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Posts Tagged ‘urban agriculture’

The Guelph-Wellington Food Round Table (GWFRT) is a network for coordinated action for a socially just and environmentally sustainable community food system. This introduction to the round table is an excerpt from a community research assignment I completed in the fall in an introductory food security course at Ryerson University. You can find out more about the GWFRT here or about Ryerson’s online food security certificate here.  

Background

The Guelph-Wellington Food Round Table’s focus is on individuals experiencing food insecurity, food producers, and youth. It was established in April 2009 partly in response to pressures and issues facing the Guelph Food Bank and area food pantries as the most recent recession resulted in a large and growing population of low-income people who faced barriers to accessing healthy food in Guelph and Wellington County. The round table has six strategic directions and supports the development of a thriving food system through advocacy, action, planning, education, networking and coordination.

Food Policy

The food policy working group formed in October 2009 and its main achievement to date is the creation of the Guelph-Wellington Food Charter. The Charter is premised on six fundamental principles, or pillars – health, education, sustainable economic development, environment, culture, and social justice. The Charter was unveiled in June 2010 and introduced to the public in October at Food on the Table, a facilitated dialogue attended by approximately 20 electoral candidates and 75 community members.

Community Gardens

The community gardens working group formed in April 2009. It prepared and submitted a proposal and, as a result, four sites were approved for a two-year pilot project. Fundraising efforts covered the purchase of things such as fencing, tools, sheds, some seeds/plants, and straw. Straw and green manure were purchased via a buying group type of purchase.  Technology was also a factor and the community garden’s group list-serve was a resource for plant and seed sharing; it also played a role in education, problem-solving, meeting reminders, minutes, etc.

The gardens were used by adults, children and youth and enhanced participants food and nutrition knowledge and skill, as well as community cohesion. There were no more than 15 plots at any site and, not surprisingly, demand outstripped supply.

Food Accessibility

The food accessibility working group formed in October 2009 and its purpose is to increase food security for people of low income in Guelph and Wellington. The group recently developed a food access guide/directory, which it also hopes to publish online.

Another project  in the works is a collective kitchens manual. Collective kitchens are a way to address local food needs and provide access to nutritious and healthy food. Generally, people come together once or twice a month to prepare food in bulk. They are a way to reduce costs, learn cooking and nutrition skills and socialize.

Distribution

The distribution group was formed in October 2009 to increase the availability and accessibility of local food and strengthen the connections within the local food system. It setup two neighbourhood markets in the summer of 2010.

Conclusion

Ultimately, both urban and rural interests need to be involved in a collaboration to build a sustainable food secure community and region where everyone has access to healthy nutritious food. The Guelph-Wellington Food Round Table network has close to 50 stakeholders. It’s early in the process; however, within the working groups, the overall round table, and the coordinating committee the five food security analysis factors outlined in Ryerson University’s introductory food security course – availability, accessibility, acceptability, appropriateness and agency – are being addressed.

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                                                                                                                                                            Cuenca is in Azuay province and has a population of appromately 400,000. I stayed at Hostel El Monesteria, which provides wonderful views of San Francisco market, the famed blue domed cathedral, and the mountains. The view from my window overlooked the monestary’s urban agriculture courtyard and, to my surprise, I saw nuns chasing pigs.

There are many Indigenous people although they seem to be outnumbered by the Mestizo population. Women vendors walk around with large wheelbarrows of fruit and tiny scales. Hats are an essential element of the Indigenous wardrobe and I checked out the hat shops and a museum. Cuenca is home to the Panama hat – yes, they are made in Ecuador. Something else I noticed all over Ecuador is that children wear school uniforms. It seems each school has its own uniform.

The Museo del Banco Central is wonderful. This was the third ethnographic collection I had viewed and makes me want to see more of the country. The museum has several shrunken heads from the Shuar tribe in its collection. The Shuar shrunk the heads of murders – woman, children, and whites/mestizos were considered inferior and not subjected to the practice. By the way, head shrinking is against Ecuadorian law!

I booked a hike to Cajas National Park, which turned out to be one of my most satisfying days in the country. Adrian, our guide, was exceptionally knowledgeable about the plants, flora, trees, and birds in the park – Cajas guides require a special license. First, we stopped at the three crosses where legend and custom dictate that you place a rock on one of crosses for a safe journey. The ancient Canari people crossed through the park to trade on the Pacific and parts of the road are still in existence. We hiked at a leisurely pace at 4200 metres above sea level for a few hours, venturing around a mountain and a couple lakes. There are 232 lakes in the park, mostly small. We went through a forest of amazing trees – they seemed so fluid and organic and possessed a richly coloured, thin, flimsy bark.

Prior to the hike we saw a llama herd in the hills (they were very curious about us) and a couple of llamas near the road. According to Adrian, this is unusual, as was the clear, bright day. After lunch we went for a shorter hike at 3200 metres. The trees, vegetation, and birds at this lower altitude are different. It’s greener and we even spotted an Andean Toucan.

I also spent time soaking up the hottest sulphur spring baths in the country – 24 degrees Celsius, or, 76 degrees Farenheit. Unlike the other Banos, I had to take a bus to reach this town just outside of Cuenca. I went a little too far and had to ask several people for directions – this seems to happen alot when I use local transit.

Cuenca is considered a good place to stay awhile and take  Spanish lessons. There is some degree of affluence. For instance, many Ecuadorians were eating in trendy restaurants. I’ve enjoyed my time here and I’ve also quite gotten used to seeing cows, pigs and chickens in people’s semi-urban yards.

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