Red de Huertos Urbanos de Madrid - Madrid's Urban Community Gardens Network
Red de Huertos Urbanos de Madrid (Rehdmad) is a network of urban gardens located in Madrid. The network is a cooperative alliance between 75 community urban gardens in Madrid.
The Rehdmad network was created in 2011 as a citizen movement to make Madrid's urban agriculture more visible, to respond to the needs of urban gardeners through providing mutual support and also to share knowledge, experience and ideas. The network also promotes increased awareness of green areas, based upon principles of organic farming, the maintenance of a common good and the links between the city and its food production systems.
One of the key objectives of the network is to create a synergy between community agroecology initiatives within the city and the general trend towards more inclusive citizen-based approaches to city governance; these processes aim to emphasise sustainability issues such as environmental education, food sovereignty, fragmented distribution networks, the needs of consumer groups, sustainable mobility and green waste composting. The network aims to compensate for, what it perceives as being, the current irresponsible and unsustainable distancing of nature and food production systems from everyday life within the City.
The requirements to belong to the network are simple: To grow food organically, to make use of public space and to operate through an autonomous and self-governing approach.
Through their blog (https://redhuertosurbanosmadrid.wordpres.com/), the group promote information about their members’ gardens, their activities and other educational programmes promoted by the network and also by the Municipality (who have actively supported the network throughout its 10 year existence).
During this time, cooperation with the Municipality has been consolidated, despite ongoing political changes within the city administration. The Municipality participates mainly through the temporary licensing of garden plots and the provision of educational activities within its own garden which is located within the Retiro Park. It also directly helps to dispense materials to local groups which include seedlings, fruit trees, aromatic plants and green mulch. A key aspect of the network's success, is nevertheless, its autonomy with respect to the city administration.
The network is also very active in promoting agro-ecological awareness and encouraging a greater respect for nature, which it undertakes in collaboration with a range of partner NGOs, universities and other institutions. It facilitates exchange and the sharing of seeds, tools, materials and resources. This exchange is enabled through monthly network gatherings which are organised and hosted each time by different member gardening groups.
Some projects with which the Network cooperates are:
Madrid: involves local varieties seed conservation with Imidra (Madrid Institute for rural research and development) and the Madrid Seed Bank
The University: includes collaboration on several research projects regarding the impact of urban gardening upon the City’s carbon footprint reduction and the soil quality of urban gardens
The gardens, in many cases, offer a gathering and social meeting space within their neighbourhoods, and as such, the network also excels in its contribution to local cultural activities. Many of the gardens, for example, offer space for music, theatre, cooking and other diverse cultural and social activities local to residents and anyone else who wants to participate.
In this respect, a special mention should be given to the HUMUS Film Festival which is co-organised by La Casa Encendida and RedHMad. This is a unique international short film festival, with urban gardening forming a central theme in fantasy, comedy, fiction and documentary categories. Short film entries are welcomed from anywhere in the world: https://www.lacasaencendida.es/en/competitions/humus-film-fest/humus-film-fest-2021-12484
Education is also a very important priority for the network. The grassroots nature of RedhMad effectively transforms each member's garden into a small outdoor classroom - not only from a gardening perspective, but importantly, also through the social and political participation in the project and its objectives.
Finally, the network is comprised of very different gardens which are located across diverse neighbourhoods. In the end, however, it’s important to remember that the participants share a simple common vision and identity as gardeners.