A digital map that depicts areas in the city of Sofia identified as suitable for community urban gardening.
In order to illustrate potential areas for community-type urban gardens, a digital map was produced to support urban gardening initiatives and decision-making in Sofia. The map was designed by the municipal enterprise Sofiaplan (formerly named Sofproect), but the idea came from the CSO ‘Initiative for the Development of Urban Farming’ in Sofia, which participated actively in the process of data collection and validation of the terrains by the help of volunteers.
The map is seen as a crucial precondition for the launch and scale up of the community gardens in Sofia - a key mission of the ‘Initiative for the Development of Urban Farming.’ To date there was no systematic and public data on how many and which municipality-owned terrains could potentially be used for urban gardening. Hence, it was not possible to approach the municipality with a well-formulated and justified request for a long-term access (by rent or in other appropriate way) to these sites.
The map identifies, describes and evaluates the land plots that can be potentially used for urban gardening. This allows citizen groups and other organisations to address the relevant municipal services with inquiries to access these plots and use them to create urban gardens/farms.
Apart from citizens, the map also helps Sofia municipal authorities to streamline their urban development policies, especially in line with the municipal strategies for sustainable development – ‘Green Sofia and Vision for Sofia 2050.’
- desk research: analysis of Sofia General Urban Plan, classification of areas by using online tools (Google Maps, Earth and Street View, Copernicus database on landcover and vegetation
- field work: onsite assessment of shortlisted areas
- volunteers: CSOs and citizens interested in urban farming
Evidence of success
The map was finished and published in Oct. 2020. It presents 65 municipally-owned properties suitable for urban farming and also shows the location of already existing six community gardens in Sofia.
The map is a key tool to convey the message on feasibility and benefits of urban gardening both to municipal authorities and potential urban gardening practitioners. It is a strong leverage for citizens and other interested groups to negotiate on plots for urban gardening with the municipality.
- no legal commitment of municipal authorities to lease identified plots to urban farmers
- need for constant updates of the map (verification that all plots still meet the criteria for urban gardening)
- potential conflicts with other users (construction, recreation, traffic, etc.)
Potential for learning or transfer
This digital map is a successful example of a win-win cooperation between the municipal administration and a civic initiative. The municipality received a compact and up-to-date descriptive map of land plots that can be used to revitalise less developed city areas and to elevate their socio-economic profile. The civil groups interested in urban gardening obtained a very clear idea about the scope and location of potential community gardens and thus are better prepared to negotiate the renting and other conditions with the municipality.
Regions and cities without a map or a detailed list of plots suitable for urban farming can easily transfer this good practice which not only emphasizes cooperation, but also voluntarism. Volunteers that support urban gardening have been actively involved in all on-site visits and validation of appropriate land plots.
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