The community gardens project, developed since 2001, is an Eletrosul strategy for the management of risk areas of the electric power operation system, by raising the awareness of communities about the risks of the irregular occupation of security strips under transmission lines (TLs). In addition to the management and prevention of illegal occupations in service route areas, the project also seeks to contribute to the social and productive inclusion of communities living near the transmission lines, encourage education and entrepreneurship actions, as well as promote improvement in nutrition and quality of life. It aims to guarantee the communities citizenship through work and training.   

The implementing of community gardens is done through participatory methodologies. It consists on the creation of multisectoral partnerships, involving municipal governments, associations and other institutions interested/affected by the project. Roles and responsibilities are assigned to each partner in order to ensure the implementation and continuity of the project. In all, 35 community gardens have already been implemented in the states of Paraná, Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul, benefiting 1100 families. The use of the space is for food production for own consumption or for complementing household income. The community gardens implemented exclusively use organic production techniques.

 

A - General information

 

BEGGINING: 2001 (in progress)

EXECUTING ENTITY: Eletrosul Centrais Elétricas S/A

CO-EXECUTING ENTITIES:  The municipal governments of Curitiba, Maringá, Cambé, Vacaria, Xanxere, and Caxias do Sul. Organizations: Association of Residents and Friends of Vila dos Evangélicos, Association of Residents of the Vitória Régia Community, Association of Residents and Friends of Jardim Bosco, Association of Residents of Moradias Paraná, Association of Residents and Friends of Santa Cecilia, Association of Residents of Rio Bonito, Association of Residents of Vila Sésamo, Association of Residents of Bairro dos Esportes, Association of Residents of Parque Douat, Association of Members of the Madrid Community Garden – APAHCOM (acronym in Portuguese), Grêmio Recreativo Educacional (Education and Recreational Club), Cultural Esportivo Assistencial B.C. Alegria do Caminho Novo (Welfare Education and Recreational Club), and Centro de Recuperação Nova Esperança (New Hope Rehabilitation Center) - CERENE.

PARTNERS: Schools, Private companies, Agricultural Penal Colonies, Agribusiness Research and Rural Extension Company of Santa – EPAGRI, Technical Assistance, and Rural Extension Company – EMATER, and the National Rural Apprenticeship Service (SENAR), CELESC, COPEL, SESI, and SESC.

SUBMITTED BY: kátia R. S. Siqueira and Elisete M. da Rosa.

RESOURCES: Own and third-party

VALUE RANGEOver US$ 25,000.00.

CATEGORY: Project.

MAIN THEMATIC AREA: Socio-Productive Inclusion.

KEYWORDS: Family farming, environment, social inclusion, community garden, communities, organic production, community development, quality of life, healthy food, income generation, municipality.

TARGET GROUP: Peri-urban communities, family farmers, urban schools, community associations, and detoxification and rehabilitation centers.  

AGEOGRAPHIC COVERAGE: Southern Region of Brazil

SPECIFIC AREA OF IMPLEMENTING:  Urban communities located in the vicinity of Eletrosul’s transmission lines.
State of Paraná
Curitiba: Tatuquara, Industrial City and Campo de Santana district;
Maringá: Upper City, Cidade Canção, Jardim Universo and Jardim Itaipu.
Sarandi: Jardim Aliança I, Jardim Aliança II and Jardim Monte Rey.
Cambé: Jardim José Favaro, Jardim União, Parque São Jorge, Jardim Boa Vista, and Jardim Andaluzia.
State of Santa Catarina
Xanxerê: Vila Sésamo, João de Barro and Bairro dos Esportes.
Palhoça: Caminho Novo, Padre Réus, Loteamento Parque Residencial Madri.
Joinville: Parque Doaut.
State of Rio Grande do Sul
Caxias do Sul: Vila Ipê and Colina do Sol.

  

B - Description of the practice

 

1- BACKGROUND

The plots located under the Electric Power Transmission Lines are treated as having rights-of-way or as safety Lanes. To meet the restrictions on the use of the lanes, the company uses Eletrosul's Maintenance Manual, Brazilian Technical Standards Association ABNT- NBR 5422 as well as other rulings of the Brazilian Electricity Regulatory Agency (in Portuguese, "Agência Nacional de Energia Elétrica," ANEEL). All users of this space must comply with the applicable legislation and take full responsibility for preventive and compensatory measures of any nature.

Safety lanes across large urban areas, especially in peri-urban zones are the ones most affected by illegal land occupations. The most common examples of illegal land use are: landfills, scrap metal yards, burns, constructions of animal inadequate shelters. Before the project was implemented, there was a high demand for lawsuits seeking either ownership repossession or compensation for constructions that were required to be removed from safety lanes to protect the physical integrity of land-invading families. The Judiciary Branch was in high demand and conflict resolution was time-consuming.

In addition to the lengthy and expensive ownership repossession process, there is another common illegal use of safety lanes: burns. When the system is operating, in case of a fire under the transmission lines/towers, system shutdowns may occur, causing dire losses to society in general due to the lack of electricity. The consequences of the shutdowns are numerous and cause financial losses to the company as well. In this case, fines and penalties may be applied by ANEEL.

   

2-  GENERAL OBJECTIVE

To manage risk areas of the electric power operating system through the implementation of community gardens.

Specific objectives:

• To inhibit illegal land occupations in the safety lane areas of Eletrosul's transmission lines;

• To educate the communities about the risks of the illegal occupation of safety lanes under transmission lines (TLs);

• To contribute to the social and productive inclusion of the communities that live in the vicinity of the transmission lines;

• To offer an alternative to complement/generate the income of the families benefiting from the project;

• To expand the strengthening of food and nutrition security in the community;

• To contribute to the social integration of the participating communities, strengthening the bonds of friendship and respect among the members of the garden;

• To strengthen occupational therapy methodology in rehabilitation centers for chemically dependent individuals, ensuring improvements in nutrition and helping to reduce the organization's budget.

 

3 - SOLUTION ADOPTED

The first step for the implementation of the community vegetable garden is identifying the risk areas. This work is carried out by the company's technical staff, which, based on the results of the analysis defines the sites that jeopardize the functioning of the electric system as well as the well-being of the people that illegally occupy the area. It is worth highlighting some examples of inadequate land occupation under the transmission lines which may pose risks the transmission system and to the people that use the area: constructions, the planting of plant species taller than 3 meters, warehouses, the use of large machines, landfills, burns, and the use of the site on rainy days or days with thunders.

Once the technical opinion is ready, the identification of the properties is done. The legal representative of each property shall then authorize the implementation of the garden for the continuity of the project. Because of restrictions in comparison to other properties, there are not many obstacles for obtaining permission for community use. Once the location of the vegetable garden has been defined, the implementation process is initiated based on a participatory methodology. The community, through its representative institutions, is a great partner in the maintenance and continuity of the project, the focus discussions and the implementing of activities must always be carried out collectively. Should the residents of the vicinity of the implementation area not be interested, the project becomes unfeasible.

Municipal governments also play an important role, from the allocation of equipment and resources during the implementation stage to technical advising. The degrees of involvement and responsibilities of the institutions are defined through a technical cooperation agreement between the partners (Eletrosul x Municipalities, Associations, Civil Society). Some community gardens have larger participation from the municipal administrative bodies, while in other cases, Eletrosul takes full responsibility for the project in partnership with the communities involved. Other actors may also integrate or help the development of the stages of the project through Technical Cooperation Agreements, or informally. For example, extension and technical support companies (EMATER/EPAGRI), private companies, the National Rural Apprenticeship Service (SENAR), and rural unions, among others. The Cooperation period covers 60 months, a time for the families to be trained in the handling of the land, food handling, guidance for permanence under the Lines, internal regulations of the gardens, security awareness, planting and harvesting techniques, and etc. so they can benefit from and sell their surplus products. The implementation stages are listed below:

a) Identification of the site by the technical department of the company;
b) Presentation of the Project to the people and organizations involved;
c) Visit to the site where the garden is to be implemented, analyzing factors such as soil conditions, water availability, and the number of persons involved;
d)Property ownership identification;
e)Socioeconomic registering of the families;
f)Discussion about the risks of illegal occupation;
g)Discussion about the importance of healthy eating;
h)Clearance and fencing of the areas chosen for the gardens;
i)Preparation of the garden beds and soil (limestone and fertilization);
j)Organic Horticulture Course;
k) Participatory elaboration of regulations regarding the use of the space by the families;
l) Allocation and identification of garden beds among the families;
m) Continuous technical/educational advising and monitoring;
n) Implementation of new courses and community meetings.

The continuity of the technical monitoring after the implementation of a community garden is of the utmost importance. Eletrosul found that success of the exploitation of the area and of the food production is closely related to the regular monitoring by an agriculture department professional. Because the garden is situated in urban areas, the members of the garden do not have experience in the production of vegetables or other crops. These people have various professional qualifications: bricklayers, electricians, primary education teachers, civil servants, and reuse and recyclable material collectors, among others. Accordingly, Eletrosul or the co-executing/partner agencies provide a professional to answer technical questions about production and management.

Another issue that must be fostered during the implementation stage is the integration of the beneficiaries of the project. This happens since the first collective site clearance. This opportunity to interact with and get to know one another enables the creation of bonds of trust among the beneficiaries. These initiatives introduce space utilization guidelines (regulations), organize the existence of the beneficiaries, and ensure the safety of the people that use the site.

For control and monitoring, Eletrosul holds project assessment meetings with partners and beneficiaries of the gardens. During these meetings, minutes are drafted to provide support for later meetings. The beneficiaries of the garden also answer satisfaction surveys on an annual basis. The survey results are used for the planning of joint actions with the participating community, especially guidance regarding safety rules. To this end, the company offers Talks on Safety to the members of the garden, providing information and instructions regarding safety when working in the gardens and compliance with the restrictions provided in the legislation.

Finally, it is worth highlighting that vegetable production is carried out through the use of organic farming techniques. The use of agrochemicals and synthetic fertilizers is forbidden. Crop variety is encouraged in order to meet the monthly demand and to contribute to the food and nutrition security of the families.

  

4 - RESULTS ACHIEVED

The results achieved cover the areas of security, health, social inclusion, income generation, environmental sustainability, and education. The positive impacts following the implementation of the project are immediate.

Security:
- After the implementation of community vegetable gardens in the areas of risk the company did not need its legal department. Full dispute resolution regarding ownership repossession and/or compensation for these properties. Disputes were resolved with the help of co-executing agencies, partners, and the community.
- Previous problems such as burns, landfills, illegal constructions and buildings were resolved through community management of the site. It is also worth highlighting that no occurrences of accidents (electric discharges) were identified involving the population in the risk areas after the project implementation.

Health:
- Improvement of the nutrition status of the families through the daily and diversified consumption of fresh organic vegetables;
Psychological benefits, improvements in self-esteem, completion of daily activities, concentration, mood, memory, stress decrease, and sleep quality improvement. According to comments and reports by the people who work actively in the garden, mostly older people, the quality of life increased thanks to the activity;
- The physical exercise needed for moaning, raking, watering, walking, in addition to the daily meetings with the families in the garden, led to the loss of excessive weight, improvements in the functioning of the cardiovascular system, building of strength, body flexibility, endurance, motor skills, and posture, among others.;
- This garden system is also used for detoxification and rehabilitation communities as occupational therapy.

Social inclusion and community:
- Improvement in Social relations between the beneficiaries of the garden and the residents of the project vicinity;
- The social inclusion process reduces prejudices based on social and economic status, gender, and ethnicity. In the garden everyone has equal rights and duties;
- Creation of formal and informal groups. In some cases, social integration goes beyond informality. For example, in the Madri Community Garden (Horta Comunitária de Madri), located in Palhoça (state of Santa Catarina), the beneficiaries decided to create an association exclusively for dealing with project matters (APAHCOM).

Direct and indirect income generation:
- Direct income generation occurs through the selling of the production surplus. In this case, the garden beneficiaries sell their products in the local market or in the community garden itself. Prices vary according to the season and the crop varieties;
- Indirect income generation is linked to home economy. Data collected in the community gardens of Palhoça (Santa Catarina) suggest monthly savings ranging from R$150 to R$200 per family, in comparison with the previous monthly purchase of vegetables in the conventional market. This vegetable production is calculated on the basis of a 25 m2 plant bed.

Environmental sustainability:
- Food production makes use of organic techniques, based on a production system that precludes the use of agrochemicals, synthetic fertilizers, and other types of chemical additives. The garden beneficiaries' commitment to the environment prevents soil, vegetation, and water contamination;
- The communities’ handling of domestic organic waste through the implementation of composting and vermiculture techniques. On average, 1 ton of organic waste is not sent to the sanitary landfill of Palhoça each month. This production of humus and composts contributes to the structure of the soil and the fertilization of the plant beds.
Education:
- It offers the children involved in pedagogical projects at schools in the region the opportunity to learn about food, soil preparation, cultivation, management, and above all, it shows them the importance of healthy eating.

Quantitative data on the Project
Number of families benefited: 1,100.00
Number of community gardens implemented: 35
Total cultivated area (approx.): 340,000 m²

 

5 - RESOURCES

Human resources: 01 agriculture expert or agronomist, 1 electrical engineer, 1 social worker, community leaders, and garden beneficiaries. The participation of professionals from EPAGRI, EMATER, SENAR, and other partner institutions is also encouraged.

Material resources: 

Infrastructure: arable land under the transmission lines.
- Machines for land management/soil preparation/plant beds preparation;
- Fencing of the area and placement of identification and security signs;
Equipment: toolkit (hoe, watering pot, rake), materials for the irrigation system and lamp posts.
Inputs: seedlings, limestone, and organic fertilizers. The number of imports may vary depending on the chemical analysis of the soil.
Average estimate of the costs for implementing of the garden, including all material and expert services costs: R$ 15,90 per square meter of the garden.

 

6 - TRANSFER

Because it safeguards the interests of Eletrosul in the management of risk areas, the community's interest in having a place for cultivation and conviviality, and the municipalities' interest in contributing to the food and nutrition security of the beneficiaries, the project has great acceptance among the actors involved. The first vegetable garden implemented by Eletrosul was in Curitiba (state of Paraná) in 2001. Given the results described above, the transfer of the project took place internally in two other interested municipalities, thus expanding the network of public institutions and civil society organizations benefited. At present, the project covers the states of Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina, and other cities in the state of Paraná. Altogether, 35 gardens contribute to the well-being of 1,100 families.

The project is the object of undergraduate and graduate academic research. Some examples of academic production on the theme include Urban Agriculture and its Multiple Functions - the Farming Program Experience of the Municipality of Curitiba (state of Paraná), by Luciane Cristina Ferrareto; and Urban Agriculture in Curitiba - the Case of the Vitória Régia Neighborhood, by Tatiana S. D. Valieri. On the other hand, the publicity of the initiative is done through booklets and voluntary television/radio/newspaper reports at the state and regional level.   

  

7 -  LESSONS LEARNED

With the ongoing project, the company was able to reduce lawsuits against illegal land occupations, facilitate the maintenance of Transmission Lines, promote social inclusion and insert the communities in the safety lane management process. Community participation in the actions to implement and maintenance of a vegetable garden stands out in this process. The participatory methodology with an emphasis on the creation of collective works and the collective elaboration of internal regulations are efficient mechanisms for community integration. This relationship of trust among the beneficiaries is one of the indicators of the garden's success.

Among the difficulties and obstacles met, the internal bureaucratic procedures and the change of administrators in the company and participating municipalities can be mentioned. Since Eletrosul is a public company, there are bureaucratic procedures through different sectors until the project is approved. The change of administrators and social/political vision regarding the area of social responsibility also influences the continuity of the project.

For example, cuts in social spending may jeopardize the initiative. We emphasize the fact that the technical and social monitoring must be continuous, especially in the case of the beneficiaries. Safety guidelines must be fully followed by the beneficiaries. For example, staying in the garden on rainy days or the use of sprinkler irrigation is forbidden. These and other guidelines must be regularly reminded.

Experts are necessary for the expansion of the project, especially regarding the use of safety lane areas. The financial resources may be fewer than the human resources, since the intention is that the community participates in the implementation and maintenance process. In addition to technical knowledge, the expert team needs to be sensitive to the vulnerabilities of the region. Peri-urban communities do not know how to work the land, handle food, or engage in social actions. Training is essential in this process. Finally, the Community Gardens project establishes a relationship of trust between the company and the community. It is the co-management of responsibilities that ensures the sustainability of the project. 

 

8 - ORIGINALITY OF THE PRACTICE

Community Garden Projects are common in Brazil. The originality of the practice is in the implementing methodology and innovative approach to the problem. It seeks to combine Eletrosul’s interests in managing risk areas under TLs and social inclusion actions, income generation, and improvements in the conditions of food security and nutritional status of the beneficiary communities.

 

 

 

 

Visits can be made during the week, from Monday to Friday, during business hours. Because they are located under the transmission lines, in the event of rain and thunderstorms the visit will be canceled to ensure the safety of the interested parties. Groups of 10 to 30 people are accepted.

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