Fernanda da Silva, like with millions of other Brazilians, was famished not too long ago.
The mother of three, 40, was out of work and struggling to make ends meet. Her husband's doorman wage of 1,300 reais per month, or roughly $250, kept their family afloat. Ms. Silva said, "it was incredibly terrible for us." "I had no money, and I was starving."
Then, a little more than a year ago, Ms. Silva began cultivating fresh food on a plot of land close to Cajueiro, the Rio de Janeiro favela where she resides, as part of a large-scale endeavor to establish the largest urban garden in the entire globe.
Now, Ms. Silva uses her green thumbs to work with 34 other gardeners for the city in exchange for a monthly stipend of 500 reais ($95, £79) and an abundance of free fresh food.
She crouchs among the colorful rows of lettuce, beetroot, cassava, and carrots and says, "I bring home wholesome food to put on the table for my children.
According to Ms. Silva, the garden's influence has spread. "We are putting food on many people's tables."
Largest urban garden in the world
The goal of the community garden that has been created here, is to provide disadvantaged individuals with food while also providing cash for those living in the adjacent favelas, like Ms. Silva. Once finished, it should begin producing food in 2024 for 50,000 nearby families annually. With the help of Ms. Silva and her successors, the goal of achieving parts of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is being met more and more.
The garden is located on a plot of ground that was formerly a "quilombo," - a community started by enslaved Africans who escaped their masters. It is located in a working-class neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro. Around 900 people were evicted before to the Rio Olympics to make room for a renewed park where fans could view the competition.
An urban garden is now being created on a small piece of this area. A space the size of a football field is already finished, and by the end of the year, it will have increased more than tenfold, to 110,000 square meters (27 acres).
According to Jlio César Barros, a soil and crop expert engaged by the city who is leading the project, half of the harvest will be donated to favela inhabitants in need and the other half will be sold at a reasonable price, with the proceeds being split among the gardeners.
We wanted to demonstrate that food can be grown in a major urban area like Rio de Janeiro, he explains.
Intensifying hunger crisis
Urban gardens in Brazil provide a glimpse of hope for the people in a country where hunger is on the rise.
Due in significant part to considerable public investment that helped millions of people escape poverty, the powerhouse of Latin America previously held the top spot in the global fight against hunger. It reduced the proportion of the population experiencing hunger between 2004 and 2013 by more than half, from 9.5% to 4.2%.
However, those achievements have been undone by a severe recession, a punishing epidemic, and rising prices. According to new research released this month by a network of civil society organizations that includes Action Aid and Oxfam, 33 million Brazilians (15.5 percent of the population) are currently suffering hunger.
According to Luciane Costa, head of the residents' association in the favelas of Faz-Quem-Quer and Morrinho, the project has provided a crucial lifeline at a time when many are fighting to survive.
She hopes that the urban garden will serve as an example for other communities and aid those who are struggling with hunger. "What we're doing here demonstrates the potential. I also hope that we might serve as an example for others."
Ms. Silva, the gardener, says the encounter has already altered her life.
She says, "Coming here and taking part in this has given me tremendous delight to do what I love, which is to work with the earth, to plant." It has been an extremely unique chance for me.
Gardening gives a real sense of appreciation when you can see the bounty of your efforts.
Gardening gives you an opportunity to give back. If you have an abundant garden, you might give some of the produce to neighbours, the local orphanage, correctional centers, charities. Gardening connects and enriches. The more people get the knowledge how to do gardening the more sustainable goals can be achieved and problems solved.
More information: http://eco-publicart.org/green-my-favela-2/