Close to Boden town centre, locals, newly arrived immigrants and asylum seekers farm together. A mixture of African and native Swedish crops are grown on the allotments. The long-term aim is to start a cooperative social enterprise to supply organic products to schools and residential care homes.

ABF Norr

Boden, Sweden

 

Purpose of the method

The aim is to develop a method whereby cultivation to meet household needs provides a platform for development activities that empower participants and, in the long-term, even increase their degree of self-sufficiency.

By implementing the method, it is ABF Norr’s intention to create positive development in terms of integrating migrants into the community. The desire is to create a sustainable, scalable solution that can be spread to the rest of Sweden – real sustainable integration. The long-term objective is to establish a social enterprise.

Background

A dialogue between an ABF Norr activities leader and a contact at the company Nordmark resulted in the development and realisation of the concept of urban farming on Nordmark’s land. Farming activities have been run and developed for three growing seasons and there are now six hectares of land under cultivation close to Boden town centre. A development project is now underway with the municipality and county administrative board to investigate the possibility of starting a cooperative to supply organic, socially cultivated products to local facilities such as schools and residential care homes.

Urban Farming in Gammelbyn
Photo: Sergut Belay Worke
City farming Gammelbyn 3
Photo: Sergut Belay Worke
Description of method

Locals, newly arrived immigrants and asylum seekers cultivate crops side-by-side. ABF disseminates information via its networks and associations to anyone who might be interested in growing crops in Gammelbyn. Current project participants talk about their experience of cultivation and thereby recruit more urban farmers.

All gardening implements, tools and other aids are available to be used by all growers and everyone harvests and benefits from their own crop.

Particularly active participants have been appointed as on-site leaders, with their own keys to tool sheds and other materials stores.

The farming groups take various forms; some consist solely of men and some only women, while a number of groups are mixed. There have even been groups in which an entire family has worked together to produce crops. Each group (study circle) receives information on cultivation and applicable rules of conduct.

Participants gain knowledge in joint study circles and individually depending on their particular needs. Among other activities, a gardening consultant from the county administrative board holds study circles on cultivation for leaders and other key individuals.

As far as possible, ABF maintains communication with participants in Swedish in order to strengthen their conversational language skills.

Through urban farming, ABF works to create meetings between participants from a wide range of different cultures. The activities are not solely aimed at integration into Swedish society but also at bringing together the various cultures involved in urban farming in the district.

ABF also holds study circles focused on the development of a social enterprise that can promote individual development and self-sufficiency, while at the same time helping to fullfil Boden Municipality’s stated aim of serving locally grown organic food.

City farming Gammelbyn 4
Photo: Sergut Belay Worke
Results

There is a great deal of interest in urban farming, with both newly arrived migrants and locals applying to the project.

Participating growers have enjoyed excellent cooperation across cultural boundaries in jointly cultivating crops. Seeds from African countries have been interspersed with traditional Swedish crops. Different methods with their origins in various countries have come together on the allotments and the desire to cultivate has created an exciting agricultural landscape.

The identities of key individuals have crystallized over the course of the project and these have proved important to ensuring that the allotments function as the green development platform for both locals and migrants that they were always intended to be.

Experiences

This is a very positive activity that has developed into an active meeting place with good conditions for developing into a cooperative.

Given the experience gained from the day-to-day cultivation activities, ABF is aware of the importance of creating a common and clear infrastructure/organisation so that participants understand their responsibilities. Everyone must be clear about their role and take responsibility for maintaining the land, buildings, etc.

One less successful aspect over the course of the year was the weather, which is of course an important parameter for cultivation. The groundwater level was high and the snow was slow to melt, meaning that cultivation got underway a month behind schedule. 

Study materials

Study circles were based on YouTube and the participants own knowledge. Many participants brought extensive knowledge of cultivation with them into the project. 

Collaboration
  • Nordmark AB contributes land, as well as assisting in ploughing the fields used for cultivation.
  • Boden Municipality and ABF maintain an ongoing dialogue regarding the development of the project.
  • The County Administrative Board of Norrbotten and ABF maintain an ongoing dialogue regarding the development of the project. A gardening consultant supports participants with advice and training courses on cultivation.
  • The local Eritrean Association is very active in developing the allotments.
Resources and funding
  • Boden Municipality and the County Administrative Board of Norrbotten have approved grants of SEK 100,000 each. They are keen for ABF to study whether it would be financially viable develop a social enterprise.
  • All activities are conducted within the scope of various adult education arrangements.
  • Circle leaders are paid the appropriate wage.
Contact

If you have any questions about the method, please contact ABF Norr.

City farming Gammelbyn large group of people drinking local soda
Photo: Sergut Belay Worke