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Sustainable Food Production for a Resilient Rosario — Prize for Cities 2020–2021

The $250,000 Prize for Cities goes to urban agriculture program for building inclusive climate resilience and improving access to healthy, local food

Originally published on WRI’s Resource Institute

WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities announced yesterday that the grand prize for the 2020–2021 Prize for Cities has been awarded to Sustainable Food Production for a Resilient Rosario, a project by the municipality of Rosario, Argentina. The project has evolved from a response to economic crisis into a cornerstone of climate adaptation and social inclusion. The innovative urban agriculture program has sparked a citywide movement to convert vacant land for sustainable and healthy food production, while increasing resilience to flooding and extreme heat events.

Rosario was selected to receive a grand prize of $250,000 from a pool of 262 submissions from 54 countries on the theme of “inclusive cities for a changing climate” by an independent jury of urban leaders and visionaries. The four runners-up — from Ahmedabad, India; London, UK; Monterrey, Mexico; and Nairobi, Kenya — each received $25,000. The awards were given during an interactive virtual ceremony by Stephen Ross, Chairman and Founder of Related Companies and a Member of the WRI Global Board of Directors.

“At its core, The Prize honors innovative programs that address the complex problems our cities face, and serves as a model for sharing thoughtful solutions across communities around the world,” said Stephen Ross. “We commend each of the finalists for their exemplary projects that demonstrate how existing policies and practices can evolve to be more sustainable and inclusive while responding to new global realities.”

In the wake of the 2001 Argentinian economic crisis, which left a quarter of Rosario’s population unemployed and more than half of residents below the poverty line, the city launched an urban and peri-urban agriculture program to supply residents with tools, seeds and training to grow food locally and sustainably. Across the city, the project repurposed underutilized land into agricultural plots and vegetable gardens, and set up permanent markets to establish urban farming as a new source of livelihoods. The municipality also used the program to foster a deeper culture around food production and carry out social programs, including for education and youth development.

After record-shattering rainfall forced evacuations in 2007, the riverside city also began to use the program to build climate resilience. Repurposing abandoned land for agriculture has improved the soil’s ability to absorb water, making it less prone to flooding, and helped to lower air temperatures.

“What really struck the jury was the extensive impact of the program across the city of Rosario and on people’s lives,” said Ani Dasgupta, Global Director of WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities. “Its approach to urban agriculture has improved food security and social inclusion, generated jobs, increased climate resilience and shrunk carbon emissions. Rosario and all four finalists show that cities can be more sustainable and more productive for more residents through inclusive and empowering climate actions. These types of innovations are more important than ever as cities start to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Across Rosario, 75 hectares of land are now dedicated to agroecological production and urban gardens, with another 800 hectares preserved for agriculture in the peri-urban area. This prevents urban sprawl and provides jobs and food to hundreds of residents. More than 2,400 families have started their own gardens, and seven new permanent market spaces have been created. Shorter, localized food supply chains help the city reduce carbon emissions by producing 2,500 tons of fruits and vegetables each year. Compared to imports, local food production has been shown to reduce emissions by 95%.

“We are thrilled and honored to receive this prize – and to be counted among this fantastic group of finalists,” said Pablo Javkin, Mayor of the City of Rosario. “Sustaining food production spaces within urban and peri-urban areas is a key strategy in our climate action plan. Sustainable food production not only generates employment opportunities, but social cohesion, an improved environment and better health for our residents – all while we are conserving the environment and making us more resilient to climate change.”

The additional finalists for the 2020-2021 Prize for Cities were:

  • DistritoTec, Monterrey, Mexico
    Born out of a period of violence and social strife, DistritoTec is helping to bring Monterrey back together again through a new approach to district-level urban design and governance that encourages compact, livable growth for a low-emissions future.
  • Kibera Public Space Project, Nairobi, Kenya
    In one of the world’s largest slums, the Kibera Public Space Project is co-creating innovative, multi-use public spaces with residents that not only reduce flood risk but provide essential services, like water and sanitation, and new ways for communities to thrive.
  • Ultra Low Emission Zone, London, United Kingdom
    Combined with complimentary policies on public transport and sustainable mobility, London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone is helping to shift residents towards low-emissions travel and address longstanding inequities in exposure to toxic air pollution.
  • Women’s Action Towards Climate Resilience for the Urban Poor, Ahmedabad, India
    A longstanding development partner in Ahmedabad’s slums, the Mahila Housing Trust is empowering women with tools and training to become climate leaders and not only address their communities’ unique climate risks but build a more resilient city.

“The Prize for Cities finalists really demonstrate the power of local transformation,” said Sheela Patel, a Prize for Cities Juror and Founder and Director of Society for the Promotion of Area Resource Centers. “They show how communities, city officials, universities and businesses can work together in new ways for transformative change.”

The Prize for Cities is the premier global award celebrating and spotlighting transformative urban change. Through the Prize for Cities, WRI seeks to inspire urban change-makers across the globe by elevating trailblazing initiatives and telling impactful stories of sustainable urban transformation. The Prize is supported by business leader and philanthropist Stephen M. Ross.

In 2019, the inaugural Prize for Cities was awarded to SARSAI, by the nonprofit Amend, for its incisive, easily replicable and highly impactful approach to creating safer journeys to school for children in Dar es Salaam and other African cities.

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