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Rosario’s urban farming programme wins global resilience award

29 June 2021

by Sarah Wray

A sustainable food production project in the municipality of Rosario, Argentina, has won the US$250,000 Prize for Cities from the WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities.

The initiative was praised for its ingenuity and longevity as well as the city-wide benefits it is delivering.

In the wake of the 2001 Argentinian economic crisis, which left a quarter of Rosario’s population unemployed and more than half of residents below the poverty line, the city launched an urban agriculture programme to supply residents with tools, seeds and training to grow food locally.

After record rainfall forced evacuations in 2007, the city also began to use the programme to build climate resilience. Repurposing abandoned land for agriculture has improved the soil’s ability to absorb water, making it less prone to flooding, and helped to lower air temperatures.

Across Rosario, 75 hectares of land are now dedicated to food production and urban gardens, with another 800 hectares preserved for agriculture in the surrounding area. More than 2,400 families have started their own gardens, and seven new permanent market spaces have been created. Compared to imports, local food production has been shown to reduce emissions by 95 percent.

Multi-dimensional

Anne Maassen, Global Lead for the WRI Ross Center Prize for Cities, told Cities Today: “Rosario was selected first and foremost for the multi-dimensional nature of the project’s impacts. The urban agriculture programme has touched so many sectors and aspects of people’s lives across the city, especially in regard to both climate and inequality.”

She added: “We don’t tend to think of municipal bureaucracies as flexible, but Rosario has proven the importance of continuity of political agendas and evolving existing programmes over time as a city faces new problems.”

Rosario was chosen to receive the grand prize from a pool of 262 submissions from 54 countries on the theme of “inclusive cities for a changing climate”. The independent jury included Lord Norman Foster, Founder and Executive Chairman, Foster + Partners; Mark Watts, Executive Director, C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group; and Maimunah Binti Mohd Sharif, Executive Director, United Nations Human Settlements Programme.

Unexpected innovation

Pablo Javkin, Mayor of the City of Rosario, said: “Sustaining food production spaces within urban and peri-urban areas is a key strategy in our climate action plan. Sustainable food production not only generates employment opportunities, but social cohesion, an improved environment and better health for our residents – all while we are conserving the environment and making us more resilient to climate change.”

The four runners-up – a climate resilience training programme for women in Ahmedabad, India; a district-scale design approach in Monterrey, Mexico; a flooding protection initiative in Nairobi, Kenya; and London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone – each received $25,000.

Maassen commented: “In the bigger picture, urban agriculture and the role of nature in the city is an irreversible trend, and so we’re expecting a lot of other cities will pick up a cue from this cycle’s grand prize winner, and replicate it. We’ve also seen that innovation can be unexpected – combining existing programmes with new elements.”

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My City, My Life

Valérie Plante, Mayor of Montréal

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