Greening the City
Urban community gardens
Community gardens in urban areas are nothing new. They first appeared in the 1970s in the US and Canada. In New York there are now around 600 such gardens. Their success led to a profusion of initiatives in France, where novel kinds of community garden have developed since the beginning of the 1990s. They are also the successors of nineteenth-century allotment gardens for workers ('jardins ouvriers'), which were subsequently redubbed 'family gardens'. Today, they are usually grouped in two categories: shared community gardens and social integration gardens.
Mostly located in city centers or inner suburbs, the main purpose of community gardens is to foster social bonds, solidarity and conviviality within a neighborhood. They are open to passers-by, are not split up into individual plots, and are frequented by people of all ages and ethnic groups who undertake environmentally-friendly gardening. Flowers, fruit and vegetables are grown, although not as a serious source of food due to the small surface area of such gardens. Created, developed, looked after and run by groups of local people who belong to neighborhood associations, community gardens are also a setting for recreational, festive, educational, cultural and artistic events. They are flourishing in all of France's major cities, including Paris, Lyon, Lille, Nantes, Marseille, Bordeaux and Brest.
Social integration gardens, which require more land, are often located in outlying districts. Their purpose is to use gardening as a means of rehabilitating people who are in social or professional difficulty, such as the unemployed, people living on benefits, the disabled, the lonely, young people with learning difficulties, and former prisoners. They all work under the guidance of voluntary or paid helpers. These gardens were invented at the end of the 1980s as a response to rising unemployment and poverty. Fruit and vegetables are mainly grown for food, either for the grower's own use, or to be sold or given away. In France there are estimated to be several thousand users grouped together in associations.