Popular Science: Community Gardens in Prague
Roughly since the 70s, community gardens in America have become similar to nowadays. Many citizens started to build bottom-up communities and gardens. They showed their right to the city and wanted to use space meaningfully. A better environment was the first aim, then they subsequently added: cultivation of healthy food, local production without harmful environmental impacts, self-sufficiency, involvement of minorities, etc.
Throughout the American cities, we can find a broad mosaic of gardens from many points of view: size, organization, cultivation, social, economic, demographic characteristics of gardeners. A community garden itself often creates a core of the neighbourhood in locality and moreover, it generates events and further positive aspects for the community.
The first community garden in Prague started in 2012, and in 2016 we already had sixteen projects. Paradoxically, old allotment gardens are vanishing or abandoned and replaced by commercial housing projects and, on the other hand, new community gardening projects are on the rise.
Interviews were conducted with representatives of community gardens. Questions concerned the characteristics of gardens and communities and the motivations and expectations of the gardeners. Community members are most often younger people between 25 and 40, mothers with children and, except for two communities, members also include foreigners. They use many ways for cultivation: bags, individual and shared beds.
The most important motivation was to improve the locality and improve the relationships among neighbours through a joint project and by creating a meeting point. Cultivation, self-realization and recreation are also motivations. In North America and Western Europe, food production and self-sufficiency had more significant roles. On the contrary, in Prague, the garden as a meeting point is the most important function. Barbecues, concerts, workshops, celebrations, yoga exercises – these kinds of events are taking place in gardens.
The motivation for and participation in the project is most important for the future of all gardens. Without these, the community declines. This is the most frequent reason for the end of communities, followed by the loss of the area for cultivation and the loss of financial support.
The article introduces a new phenomenon for Eastern Europe, though widely used in Western Europe and North America. The study shows that the organization of the gardening is similar, but the age structure differs – Prague members are rather younger. On the other hand, they share the same motivations, though in Prague the cultivation of the area and social aspects were the most important. This can be the result of an absence of community in general, which stems from the top-down suppression of spontaneous activities during communism and stressed individualism during the 90s. But the desire “to do something with neighbours and for the neighbourhood” is still strong and we can see it in this case.