscana and from municipalities who participates to the initiative.

Tuscany and in particular 6 pilot municipalities and all Tuscan municipalities who took part in the initiative

The urban gardening phenomenon began to develop around the 80s, experiencing a strong growth in the last decade. Urban and community gardens have become more and more common in international metropolises. They can be considered as an important tool to trigger urban regeneration processes, promoting socialization among citizen and the recovery of abandoned areas. The development of activities for the creation of gardens in urban and suburban areas reduces the gap between citizens and agriculture, enhances local food productions and traditions and a new policy that take into consideration the changing relationship between rural and urban areas.

Urban gardens are mainly located in slummy suburban areas in Tuscany and they are managed by old people who usually grow vegetables and fruit for their family needs. Urban gardens have unevenly spread over the territory, due to the lack of a common strategy and guidelines for the homogeneous development of such spaces.

Some Tuscan municipalities such as Florence, Livorno, Grosseto, Bagno a Ripoli have introduced innovative elements regarding the cultivation and management of such spaces, creating models for social inclusion and for the distribution of food to the most vulnerable social groups. Urban gardens have thus started to be perceived not just as a resource for individuals but rather as a tool which can be used to improve life quality, urban sustainability and the relationship between citizens, nature and the environment.

The key aim of the project was to define a Tuscan urban gardening model, allowing municipalities to recover available areas or to improve the ones which are currently used for such purposes. This aim matches the goal of radically change how these areas are perceived, turning recreational areas for elderly people into modern community centres for people of all ages which allow cultural exchange among farmers, youngsters and provide food for disadvantaged citizens. The new urban gardening model includes a series of guidelines which must be followed and respected by all structures on the regional territory.

The management of urban gardens has been assigned to charities in order to promote integration between agricultural, social, cultural and educational activities. Urban gardens represent a great resource for the community, especially in urban areas, since they can be used as a powerful tool to counteract isolation by fostering social bonds and to trigger urban regeneration processes.

Small-scale types of local and solidarity economy can be developed using urban gardens as means for sharing objectives and values. The meeting of different generations enables the exchange of experiences, thus becoming a key element for social development and for the enhancement of agricultural and environmental culture of the territory. Such model also disseminates education practices and information systems on agricultural traditions, the environment and on solidarity economy among communities that are often affected by individualism, with limited activity sharing among citizens.

The urban gardening model mainly targets young people, aiming to create opportunities for growth in the agricultural and social sector. Youngsters can indeed be regarded as a thriving source for innovative initiatives in which vegetable gardens, a fundamental element of rural cultures, can turn into a tool for aggregation and for the development of new shared management models of soils and activities.

The initiative “Centomila Orti in Toscana” (one hundred thousand gardens in Tuscany) is a regional governmental initiative for the 2015-2020 programming period. A working group established through a memorandum of understanding signed by Regione Toscana, Ente Terre Regionali Toscane, Anci Toscana and six pilot municipalities (Firenze, Bagno a Ripoli, Siena, Lucca, Livorno and Grosseto) launched the initiative. A set of guidelines and project methods for the implementation of interventions on private or public areas was designed, together with a series of regulations for the horticultural spaces’ management by those in charge. Various methodologies have been adopted in order to involve the citizens and the voluntary associations in the management of such spaces. The initiative was launched through a call for expressions of interest open to municipalities and an experimental call for the six pilot municipalities. A general call was prepared and the delivery of a guide was assigned to the Accademia dei Georgofili which provided information and advice for the implementation of the interventions to all actors involved in the initiative for each role.

Regione Toscana, Ente Terre Regionali Toscane, Anci Toscana e the six pilot municipalities with experience in this sector have established a working group for the definition of the Tuscan urban gardening model.
Regione Toscana has funded the initiative and issued a public call, originally open only to 6 municipalities for an experimental phase, then extended to all municipalities for the design and implementation of new gardens and the enhancement of the already existing ones.
Anci Toscana has promoted the initiative by getting all Tuscan municipalities involved, inviting them to express their interest and to take part in the public call for the realization of the interventions. Anci Toscana has organised and delivered a series of workshops and events targeting local authorities and aiming to gather innovative ideas and proposals in accordance with the identified model. It has also collected the instances and proceeded to a selection of them through a special committee composed by the main actors of the initiative.
62 municipalities, from urban and mountain areas, took place in the initiative with specific projects.

The new concept of urban garden has a strong aggregative, social and educational value which can be used to recover traditions, foster sustainable farming practices, and promote environmental education.

The recycling of waste and the rational use of natural resources are two concepts at the core of municipal planning. Such urban gardens also promote local food productions and the cultivation of local varieties of germplasm. The close tie between urban gardens and voluntary associations represents a baseline for the development of a new culture, where vegetables and fruit grown in urban gardens can be shared with disadvantaged citizens in soup kitchens or through the food bank and charities, in accordance with the provisions of law 155/2003 “Regulations governing the distribution of foodstuffs for purposes of social solidarity” and with regional law 32/2009 “Measures to combat poverty and social hardship through the redistribution of surplus food” which aims to foster the relationship among companies in the food sector, big food retailers, companies active in the catering sector and voluntary associations in order to ensure the goods which are no longer marketable but still edible are not wasted but transferred to soup kitchens and so on. The distribution phase is also included in specific aid and development projects. This represents an element of great importance in the municipalities’ projects.

The main challenge is to define a new policy to organized these areas in different urban and rural contexts. The new concept of urban garden has a strong aggregative, social and educational value which can be used to promote new approaches in environmental education, recover traditions, foster sustainable farming practices, rural responses to urbanization and promote nutrition issues and poverty reduction.

Over the last 50 years, urban gardening has been perceived as a pastime for the elderly or for hobbyists but this activity is destined to become increasingly useful for a growing part of the population living in urban areas since the citizens will enjoy its environmental, social and economic benefits. If implemented properly, urban gardening in central areas or in the outskirts can considerably improve the quality of life, both in technical and scientific terms: this activity is closely linked to the improvement of the air’s quality, of the management and storage of excess storm water to slow down the surface runoff, of the increase in biodiversity; the economic revaluation of properties and of neighborhoods adjacent to urban gardens is also a phenomenon which must be taken into account, as many experiences in Germany and USA clearly show. In many areas, urban gardens have indeed become interesting sites visited by curious people and specialists.

Another key aspect to be considered is the social impact of urban gardens: these areas can become community gardens (this is the case with many cities in Northern Europe) with benefits also in terms of integration of migrants who can be involved in such activities, developing a better knowledge of local traditions and sharing their experiences. According to law 166/2016 “Provisions concerning the donation and distribution of food and pharmaceutical products for social solidarity and for limiting waste”, a portion of the annual harvest is to be donated to charities and to be used in soup kitchens or for other charity purposes.

This is the reason why the Tuscan urban gardening model also includes the management of “complex of gardens”, granting free use to a third party that is to say charities, foundations and other institutions of private nature recognised under the 361/00 DPR, voluntary organization (L 266/91), social cooperatives (L 381/91,; non-profit organizations of social utility (Dlgs 460/97), social promotion associations (L 383/00), social enterprises (Dlgs 155/06), with priority for TAP (Temporary Associations of Purpose) which can ensure a sound management for the preservation of the areas’ functionality and goods.

Urban gardening also allows the recovery of green areas, especially of public ones which need renovation: this activity represents a great chance for municipalities to start urban regeneration processes in their territories, boosting the attractiveness of certain areas while improving their management. Urban gardening thus becomes a powerful tool for landscape planning, with great potential for the tourism sector as well, and a new model of rural economy.