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Community gardening in Stockholm: participation, driving forces and the role of the municipality

  • Madeleine Bonow (a1) and Maria Normark (a1)

The paper reports on a study of community gardening in Stockholm. We contribute to the body of knowledge about the sustainability of community gardens and this new form of citizen-led initiatives in Stockholm, with the ambition of creating a debate about the best way to sustain and develop these initiatives in Sweden. We argue that although community gardening may provide leverage for means of developing a sustainable city, it is a marginal phenomenon and contributes little to sustainable development its present form. Through interviews we have investigated how the citizens and municipality officers of Stockholm try to adapt to the renewed interest in community gardening by looking at the policy makers’, municipality officers’ and grassroots movements’ incentives to start community gardens. We specifically focus on how the community gardeners articulate their reasons for participating in collaborative initiatives in the city and how these expectations evolve when they are faced with the reality of gardening and the problems relating to producing food in the city. We have found that there are a growing number of citizens and local authorities advocating community gardening, but the sustainability and endurance of gardens are hampered by vague responsibilities, lack of leadership and unclear expectations of the outcome. Community gardening cases in Stockholm contribute to the debate by exemplifying how formal (e.g. policy making) and informal advocacy (e.g. civic engagement in community gardening) groups are collaborating, but also showing that they often have different agendas and initial motivations for setting up new gardens. We argue that uncritical enthusiasm results in an overly instrumental approach to governance of community gardening and that the sustainability and endurance of the community gardening is not an issue that the governing bodies plan for, and hence it is forgotten. We suggest some routes forward, involving employing facilitators from various stakeholders such as the municipality, housing companies and various NGOs.

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