Collaborative Gardening for the revitalization of cities - the example of Guadalajara/Mexico
Duration: 9th April – 4th July 2018 (12 weeks)
Participants: 5 students
Consultant: Prof. José G. Vargas-Hernández (Universidad Guadalajara)
External planning practitioner: César Lepe Medina (City of Zapopan)
Language: German, literature and interviews in English and partly in Spanish
Urbanization in many countries around the world will continue to move forward, opening up many more far-reaching challenges such as air pollution, water scarcity, housing shortages or social inequality. Collaborative gardening, as part of the bioeconomy, combines urban gardening with a social context and has many positive effects, such as the reduction of the ecological footprint or contribute to providing food security of urban citizen, at least partly. Collaborative gardening can also be seen as an opportunity to revitalize densely built-up cities and meet the challenges of urbanization, as well as satisfy the growing need of urban citizens to participate in civic projects.
The metropolitan region of Guadalajara in Mexico is confronted with a steady increase in population and therefore was selected to serve as a case study for the project. The municipality of Zapopan, as part of Guadalajara, is one of the fastest-growing communities in Mexico, facing problems such as water scarcity, high settlement pressures, congested transport infrastructure, major socio-economic differences and high crime rates. To counteract these challenges, the Municipality of Zapopan established the Agroecological Park Zapopan, which aims to contribute to social awareness and environmental education. Furthermore, it serves as a meeting place in the neighborhood.
The aim of the project was to develop conceptual approaches to the development and networking of collaborative gardening projects. The project is closely linked to the BMBF-funded research project "GIAGEM - The role of green innovation areas in revitalizing Mexican and German cities", examining urban development projects in the field of bioeconomy and green infrastructure. As part of the master project, the students were involved in the GIAGEM research project, giving them the opportunity to conceptually accompany current developments. In this cooperation, a one-week excursion to Guadalajara was carried out. Together with the local partners (Guadalajara University, Guadalajara and Zapopan Municipality, Zapopan NGOs), new approaches to collaborative gardening were explored and discussed through expert discussions, joint workshops and exchanges with students from the University of Guadalajara. The existing contacts offered the participating students the opportunity for interactive exchange and research-based learning. They were given the opportunity to exchange ideas with local stakeholders and students about planning strategies and to contribute their own concepts and ideas to the process. An analysis of the existing strengths and weaknesses as well as opportunities and risks of the agricultural park Zapopan served as a basis to develop tailor-made recommendations for action and to design further concepts for future development options.