Community Gardens under COPEL powerlines
1 Aug 2018
Cultivar Energia is an Innovative ongoing project that provides land under high voltage electricity power lines for community vegetable gardens. It was orginally set up in 2013 in the municipality of Maringá and has been very successful. Now the project is scaling up to provide access to fresh food and increased income to more socially disadvantaged families across more municipalities.
The project is a four-way partnership between the energy company COPEL, local government, the community and academia.
COPEL (Companhia Paranaense de Energia – Parana Energy Company) is a government owned energy company in the State of Parana. It supports the development and maintenance of community vegetable gardens under its power lines. The project benefits COPEL because it increases community safety by preventing informal settlement under the power lines which can be very dangerous, it helps with maintenance of the land under the powerlines, and it positively impacts the communities near the power lines.
Local Government benefits because it strengthens public policy, provides direct benefits to local people, improves the urban environment and supports sustainable development
The community benefits because it provides access to land that would otherwise be inaccessible, supports community cohesion and interaction through the activity in the gardens which supplies fresh vegetables for families and additional income through the sale of the excess produce. The gardens also provide a place for education about environmentally sustainable actions as they are run organically and no pesticides or chemicals are used and further this builds a sense of social responsibility within the communtiy and ownership of environmental issues.
The program enhances dialogue, in a joint effort towards sustainable development.
Municipal governments contribute through urban agriculture policies, whith the technical support of universities. However, the heart and soul of the program is social engagement. Community gardens can only thrive where the community is committed to the proposal, cultivating the land.
Our partners are:
- The municipal governments of Maringá, Ponta Grossa e Cascavel
- Universidade Estadual de Maringá
- Faculdades Integradas dos Campos Gerais – CESCAGE
- Centro Universitário Fundação Assis Gurgacz – FAG
- Local communities
The University of Maringá has been involved with the gardens since 2013, providing advice about gardening techniques and environmentally sustainable principles. Other higher education institutions have joined the project over time, with the same role, such as Centro Universitário Fundação Assis Gurgacz – FAG and Faculdades Integradas dos Campos Gerais – CESCAGE. Universities benefits because the gardens and communities provide a real-life working case study that links theory around social transformation to its practice.
Issues and Challenges
Maintaining communication between the municipal government, the local community and the corporation (COPEL is owned by the State of Paraná).
Ensuring that the safety requirements of working near high voltage power lines are understood and carried out by the community vegetable garden farmers.
Implementing community vegetable gardens on properties where there are power lines, in partnership with local government
Contributing to food security in socially vulnerable communities
Providing additional income to socially vulnerable communities
Improving community social cohesion
Improving the relationship between the community and the company and its facilities
Mitigating social, environmental and land issues related to Copel’s power lines, by offering a sustainable alternative to urban issues including: informal settlement under power lines which is unsafe; idle land under power lines which needs to be managed and maintained; loss of land for urban farming with the expansion of cities.
Extend the existing community vegetable gardens to more municipalities, helping more families to have fresh vegetables to eat and to sell, in a way that benefits both the company and the community.The program’s major strengths are food security and income generation, in line with the SDGs.
The evolution of the program will be evaluateed through indicators compoded of data such as:
- increase in the number of families working in the community vegetable gardens
- impact on food security and income generation
- increase in the number of participating municipalities and of community gardens in operation in each municipality
- increase in community connection with the company, a relevant factor in assessing the legitimacy of the program
Relationship with the public authority
Relationship with the community
Technical evaluations (legal, regulatory, socio-environmental, land use and safety)
Transfer of land-use rights agreement
Development of formal legal instrument assigning partners’ responsibilities
Building of fences around community vegetable gardens according to safety regulations
Meetings with families about safety requirements before beginning to plant
Oversight and follow-up activities
Dissemination of information on risks and accidents prevention in community gardens
Presenting the program in strategic events, aiming at stimulating partners in the electricity sector to implement similar proposals, impacting corporate social responsibility in the sector.
The vegetable gardens are running in the following municipalities: Maringá, Cascavel e Ponta Grossa.
The estimated time to set up a community garden is 6 months.
Future plans and actions
Negotiation in progress with Curitiba City Hall, encompassing different areas of the city. There is no deadline for the closure of the program, rather it is intended that the program be ongoing. The program’s outlook is to extend its range to include more municipalities, while at the same time attracting more investment from the government and the company itself to strengthen urban agriculture policies and benefit socially vulnerable families living near its power lines.
Vanessa Pereira Croge – Project Leader and Socio-environmental Analyst, COPEL
Andrea Stalchmidt – Assistant to Chief Official for Environment and Social Responsibility at COPEL
Jocéli de Andrade Bogusz – Chief Official for Environment and Social Responsibility at COPEL
The Companhia Paranaense de Energia – COPEL (Paraná Energy Company) was established in October 26, 1954 in the form of a joint stock company, controlled by the State of Parana. Largest company in Paraná, Copel has headquarters in Curitiba (PR) and operates in 10 Brazilian States. Its businesses are generation, transmission, distribution and sale of energy, as well as telecommunications and natural gas. The electrical system of the company consists of its own generator Park plants, transmission lines, substations, wind farms, electric networks of distribution system and a modern optical telecommunications system, which integrates all the cities of Paraná. Currently, Copel’s shares are traded on the B3 and in New York and Madrid 102-5.