INTERVIEW – Wilkens Jules, specialist in collective gardens: “Urban agriculture is at the crossroads of several issues”

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Jules Wilkens, Toulouse doctoral student in Lenvi sociology at EHESS, and specialist in collective gardens in urban areas, talks about the phenomenon of urban agriculture.

Is urban agriculture a real phenomenon?

Urban agriculture has emerged in the last five years. Today all the actors are taking possession of it: politicians, cities, researchers… Shared gardens are one of its forms. They are often brought from town halls and especially registered in the urban environment. Urban agriculture is at the crossroads of several issues: the empowerment of cities, the ecological transition, food autonomy, etc.

Where is the interest of the communities?

Exactly. Shared gardens promote social bonds in tough neighborhoods. They are often run by social centres. There is an appropriation from above but also from below. They can also create friction, as illustrated by the Pradettes garden.
The NATURES – Pradettes collective insisted on the fight against heat islands, healthy food… On the side of the town hall, the stake was above all economic. When the economic side is at stake, nature often takes a back seat.
Land is also an important issue in urban agriculture, as is soil quality and the water issue. If we are to develop urban agriculture, we must develop practices that protect the environment.

These green spaces also make it possible to revitalize wasteland…

Absolutely. We recover some abandoned places to revitalize them and develop activities. They offer spaces of freedom where people, especially children, can experience in their own way. They are spaces that open up perspectives and give new life. In Balma, for example, I met retirees who, thanks to shared vegetable gardens, have found a second business. They manage to be self-sufficient in fruits and vegetables. Beyond that, gardens help create a community of life.

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