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The Eco Citizen project: Cultivate plants, Cultivate peace
an article by Marielza Cunha Horta

(Editor's note: CPNN readers will recall this project for vulnerable urban youth in Macaé, Rio de Janeiro state, Brazil, as described in a CPNN article of May 2007).

The project, “Eco Citizen in the Communities”, fosters urban agriculture within the local population, especially among children & youth, women, elderly people and patients with mental illness. It provides information on food security, proper nutrition, hygiene and health maintenance, planting methods, characteristics of each fruit or vegetable planted, rational water consumption, solid waste management, conservation of biodiversity, among other issues are part of a series of sustainable actions to tackle poverty, improve people’s health and raise self esteem. It instills in learners values of conservation, respect for nature, promote a sense of consideration for others and readiness to cooperate and teamwork in community initiatives.

One of the new activities is a capacity building course for communitarian teachers implemented in several neighborhoods that has trained more than thirty teachers of the community.

There was a special workshop for people with mental illness. In these activities, the Eco Citizen Team and the Communitarian Teachers taught how to produce natural snacks, seasonings, integral food, the danger of in-house poisons, aromatic sachets, collage techniques, preparing of soil, selection of seeds, etc. These activities improved the mental and physical situation of the patients. The garden is an alternative space for therapy, learning and human relations.

Work with women and homeless people contributes for the improvement of quality of the living environment and the life of beneficiaries. Agro-ecological and family agriculture (with non-pesticide, non-toxic products), conservation of the environment, fight against deforestation are constantly discussed. Beside these, we have noticed that the quality of water and soil are better because of the return of insects, birds, butterflies, etc. to the public and private gardens.

“Eco Citizen in the Communities” is also developed in public schools. One result is a reduction of misbehavior within the classes. Students start to take care of the gardens, improve their academic performance and relationship with teachers and colleagues. Some of them became monitors and helped teachers in organizing activities on gardens. These students share with younger colleagues’ information on environmental education, hygiene, methods of cultivation, soil treatment, water use and responsible consumption of food, water and other goods. Beside these, they help to keep their schools clean and organize themselves to raise money to invest on the school gardens and cultivate new kind of vegetables, fruits or medicinal plants.

Elderly people are also considered in this project. They learn about natural cooking in order to improve their health and nutrition. They share this knowledge and traditional habits within their families and enhance to cultivate in the backyard of their relatives or their own homes.

Upcoming actions include an increase the number of gardens in other communities, institutional & domestic spaces, more patients with mental illness to participate in the project, increased production in order to commercialize the goods, spreading the initiative in other exchange markets, graduating more Communitarian Teachers, identifying new spaces in the city in order to be considered by local authorities and the population as a strategy of urban preservation, improvement of collective health, reduction of poverty and diseases, and culture of peace.


Question(s) related to this article:

When you cultivate plants, do you cultivate peace?,

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Latest reader comment:

CPNN has just received the following message (see a rough English translation below):

CPNN vient de recevoir le message suivant:

Merci pour ces informations

D'ailleurs par rapport au climat , aujourd hui 11 Décembre est notre journée locale de l'arbre (pour le climat et la culture).

Nous avons planté des arbres fruitiers pour faire revivre nos traditions (notre culture) qui voulaient que la retraite des paysans s'assurait par les arbres fruitiers. Aussi la plante de MURINGA pour symboliser les plantes médicinales et fin une espéce sauvage d'arbre dont les feuilles sont mangées par les chenilles (comestibles à l homme).

C'est 2 ans que nous organisons cette journée et nous faisons des émissions à la radio et TV pour la vulgarisation de cette culture de la paix (manger, planter pour le générations futures et le climat du monde entier)

victor nzuzi
rd congo


CPNN has just received the following message which is translated here (see above for the original French version).

Thank you for the information.

With regards to climate change, today December 11 is our local "day of the tree" (for our climate and our culture).  We have planted fruit trees to revive our traditions (our culture), to assure with fruit trees the retirement of our local farmers .  Also the planting of MURINGA to symbolize medicinal plants, a wild species of tree whose leaves are food for caterpillars that we can eat.

It's been two years now that we organize this day and we broadcast radio and TV programs to popularize this culture of peace (eat and plant for future generations and for the climate of the whole world).

In solidarity,
Victor Nzuzi
Democratic Republic of the Congo

This report was posted on July 27, 2008.