Hortas Cariocas

Creating urban gardens in peripheral lands and public schools of Rio de Janeiro for low-income communities


Hortas Cariocas is a project financed by Rio de Janeiro’s Municipal Government. Its main objective is to encourage the creation of organic vegetable gardens in low-income communities and public schools as a way to generate access to healthy food and offer work and economic return to people involved.

Under this partnership with the Municipal Government, the neighbourhood receives the means to create a community garden (resources,  equipment, uniforms, seeds, etc.) and the gardeners receive a certain  stipend to encourage and help them dedicate their time to the project. The gardeners, on the other hand, must donate half of their total harvest to local public schools. The other half may be consumed, sold or donated by the  gardeners at their own  choice. After some time receiving the government’s subsidies, the  objective is that the  gardeners  could be  able to manage the garden on their own, in a self-sustainable way. 


  • More than 40 vegetable gardens, 8 working in a self-sustainable way.
  • Regeneration of abandoned areas where crime and drugs consumption rates were high.
  • Occupation and economic return for the communities’ inhabitants.
  • Promotion of healthy food habits in many schools and communities.

Did you know?

The  initiative is  responsible for setting up the biggest urban vegetable garden in Latin America. Located in the Complexo de Manguinhos, a low-income community of Riode Janeiro, the garden has 1 kilometre in diameter, more than 300 seedbeds and employs dozens of people. Before being converted into this garden, the site was a garbage dump frequented by crack users.

Sustainability and Replicability

The project’s sustainability depends on the government increasing its budget and on the gardeners to keep managing the organic gardens in a self-sustainable manner, that is, recovering what they invest in equipment, production and maintenance by selling their harvests.

Currently, the initiative already has 40 gardens distributed trough 8 different low-income communities of Rio de Janeiro. The objective is to keep expanding it towards other areas of the city with high rates of poverty and social exclusion. This initiative can be easily replicated by other local governments with a specialised staff to manage the project.

Lessons learned

People want to learn and help, but when dealing with low-income communities, the engagement process can be improved if the project offers some sort of economic return to its inhabitants. 

Take action

Replicate the initiative of Hortas Cariocas in your city. Get in touch with the organization for more information. 

Initiative 15

Julio Cesar



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