In September 2014 the Manifesto „The City is Our Garden“ was published and has already been signed by more than 80 initiatives in Germany.
Manifesto: The City is Our Garden
For a few years now new forms of collaborative gardens have been evolving in numerous cities. These urban community gardens are an experimental space for a good city life. Together we, the city farmers, will transform fallow land into meeting places, harvest our own seeds, keep bees between and on top of high-rise buildings, experiment with various types of composting and exercise ourselves in preserving produce. We advocate a city worth living in and an urbanity that is future-oriented. A public space without access limitation or the obligation to consume is very important for a democratic and plural urban society. We are experiencing that on a daily basis.
Urban Community Gardens are:
- Common goods, opposing the increasing privatisation and commercialisation of public space
- A place of cultural, social and cross-generational variety and neighbourly collaboration
- A spot to experience nature, biodiversity, food sovereignty and seed preservation
- An ambience that welcomes participation in the form of designing, preserving and nourishing, thus creating an environment for the cooperative urban society to thrive in
- An experimental space to invent, form, re-use, repair and convert
- Ecological alternatives to soil sealing, fallow land and buffer strips
- Spanning the gap between city and rural agriculture by increasing awareness of high-quality food and that certain kind of agriculture which respects nature’s limitations and inherent worth, global justice and fair production conditions
- A place of environmental education, collective learning, trading and sharing
- Venues of quietness and shared time
- A contribution to a better climate, quality of life and environmental justice
- A vivid alternative to solitude, violence and anonymity.
Urban gardens are part of a vivid and sustainable city that is worth living in. Their prominence and numbers are rising continuously. However, their legal status is nonetheless precarious and their continuity oftentimes uncertain. Many municipalities only consider the monetary value of an area, not its impact on the urban space and the metropolitan society.
We summon the politicians and urban planners to recognise the importance of community gardens, strengthen their position, integrate them in the construction and planning law and initiate a paradigm shift towards a garden-friendly city. Similar to the car-friendly city that granted every citizen the right to a parking space, the garden-friendly city should provide urban nature in walking distance. In practice this means:
- Providing the citizens with the right to shape the public place
- Guaranteeing close-to-home, public spaces for non-commercial use and as a learning facility to the citizens
- Implementing high-quality green space and urban nature while taking the needs of the different groups of humans, animals and plants into account.
Urban gardens are our habitat. This is where diversity is gathering, perspectives are growing and a sustainability-based society is evolving. We want our gardens to take root here. The city is our garden.
Why a Manifest?
Urban gardening is more than one’s individual quest for a beautifully designed haven in the city. There is a new collective movement forming around the phenomenon of collaborative gardening. The manifest is meant to express the political localisation of the urban garden movement and contribute to the discussions regarding the future of cities and the prominence of commons.
Who initiated it?
The Urban Gardening Manifest was initiated by activists from ‘Allmende-Kontor’, ‘Prinzessinnengarten’, ‘Kiezgarten’, ‘Neuland Köln’, as well as ‘Eine andere Welt ist pflanzbar’ and ‘anstiftung’.
What was the impetus?
Urban gardens are facing an increasing number of inquiries from large corporations and brand representatives, who want to utilise this ‘cool’ scenery for photo shoots. Guerrilla gardening and knitting events in public are staged for commercials, linking ‘applied practices’ to the sale of their products.
The urban gardening movement rejects this with a statement of their own, referring to the importance of public space without access limitation. Further, the urban gardening movement positions itself politically in alignment with the movement ‘Recht auf Stadt’, highlighting the importance of urban nature, collectively used, public space as well as ecological and inclusive urbanity.
How did it come about?
The developing process of the manifest consists of four main steps: In 2012, ‘anstiftung’ had hosted a convention at the Evangelistic Academy Tutzing titled ‘Do-it-yourself cultures. Spaces and networks of post-industrial productivity’. The culture-industrial usage of urban gardening projects mentioned above was discussed among other topics. Therefore, the idea to create a manifest originated and first drafts were written, which were debated by and developed within the group of initiators.
The second step was the national second summer camp 2013 in Berlin-Lichtenberg, where two current manifest drafts were discussed among 100 garden activists from all over Germany. An open editorial group formed itself during this event, working on the manifest continuously.
In parallel to the event network conference intercultural gardens 2014 in Goettingen a small team completed the final editorship of the draft successfully; ‘anstiftung’ managed the media realisation (professional text narration, text animation and website). Lastly, the finalised version was presented during the third summer camp of urban community gardens in Nuremberg in August 2014.
What is the goal?
The authors of the manifest aspire to create a social discourse about the importance of community gardens in a public space and about the prominence of urban nature for a liveable and fair-trading city in the world. They demand support from decision-makers in politics, planning and administration to comply with the importance of community gardens through definite regulation sustainably.