The Mediterranean Lab for Co-production 

of Social Innovation

MedTOWN in Portugal: a community garden for better social cohesion

Today we would like to share with you our good news & the fruit of our intense work in Portugal in the framework of  MedTOWN project, specifically in the city of Lisbon, in the Freguesia de Campolide. 

Although at first glance it may seem to be just a simple and beautiful intervention in an urban garden in the outskirts of the city of Lisbon, nothing could be further from the truth.  Bela Flor Respira is a project of urban agroforest (Agrofloresta) in Campolide that applies a process of collective intelligence and social innovation for the recovery of a very degraded urban space, and which involves the whole community: residents of the neigbourhood from children to the elderly, volunteers, part of the academic community of the University of Lisbon and the Junta de Freguesia de Campolide, the small parish council that manages in a decentralised way the municipal services of this part of the city.

All this is a perfect equation and good practice of citizen needs solved through the co-production of public policies and innovative civil society entrepreneurship. This is certainly one of the aims of MedTOWN, the project coordinated by the Assembly for Cooperation for Peace (ACPP) and funded by ENI CBC Med Programme.

We all know that in citizen intervention projects, people and their degree of commitment and enthusiasm are very important. Our Agrofloresta lacks neither passion nor desire to change the world around them, making this small Portuguese neighbourhood a paradise for sustainability and social integration to the cry of “There is no bad grass”. This MedTOWN initiative not only involves food production and a common garden space, without barriers or fences, but it is also a place for reflection and citizen thought, a space open to the whole community. Thinking about what to sow, discussing how or when to prepare the soil, or the concept of syntropic agriculture, is a perfect excuse to lay the foundations of understanding and the coexistence of people in a community.

Physically, it is an agroforestry project, a community garden, which is also a forest with an educational and experimental character, which has turned into a unique space in the city, where planting vegetables (such as tomatoes or cabbages), much appreciated by the neighbours during the state of pandemic, and ornamental plants coexist in harmony.

Cristina Sousa, forestry engineer and alma mater of the project, told us that the residents of the neighbourhood have participated in the project from the beginning, and started “out of curiosity” and little by little, they became involved in what they consider to be a “beautiful” community project. She also considered the visit made by MedTOWN leading team as very positive as “it is very good to encourage the neighbours to participate more”.

As for us, we left a plum tree planted with our own hands, as a symbol of fertility and long life to the project we started. You will have more news soon.


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