Community Garden Launched in Cantagalo on World Environment Day

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On Monday, June 5, World Environment Day, a new community garden was launched in the Cantagalo favela. Cássia Oliveira, executive coordinator of the NGO Harmonicanto: Música e Cidadania (Harmony and Song: Music and Citizenship), is the creator of the garden project. Founded in 2006 at the João Goulart CIEP public school, located in the community within Ipanema in Rio’s South Zone, the organization offers music and singing lessons, social studies, and tutoring for children from the community. With the installation of the garden, the project will offer weekly agriculture workshops for children, aiming to strengthen their feelings of belonging and responsibility toward public spaces.

The pilot project for the community garden was created in 2015 by Cássia. At the time, she had the help of supporters such as Mono Telha from Plant in the Street. However, with the lack of an adequate irrigation system due to water shortages at the CIEP, the garden began to wither. Cássia noted, “In reality, we are simply attempting to rescue the beautiful garden previously created by Darcy Ribeiro when Governor Brizola launched the CIEP. Without Brizola, this first garden eventually faded away.”

Over the past two years, a number of collaborators got together and reorganized their strategies, including Tomas Deleuse Mendoça, a partner at Carpe Socio-Environmental Solutions who became Environment Director of the association. He developed the new garden project with the hope of obtaining a sponsor; however, they did not manage to secure funding. He then drafted a lower budget, containing only the materials necessary for installing the garden.

In April of this year Cássia was invited to present her NGO at the Re-Ver Ipanema event, a conversation circle about sustainable initiatives held at the Laura Alvim House of Culture, promoted by Instituto E. She had the opportunity to meet the creative director of fashion company Osklen and founder of the institute, Oskar Mestavaht, and spoke of her dream of installing the community garden. Oskar was immediately on board. Later, the director of Instituto E, Nina, confirmed they would finance the project and provided support for the communication and development of the project.

The joint effort to install and launch the new garden included the removal of solid waste, preparation and fertilization of the soil, and planting of seedlings. This was undertaken by a number of volunteers and partners of Harmonicanto, such as Planta in the Street (group of agriculture and landscape initiatives organized by Mono Telha, maintainer of the garden) and Art of Living (partner since 2008 offering yoga classes and hosting musical presentations, including by a youth group). “The support of the organizer of Planta in the Street is extremely important to us. He has a lot of urban projects and is passionate about what he does. They are with us again in this endeavor,” said Cássia to the participants.

In addition to obtaining the physical space exclusively for the NGO, they built a community library and a recording and rehearsal studio for musicians. The garden connects to a veranda overlooking the Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon. This veranda was reformed last year by the Children’s Institute. They intend for this veranda to be a cultural touristic spot, where painters, sculptors, artisans, cooks, and artists in general from the community can explore and sell their products. “Many of the dreams we have ahead of us arise our of sustainability. With the launch of the garden, another dream slips to the top of our wish list: making a bistro on the veranda to receive tourists and friends who appreciate the green of nature and want to watch a beautiful sunset while tasting delicious dishes made with ingredients from our garden.”

The structure of the garden contains 32 plant beds adjacent to the external access to the public school for Harmonicanto: in the first rows, sunflowers and other flowers were planted to greet visitors, and the remaining 25 rows contain vegetables, spices, and more. “We have Mono Telha with the support of Plant in the Street for six months, thanks to the generosity of Green People, who will take care of the garden, hold environmental classes, and teach volunteers about gardening. These volunteers, in turn, will have the role of multipliers… It’s awareness-raising work, a collective collaboration.”

The event concluded with participants discussing and raising awareness about the importance of appropriate waste disposal, maintenance, and care of urban and natural spaces. The Zero Waste Movement and Favela + Limpa (Cleaner Favela) also presented zero waste projects throughout the event, helping with planting, environmental education, and childcare and coordination. Art of Living held a ceremony for World Environment Day, celebrating the completion of the community garden through a meditation with children from the community. The youth music and singing group from Harmonicanto performed on the veranda of the venue for the event attendees: “Sometimes, when you have a very big dream, you must go after it and get many people together to help make it come true,” said Cássia gratefully to all those celebrating.