The Manguinhos area in Rio de Janeiro, a slum area where addicts once smoked crack and residents dump garbage, has been transformed into a public vegetable garden that now feeds 800 families struggling to cope with food shortages.
The urban garden comprises the site of four soccer fields, according to the coordinators of Rio de Janeiro's "Hortas Cariocas" program, making it the largest of its kind in Latin America.
"The area was used as a 'cracolândia'," said Julio Cesar Barros, an agronomist employed by the city. "If you had come here on Wednesday at 10am, you would have found two or three thousand people smoking crack in this place."
Horta de Manguinho in Rio de Janeiro is the largest urban garden in Latin America.
Horta de Manguinho in Rio de Janeiro is the largest urban garden in Latin America.Pilar Olivares / Reuters
Urban farmer Ezequiel Dias works in Horta de Manguinhos, the largest urban garden in Latin America, Manguinhos favela in Rio de Janeiro on December. 3, 2021.
Urban farmer Ezequiel Dias works in Horta de Manguinhos, the largest urban garden in Latin America, Manguinhos favela in Rio de Janeiro on December. 3, 2021.Pilar Olivares / Reuters
Barros said he helped build the “Hortas Cariocas” project in 2006 to grow vegetables in various parts of the city and provide organic products to low-income residents. He said urban gardens also help prevent unsafe settlements in dangerous areas that are prone to floods and landslides.
"While I was planting [the seeds] I thought that in a few days I would be harvesting this and taking it home to eat," said Diane Silva, a farm worker in the city. “I know I plant to reap tomorrow ... it brings great joy to work in the garden, it is a job we enjoy, I love this one.
The project has now grown to 4 9 vegetable gardens throughout Rio, according to Barros.
Ezequiel Dias, a Manguinhos resident who co-ordinates the program, said the program has transformed his community.
"It has changed the face of Manguinhos… our communities need the same thing: peace, happiness and a better life."