Community & Success Stories From New Gardeners Around the World

Many attendees reported experiencing great psychological and eudaimonic benefits from community gardening, including reduced social distancing, depression, and anxiety as a result of COVID-19.

This week, Monty considered updating his Cottage Garden, while Adam Frost explored an insect-rich garden. Additionally, Frances Tophill made her way down to Kent, where a nursery full of hardy palms was awaiting inspection.

Benkadi Garden

Rural villages around the globe have seen the emergence of an innovative form of garden: community gardens. Their concept is straightforward: rather than one person tending an individual plot, groups cultivate one piece of land together so everyone can harvest it together. Community gardens are famous in North America and have been popping up even in places that need easy access to fresh produce, such as Kenya.

Benkadi Garden in Sangbaralla, Mali, is an inspiring example of a thriving community garden. Give Me Some Oven donors pledged over $28,000 last year to launch it; since then, local communities have constructed new schools, houses, youth centers, and water wells – further testament to its success.

Since the installation of the water well, gardeners have experienced greater economic independence. Their gardens produce three to five times more income than previously, and gardeners also report an increase in decision-making power within their households.

Gardeners now have access to a local market to sell their crops. Before Benkadi was created, the closest market was four kilometers away – inconveniencing and particularly impacting older women. So, the gardeners came together, building and launching an entirely new market closer to their gardens.

Gardeners in their community are also using it to test long-term initiatives that improve soil health, such as erosion, deforestation, drought, water shortages, and flooding (which often go hand in hand). They are exploring new agricultural practices as they learn how to manage their gardens sustainably in the future.

Reel Gardening

Reel Gardening is a South African company that manufactures vegetable seed strips to enable people to cultivate organic vegetables in their backyards or balconies. It was founded by Claire Reid, who saw gardening as an opportunity to teach kids about where their food comes from while making it affordable for many families who desired to start one themselves.

So, she created a paper strip that encases seeds and fertilizer for easy planting in small spaces. These biodegradable paper strips anchor seeds at an optimal depth and distance apart for ease of planting in gardens or pots. Plus, companion plants are included within each pack of seeds, so users can get maximum value from just one packet!

Company officials report selling millions of strips and are working with hundreds of schools to implement gardens across their communities. Reid notes that gardens benefit students as they learn healthy eating practices while having direct contact with their food source, thus helping them appreciate all of the work that goes into each meal.

Reel Gardening stands out from other retail businesses by being both commercial and social enterprises; Reid’s goal of allocating 17 percent of retail profits towards helping children in need has already begun being achieved by funding 200 school gardens across the US, with plans to extend these efforts internationally also.

Reel Gardening’s current focus is creating garden boxes designed for all spaces, such as balconies and small gardens. This approach makes fresh produce available to more people than ever before, and Reel Gardening hopes that more individuals will reap the benefits of eating locally grown foods.

Reel Gardening is a shining example of the necessity of flexibility and creativity for young businesses with missions of global impact. Although Reel Gardening took an unconventional route to its current position, its story holds valuable lessons for anyone hoping to combine business with social impact.

Grassroots Gardens

Community gardens can provide more than food—they’re places that provide social connection and respite from daily stressors, as well as sources of pride in neighborhoods struggling to thrive. At Grassroots Gardens of Western New York (GGWNY), our focus is on listening to gardeners’ vision and helping bring it to fruition.

GGWNY is a community-led organization with over 200 active gardens that have existed for 25 years, providing funding, resources, and technical support to get new gardens off the ground. They also offer educational programming. Last year, they conducted an Accessibility Task Force, which evaluated samples of gardens to make changes such as adding grass mats for wheelchair users, providing communication access in deaf gardens, or adding wayfinding signs in Braille and multiple languages other than English.

Modern community gardening emerged from the political activism of the 1960s, including student antiwar demonstrations, civil rights and gender equality movements, an emerging environmental ethic, and the back-to-the-land movement. Urban homesteaders occupied abandoned buildings as an act of solidarity to make them habitable; many turned to gardening for self-sufficiency.

Garden-making groups varied widely, from informal assemblies of neighbors to more structured organizations such as neighborhood or block associations, churches, and schools. Sometimes, gardens even expanded into vacant lots adjacent to them when buildings were removed. These groups needed to work closely together on an ongoing basis to address issues related to security, trash dumping, and more significant social barriers that might threaten their success.

At GGWNY, the community gardeners’ vision inspires Koncikowski and her staff to do everything possible to support their success. For instance, they recently initiated a therapeutic gardening initiative that will pilot three gardens at residential facilities; these spaces will primarily assist BIPOC community members affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, they work toward meeting growing community needs through food justice initiatives that foster resilience and food justice advocacy.

The Wash Project

MWF works closely with communities to address their water, sanitation, and hygiene challenges; its projects are community-driven. This is accomplished through partnerships with local government units and institutions and by including community needs in each WASH project’s Project Design, Monitoring, and Evaluation cycle.

MWF also strengthens capacity among key partners through training and capacity-building activities, including advocacy training workshops and facilitation courses. Furthermore, innovative participatory tools designed and tested specifically to support local leaders in taking ownership of water, sanitation, and hygiene issues in an ever-evolving climate are used for this training.

CFAR assisted a group of women in Bhubaneswar, India, who are struggling with the effects of COVID-19 on their income and livelihoods. They have been encouraged to frequently wash their hands and engage in preventive behaviors like frequent hand sanitization or social distancing when selling vegetables.

Friendship Support Association in Ethiopia has been working since 2020 to alleviate the impacts of desert locust infestation on 875 households living in Gawwane Woreda. Their activities have included installing solar-powered borehole wells, supporting latrines and tippy tap construction, and encouraging improved hygiene practices among these households.

SPRING’s work in Ghana encompasses community advocacy and communication with key partners, such as the Ministry of Health, Local Government, and frontline staff from Ghana Health Services. Furthermore, their team conducts national and regional CLTS stock-taking forums and strengthens ties with Ghana Water Company by working alongside their field offices.

Additionally, this team engages communities through events and campaigns celebrating United Nations observance days such as World Water Day, Global Handwashing Day, and Menstrual Hygiene Day. SPRING’s WASH video dramas also help motivate, encourage, and reinforce critical behaviors among target audiences.

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