From Leisure to Necessity: Urban Allotments in Alicante Province, Spain, in Times of Crisis
AbstractBased on a comprehensive study of allotment gardens in the province of Alicante, this article enhances research on urban agriculture in two ways. Firstly, we explain the specific histories of urban allotments in Spain, that differ from the well-rehearsed stories of North America and also Northern Europe. Secondly, we show that a focus on urban allotments can provide a better understanding of changes in the economy, in land-use and in urban-rural relations in times of crisis. After two decades of Spain’s “urbanization tsunami”, in the mid 2000s a new way of combining urban life with agricultural functions emerged: through allotments, municipalities intended to promote environmentally-oriented leisure activities, enhance urban green landscapes and revive traditional vegetable gardens (huertas). At first, these projects catered mostly to pensioners, including foreigners coming from countries with long traditions of urban allotments. As the economic recession intensified in 2009, allotments had to re-define their goals in a social environment now defined by high unemployment and impoverishment. Today, most of the projects target people at risk of poverty and social exclusion and their primary functions are productive, therapeutic and educational. We also show that the global economic crisis of 2008 in a way contributed to the revaluation of agricultural land use, although the spectre of land-speculation is still very present.
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