Paraguay Garden Project
Urban Garden Network--Red de Huerta in Pilar, Paraguay
Working and Learning Together
The Garden Project is growing strong with 35 gardens! Thank you for your support.
(Click on images to enlarge)
The article below was written by returned Peace Corps Volunteer, Gretchen
Oat in 2004. Both Gretchen and Will Clark were instrumental in
establishing the Urban Garden Network, Red de Juerta, for the
Sustainable Living Foundation in 2003. Their volunteer time in
Pilar over lapped by three months.
Since Gretchen wrote this article, the Garden Project has expanded to
- A demonstration plot
- Eight wells
- 35 family gardens
- Five students on work scholarships
Gretchen Oat (Paraguay, 1999 to 2003)
through the barrios outside the city of Pilar, Paraguay, patches
of vegetable gardens appear sparse against the larger expanses of dirt
and urban dwellings. Taking a closer look, one finds a rampant blend of
green life ranging from the standard three sisters (corn, beans, squash)
to an array of sub-tropical oddities: passionfruit, hanging air potatoes,
yva puru, nanga priri. There's nothing more exciting than exploring these
glimpses of paradise. In conversation with the families responsible for
the care of these pieces of tierra, the same themes always seem to unearth
themselves. The garden is a great way for obtaining vegetables for household
consumption. The excess produce can be sold within the neighborhood barrio
or brought to market in the city center. It seems like such common sense.
Looking around, however, it is easily revealed: common sense is not common
practice. In truth, many people go days without eating and have a tendency
to center their diet around oil, salt and flour.
The city of Pilar is located in the southwest corner of Paraguay,
just north of the confluence of the Rio Paraguay and the Rio
Parana. In letters home, I would describe the land as a hybrid of
the Florida Everglades and the Kansas prairieland. The people, a mix of
Guarani-speaking campesinos and an urbanized elite, were some of the friendliest
and most gentle folk I've ever met. Pilar, a relatively progressive place,
is home to several universities and centers for advanced training. Most
every weeknight evening, the streets are teaming with youth and young
adults as they make their way to school. Classes are held at night, as
most students cannot afford to dedicate themselves full-time to their
studies and maintain a job during the day. For many, the task of finding
a job to cover the basic costs of living, let alone the univerity fees,
proves to be difficult, given the extremely challenging economic situation.
How is it that such a large number of people are on the borders of severe
malnutrition, in such a seemingly prosperous town?
The Urban Garden Network — Red
de Huerta — was formed in the barrios of Ytororo, San Roque,
San Lorenzo and Villa Parque, within the city of Pilar in the
southern summer of 2003 by regional Peace Corps Volunteers and several
youth. The program was created with several aims in mind. We hoped
to address the immediate need for food security by achieving a higher
degree of self-sufficiency while also improving nutrition by incorporating
locally grown produce into the diet. In establishing a network between
gardens and gardeners, we aspired to develop the ability to communicate
and a sense of sharing amongst the participants as well as to promote
experimentation with different gardening techniques.
youth is responsible for maintaining their own garden and a journal
of their garden-related activities. This has involved: constructing
fencing, building up garden beds, planting seed starter boxes,
maintaining the garden once it has been planted, harvesting and
using the vegetables, seed saving and beginning compost piles.
Further, the youth are also encouraged to share their knowledge and
enthusiasm with interested families, assisting them with their gardens.
In exchange for their continued participation, each youth is awarded
a monthly educational stipend. In this way, the costs for obtaining
high education are alleviated.
Currently, there are four youths involved
in the project. We continue to secure funding which enables us
to provide these youths with educational stipends for the duration
of their programs of study. If you are interested
in finding out more about this program or have your insights
to share about urban gardening, please call the Sustainable Living
Foundation at 650 941-9206 or write to:
The Sustainable Living
156 Marvin Ave.
Los Altos, CA 94022