Slovenia is one of the countries at the bottom in Europe regarding self-sufficiency. Due to the current economic crisis, high unemployment and social risk, especially amongst the more vulnerable groups such as persons with mental health problems, healthy food, autonomous food production, and self-sufficiency are becoming more and more important. Over the last few years several initiatives have arisen for establishing community gardens across Slovenia. All of them have the same purpose: returning to nature and to traditional ways of meeting human needs, local gardening, intergenerational cooperation and learning, socialising, minimising household expenses and contributing to their kitchens by providing healthy, locally grown food. One of the larger initiatives in Slovenia is the so called “Urban furrows” (in Slovenian “Urbane brazde”), set in Maribor, the second largest city of Slovenia, within an EU funded project during Maribor’s year as a European Capital of Culture 2012. Organisers say: The “Urban Furrows programme was established so that, besides keeping the public informed, to first and foremost also develop concrete examples of good practice in terms of alternative and autonomous production, specifically in those aspects of life that are prerequisites for a tolerant, mutually cooperative, and creative society. On the one hand, we have focused on strengthening our cultural cohabitation, on the other we have aimed at preserving our cultural heritage which, in our opinion, inevitably includes biotic diversity.” Urban furrows actually represents more than 80 rented community gardens next to a huge block-of-flats in a neighbourhood, arranged behind a fence containing paths, common sheds for tools, playgrounds for children, a wooden house with benches for educational and socialising activities, common grass, orchards and shrubs, water supplies etc. All natural materials tended to be used for all the facilities. Supported by Urban furrows, its activities focused on raising awareness about ecological gardening, several gardens in Maribor also arose in schools’ and kindergartens’ yards, connecting children with nature and giving them opportunities to patiently and respectfully wait for the crops to grow. You can find more about the project at http://www.maribor2012.eu/en/programme/urban-furrows/the-idea/ or http://brazde.org/category/urbano-vrtnarstvo/.
Community eco urban garden in Maribor
In Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, urban community gardens were designed at several locations corresponding to the city communities’ needs for being more connected with nature and with one another. We can mention certain community gardens within different parts of Ljubljana: Trnovo, Tabor, “Onkraj gradbišča” etc. As in Maribor, Ljubljana’s community gardens were organised with the municipality’s help.
Great interest in creating urban community gardens is also being expressed out loud by citizens in other Slovenian cities. Although local authorities are mostly very open and willing to find solutions, the biggest challenges they have to face concern administration regarding land usage and financial shortfall. Nevertheless, when people set the same goal, they create a high level of enthusiasm, and with the exchange of ideas, knowledge, and support they bring their goal to reality. In addition, more and more private investors are open to the urban community gardening concept and help communities with low land rentals or even investments into building the community garden facilities. Their motivation is not only keeping their land usable and maintained but also to act with social responsibility and help their community with land resources that to them represent a passive property.
In this way one of the private investors is going to help the HORGANIC project. With his cooperation OZARA d.o.o., which is managing the project’s activities in Slovenia, is going to organise learning gardening activities for persons with mental health problems in 2014 and 2015. We are looking forward to the experience!