Grilo, F., Gonçalves, P., Luz, A.C., Branquinho, C. & Santos Reis, M. (2016) Informal allotment gardens in Lisbon: the gardener’s perspective. Conference paper of the GROWING IN CITIES: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Urban Gardening. Basel, Switzerland.
Due to the rapid growth of cities worldwide, green spaces – including informal allotment gardens-have an important role in delivering ecosystem services providing ultimately well-being for the local population. In recent years, the municipality of Lisbon has developed a strategy for urban agriculture through the creation of horticultural parks within the city. However, most of the gardening activities still occur spontaneously (not controlled by the municipality) and informally in derelict land. To consider the importance of these spaces in future planning and decision-making by the municipality, we assessed the motivation, benefits and challenges faced by gardeners who use these allotment gardens. We conducted semi-structured interviews with gardeners in 60 informal allotment gardens in Lisbon. Questions focused on the gardeners' profile, their motivations for cultivating, and the challenges faced during cultivation. The interviewees consisted mostly of elderly, retired men, previously acquainted with agricultural activities. The great majority cultivated crops for leisure and highlighted the importance of being outdoors, not referring the potential economic benefits from such endeavours. Still, more than 60% of the interviewees believed that they do save money with this activity. The most recognised challenge, due to the climatic features of the city, was related with water shortage, preventing gardening activities during hot months. The importance of gardening activities for elderly gardeners was also highlighted, as an activity that can help to provide physical, psychological, and social well-being. This study emphasized the importance of these spaces for the well-being of these gardeners, suggesting the need to regulate these spaces to maintain active this sector of elderly gardeners, while providing better conditions to cultivate all year round and possibly increase Lisbon's urban green infrastructure.