Saturday, September 29, 2012

City rednecks make a difference Malmö

Does this look like a ghetto to you? 

One of the last summerdays in September I traveled to Sweden to visit Malmö's inglorious Seved citypart. I knew in advance that Seved was a highly problematic multicultural area, with lots of brutal criminality, gangviolence and other social problems. In last January even the postmen had refused to deliver mail in Seved in a fear of violence. Yikes!

So what was I doing in Seved? The reason was to visit the association called Odla I Stan. Odla I stan has taken aim at the Seveds problems with rather unusual method – urban agriculture.

Göran Larsson and Linnea wettermark
 are the masterminds behind Odla i stan
Every strip of land gets used in Seved

                                                  Food from the backyard

Odla I Stan started in 2010 to encourage locals to use the excess grassplains, street verges and other vacant lands in the neighbourhood for growing food. Today there are several common gardens in the Seved area besides small individual gardens plots or gardening boxes that are spread around the neighbourhood. Gardening boxes and soil is donated by the property management so the citizens only need to have their own seeds and invest some of their time to get fresh, organic vegetables straight from their backyard. Everybody in the area is welcome to participate. 

One of the common gardens in Seved made
with the permaculture technique called sheet mulching

Gardening boxes full of food

Social life in the gardens

As I walk through the Seved, I have very hard time locating the criminal stories that I’ve heard from Seved to this green and actually very attractive neighborhood. It’s definitely a far cry from the ghetto I have pictured in my mind! People are very friendly in Seved and you can sense a good social togetherness. “It hasn’t always been like that”, says one of the active gardeners and tells that before the gardening started she hardly knew anybody in the area. Now she is a part of a strong network of citizens and together they keep on eye on each others gardenplots and the neighbourhood. Eventhough vandalism in Seved area is very common, the gardens have remained in peace - if you don't count a couple of dissappeared tomatoes and pumpkins.

Today, like every Wednesday, she and a bunch of other locals are working together, this time to build a compost system. Besides compost building, these weekly meetings can include for example working in the garden, cooking or honeymaking. Cooking evenings have especially proven to be useful for everybody. Immigrants learn to use the Nordic vegetables and berries and the native swedish citizens learn about the new exotic dishes and new uses of herbs. Many people have found new skills along with the project. One of the active growers called Fatma tells how she has always been interested in honey making but never had the chance to learn it until now. Now she is in charge of the Seved honey production. Another volunteer worker called Anna, has worked in the gardens so intensively during the last years that she would go for a professional organic citygardener. Also those with other talents and interests than digging soil have found their ways to contribute. Different local artists have participated making the neighborhood more inviting with garden furniture and funky vegetable graffitis.

The locals together building compost system 

Lifting the life for the entire community

Odla I stan shows a good example how citygardening can work as a good tool in developing cityparts with social problems. Odla I stan is stlll far from solving all the social problems in Seved, but it has created a tight community and as a response Seved is slowly gaining popularity as a place to live. Instead of having to shame living in inglorious Seved, people have now now not only gained back the desire to remain living in the area but also started hold pride of their green neighborhood. Gardens work as new meeting places in the common space where the desire for good healthy food unites everybody and works as a great excuse for communication and teamwork. Along with gardening citizens have gained a feeling of ownership and a sense of belonging to the green areas of Malmö. Most importantly they have realized that together, despite cultural or age differences, they have the power to make their own neighborhood a better place to live.

Interested to find out more about urban agriculture in Malmö? Go to

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