Cascais treasures urban farms and gardens

Cascais treasures urban farms and gardens

6 April 2022

ProGIreg cities gathered in beautiful Cascais in Portugal which as a proGIreg Follower City been planning for the implementation of nature-based solutions by learning from the proGIreg Front Runner Cities. The city has taken huge leaps in implementing nature-based solutions – proving to be an inspiration to all! Read on to learn about key lessons learned in the proGIreg Living Labs and Cascais green transformation.

Joana Presas Pinto Balsemão, Councilor for Municipality of Cascais on environment, decarbonization and Citizenship and Participation policies, welcomed attendees in the event where cities got to share lessons learned in the project to ensure the successful nature-based solutions are spread far and wide. A large chunk of the Cascais territory is a natural park, and with its pristine coastline, preserving the environment is crucial for the city. Balsemão reminded attendees of the importance of incorporating social aspects into nature-based solutions design, which is a core aspect of proGIreg with our co-design work.

Photo: Cascais harbour, proGIreg

The proGIreg cities gathering is a core part of the project to ensure municipalities can learn from the activities of others. In Cascais proGIreg cities presented on new developments in their locales, with Turin introducing new enhanced green walls and roofs, Dortmund unveiling the aquaponics greenhouses under construction and Zagreb in turn discussed the modernization features for the urban gardens in the Living Lab, which entail solar powered pumps and solar photo catalysis system for water purification to make it potable. Co-design has been fruitful in proGIreg; Cities mentioned it is crucial to connect with local NGOs to ensure citizens are engaged at an early stage in planning nature-based solutions e.g. by holding replication workshops to educate others about nature-based solutions, such as those implemented in Zagreb, Turin and Dortmund. Zagreb highlighted that citizens sometimes only need a little nudging, with the locals in the Living Lab area engaging in sustainability activities via social media inspired by the changes happening in their neighbourhood. When encouraging others to implement nature-based solutions it is important to adapt the concept to suit local considerations, invite stakeholders that have interest in the topic, support by creating guidance documents, include local actors (NGOs, associations, educational institutes), other municipalities, other departments in one’s own municipality and to focus on identifying barriers, solutions and funding sources.

Photo: proGireg visitors to Cascais, proGIreg

Harnessing existing resources is crucial – in Cascais in the planned Living Lab area the potential vacant areas and a neglected stream have been identified. Cluj-Napoca has set a clear and quantifiable vision, ensuring a concrete goal to be achieved for a green corridor alongside the river, and is engaging locals with questionnaires to see what needs and concerns they have. In Piraeus, an abandoned rail road is planned to become a cross-cutting green corridor in the city. Piraeus is collaborating with nearby schools and has been pleasantly surprised by the engagement and enthusiasm of citizens. Zenica has plans for an urban park, offering to address many challenges in the city such as need for green spaces and pollution mitigation. Zenica will focus on small interventions to help ensure that work is being done even with minor resources. Quantifying and calculating benefits of nature-based solutions to health and wellbeing is crucial in all cities to ensure that they can be upscaled and these benefits communicated to planners, developers and financers.

The cities got a unique chance to visit great sites in Cascais to learn first-hand about insightful urban farming and gardening initiatives in the city. The demand in the city for wannabe urban farmers is high, with over 1000 people in the queue for allotments.  The gardeners get the allotments free of charge, but in exchange have to take on costs for maintenance and equipment for the allotments, which often fosters collaboration among the gardeners, further enhancing work. The gardens are allocated based on the queue and location to ensure easy access, with especially marginalised communities involved.

Photo: An area that used to be characterized by illegal gardening and flooding has been transformed into structured allotments, Cascais - proGIreg

Cascais has an innovative digital system to monitor their urban gardeners, whereby municipal staff can take a picture with a phone of the garden and their software recognizes the garden providing the details and phone number for the gardener, this ensures that gardens are regularly maintained. The gardens also aim for co-benefits such as landscape design to address flooding, pollinator biodiversity, economic gains by selling produce and creation of green corridors. Further the city has engaged schools to encourage the next generations of green thumbs. The would-be gardeners are provided with guidance on how to conduct organic farming and engage in business opportunities.

Photo: Co-benefits of nature-based solutions in Cascais, proGIreg

The city also organised a visit to the sustainable vineyards of neighbouring municipalityCarcavelos in the Cascais Parish, and the Natural Park Quinta do Pisão. The practice in Carcavelos for producing wine was dwindling until the city began to support activities and engage locals. The costs or urban farming in both locations can be kept low by sustainable practices, such as intercropping and utilising grazing animals for tillage and weed control and selling produce.

Key to Cascais success has been to involve other departments, and cities and create ownership among communities. The city has been able to green successfully, by planting native trees and plants with consideration to biodiversity, cutting down invasive species such as eucalyptus, using grazing animals to manage land sustainably (tillage, weeding and pest control) such as goats, horses and donkeys, engaging marginalized communities (e.g. people with disabilities and prisoners) and collaboration – for example with local chefs to use produce from farms. 

Transforming our cities to more beautiful, pleasant and resilient habitats does not need to be complicated, Cascais inspiring example shows this much! Learn more about their great work on proGIreg here and on the Cascais environmental department’s website.

Top photo: Urban farming in Quinta do Pisão Natural Park, proGIreg

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 innovation action programme under grant agreement no. 776528. The sole responsibility for the content of this website lies with the proGIreg project and in no way reflects the views of the European Union.