Article by Hayan Alhalaby – Mlandinski Kulturen Centar
In recent years, urban food gardens have become a growing trend, with organizations and institutions supporting the creation of food gardens as part of their operations. This trend promotes sustainable and self-sufficient ecosystems while minimizing environmental impact, following the permaculture principles. (you may add a footnote here concerning the principles)
In Skopje, Gradidnina stands as an example of this growing trend. It will likely be the country’s first urban institutionally supported food garden, built as part of the BIGTIME TAKEOVER project. The Macedonian Youth Culture Center (MKC), a partner representing North Macedonia in the project, adopted the idea of building a food garden on its premises and invited high school students to participate.
The project aimed to introduce the students to the concept and techniques of permaculture and the world of gardening and growing food. Permaculture is an innovative design system that aims to create sustainable and self-sufficient ecosystems while minimizing environmental impact. Permaculture is based on three core ethics: care for the earth, care for people and fair share. These ethics guide the principles of permaculture, which include working with nature, using renewable resources, valuing diversity, and maximizing efficiency.
Gradidnina’s name is unique. It is a portmanteau word in the Macedonian language that combines the meaning of City, Future, and Garden. Its slogan, “The Garden as an Instrument, Permaculture as a Methodology,” references various social and communal activities, whether gardening, educational, or recreational, as a practical guide for designing, organizing, building, and maintaining the garden.
The project consisted of three stages. The first stage included several workshops with the participating students introducing the philosophy of permaculture and its techniques, which include the art of composting, soil building, water conservation, combining planting and growing with nature rather than against it, and raising awareness of the disadvantages of modern agricultural methods and their harmful impact on our planet. In the second stage, the learned permaculture techniques were applied to design the garden collectively. The third stage was bringing the design to life and building the garden. Gradidnina transformed an ignored lawn with poor soil conditions into a food-producing garden in the past two years. The harvest included delicious tomatoes, cucumbers, watermelon, eggplant, strawberries, and peppers.
Establishing an urban food garden comes with challenges, such as improving the soil condition, protecting the site, and sourcing local materials to build the garden. However, with the support of MKC, those challenges were overcome. At the moment, Gradidinina stands as an example for other private and public institutions. Having an urban food garden can benefit any institution in many ways, including putting neglected lands to good use, promoting social interaction, creating a stress-free area and a relaxing activity for the staff, opening new channels of communication between the institution and the public, and producing healthy and clean food for everyone to enjoy.
In conclusion, Gradidinina is a beacon of hope, demonstrating that small initiatives can create a sustainable future for everyone. By empowering the youth to use their creativity and the potential of technology in positive ways to change their lives, Gradidinina is creating a better tomorrow for the citizens of Skopje.