Source: NACLA Report on the Americas
Community gardens serve as an organizing tool in Cochabamba
On a beautiful late summer morning in Cochabamba, Bolivia, Oscar Olivera, leader of the famous Bolivian Water War that catalyzed the mass movement in 1999 that ultimately brought down a neo-liberal regime, is showing off a wildly productive community garden. Why is a union and community leader internationally known for advancing democratic participation, anti-corporate organizing and climate activism, throwing his considerable political capacity into the community garden movement?
Visiting the Cochabamba Renters Organization garden project in the center of Cochabamba, a city of 1.2 million people, I was overwhelmed by the intense level of cultivation in a small space. The garden, only 800 by 800 meters (2,624 x 2,624 feet), is located on state land that was once a train yard. After decades of petroleum, gas, chemicals, garbage and abuse, the land was toxic but it was a space that no one else seemed to want.
The movement took off seven years ago when these renters petitioned the local government for the land so they could create a community garden. Many were recent migrants from the countryside with agricultural experience but others were a generation or more away from these traditions but enthusiastic to learn. Oscar says, “The renters didn’t have much money to buy fresh food in the market so starting a community garden seemed like a good step forward.”