The catastrophic earthquake of 2011 in Christchurch had massive impacts on the urban landscapes in the area. One of them is the emergence of large unused green space in some neighborhoods because of the potential risk of a soil collapsing in these areas. Before the tragic event, these areas were gardens around houses with vegetables, fruits and nuts trees. Today, these green spaces are public zones and constitute excellent spot for urban forest development.
Some neighbors started simply to forage nuts and fruits from these abandoned trees and became urban foragers. We met was one of them and she decided to create Otautahi Urban Foraging, a community promoting urban trees harvesting and awareness on the health impact of cheap fast food. Indeed, with around 86% of Kiwi adult overweight, the threat of obesity is quite high in this country.
Urban Foraging is part of the Christchurch Council food program “Edible Christchurch”, which aim to promote gardening, healthy food, and bring back nature in the city. The Council is trying to develop the concept of Edible Garden, parks which incorporate edible plants in its landscape! That is why this food foraging movement is thriving across the city.
Otautahi Urban Foraging is a spontaneous citizen initiative created in 2008 with no legal structure. It gathers all people who wish to collect free fruits, nuts, vegetables and medicinal herbs from public places. The group provides advises and knowledges to anyone who would like to know more about edible plants and biodiversity. They organize also some local events and school activities. From the beginning, this group has grown and gather now lot of citizens because it is free and easy to access.
The community provides urban foraging tours, takes part in some public events, organizes some pop’up stores in nursery plants and animates workshops.
Anyone can be an urban forager, citizens are encouraged by the city council to take care of the public trees by harvesting them but leave some for others!
WHAT NOW ?
Today, more than 700 urban foragers are part of the Otautahi Urban Foraging. The short terms projects are to update the online map and to offer more school programs. For a long-term growth, the next challenge would be to solve how distributing equitably the food if there is too many urban foragers in the city…
This urban initiative fit very well to the urban landscape model of Christchurch, thanks to large green spaces and lot of abandoned fruits trees left after the earthquake. The city Council reinforce this movement by providing public edible gardens. Fruit and nut trees are dotted around the park, along pathways or in clusters to add diversity for park visitors. Plants can be harvested by anyone, but the plants must be cared by the local community.
These actions can be duplicated in all public gardens in the world! This type of initiatives brings back feeding areas in urban zones, shorten the distance between production and consumption and gather citizens with free healthy food. Some questions still have to be raised, such as the legal framework with the responsibility sharing.