Installation of Hydroponic Planters


1.- General identification

Location: San Carlos de Parque Bajo, Surco, Lima, Peru.
Author of the abstract: Luz María Sánchez (ESTRATEGIA).

2.- History, background and context

In recognition of the local organization and community development achieved by the inhabitants of the San Carlos de Parque Bajo informal settlement, the Vice Ministry of Housing contacted the community and the NGO, ESTRATEGIA, to implement the Productive Habitat Program carried out in collaboration between these three actors.

The inhabitants of San Carlos had already implemented the Urban Remodeling and Renovation Program, building housing and urban facilities through communal work, and obtaining drinking water and sanitation infrastructure services. After having occupied shanty town areas and living in heavily overcrowded conditions without services, San Carlos is currently considered a model development for application by other communities in similar circumstances.This community also has productive programs like hydroponia and other economic activities such as ironworks, woodworking, shoemaking, tailoring, warehouses, etc.

With support from other organizations, the Vice Ministry of Housing is building the Productive Habitat module as a pilot program for replication in the community. The intention is to show the residents that they can grow crops vertically and that they should include a planter in their homes to produce for commercial purposes, generating the possibility to open a produce stand in the market.

The population was forced to pass through various very difficult phases, forcing them to carry out marches to the Justice Ministry and the Surco Municipality to protest the lack of interest of both entities to facilitate issuance of property titles to the residents.
The productive habitat program, with the installation of hydroponic planters, served for the inhabitants to improve their nutrition and generate income through the sale of their products.

3.- Objectives, strategies and scope

General objectives:

  • Improve nutritional quality and generate incomes for unemployed inhabitants.
  • Improve the environment.
  • Strengthen economic management and the organizational and management capacities of the participating groups.
  • Contribute to improve a popular urban area through the implementation of environmental programs (hydroponia).

Strategic criteria:

  • Supervision by the social team of the NGO in relation to the community social organization, with support from technical advisors on the care of hydroponic crops and the production and marketing of the products.
  • Organizational strengthening of the beneficiary population through social formation, dissemination, and participation in administrative management.
  • Identification of pressure and negotiation mechanisms for use in relations with authorities and private entities to market the food items produced, offering high-quality products at competitive prices, to assure that the project convert into a sustainable development productive program.

Size of participating and beneficiary population:
150 families participated directly and 10 additional families participated at the communal level, for a total of approximately 1,120 persons.
In addition, approximately 10,000 inhabitants located in the San Carlos de Parque Bajo area participated indirectly in the program (La Huaca, Tejada Alta, José Maria Egúren, Rodrigo Franco, Los Viñedos de Surco, Cocharcas, Santa Isabel de Villa, Tacalá).

Territorial scope:
The San Carlos de Parque Bajo informal settlement and adjacent settlements.

Innovative aspects:
The project is innovative in its characteristics. The planters do not require excessive care and even serve as a relaxing activity for the inhabitants who dedicate themselves to these hydroponic crops. On the other hand, it is important to highlight the direct relation that develops with the integration of diverse components such as the organizational and productive aspects, environmental improvement, income generation for the unemployed, and general strengthening of the population in economic terms.

4.- Actors involved and their roles

The beneficiary community: Participates in the process of installation of the planters, contributes labor for installation of the beds, receives training in administrative and management aspects in relation with various State and private entities for sale of the products, and administrates the resources obtained through the sales.
ESTRATEGIA (NGO): Center for Research and Action for Urban Development, responsible for training inhabitants on use of the planters, administration, management, and supervision of the production of the vegetables obtained through the crops.
Vice Ministry of Housing and Construction: Contributes the equipment for the communal planters and vitamins and other inputs. Also contributed materials for the productive housing module.
The company La Casa: Provides components for the productive housing construction.
Municipality of Surco: Issues the licenses for operation of the productive housing.

5.- Project components

In relation to habitat, the rooftops and patios of homes were used as productive spaces for installation of the beds with different types of hydroponia crops (with floating roots in water or special solutions).

The social component involves the organized participation of the population. The community has a central directive responsible for overseeing the administration and management of the programs, and for making decisions on behalf of the community. The population is responsible for managing and administrating the hyproponic crops program and negotiating with private and state organizations to market the produce. High participation, organization, and autonomy levels have been reached. From the beginning, the community has exercised the control of the process and the decisions.

The San Carlos community played an important role within the process of the Urban Remodeling and Renovation Program. The housing and facilities self-construction was the element that strengthened the population.

It is important to point out that the role of women both in the community consolidation process and in implementation of the hydroponic planters was one of the most important components. Women are the driving motor of development in the community, and thanks to their support, important achievements have been obtained in benefit of San Carlos.

The ecological and economic components occurred together, converting the project into a productive program of sustainable development that improves the living conditions of the inhabitants.

In reference to the urban component, open areas and the rooftops of homes and community facilities are used for the project, which contributes to environmental improvement of the community. The project also received the donation of a community space for construction of a three-floor community center, called “productive housing” (to be used for workshops and productive activities). In turn, the community obtained a sports field. The visual aspect of the plants also improves the general environment.

The processes that stand out from the project implementation were the training, the organization of beneficiary inhabitants, and the participative management of the whole of components and processes.

6.- Main instruments used

The community organization operates through the legal form of a civil association, formed by a central directive, and has organizations called COPRODES which are the Pro-Development Corporations that function by blocks at the neighborhood level. The residents of each block organize themselves in work commissions on technical, legal, and organizational aspects. Within the central directive there are committees on culture, sports, press and propaganda, ecology, social welfare, and other topics.

Decisions are made through community assemblies. Issues may be voted on, and are approved by consensus or voting depending on the issue, in order to legitimize the process. The assembly directs and carries out follow-up of the processes, and receives and analyzes the accounts submitted by those responsible for each activity.

  • The community approves the implementation of the programs (in this case the hydroponic planters) and the beneficiaries commit to participate in the entire process ranging from installation of the planters to marketing the products.

7.- Achievements and main lessons learned

  • 150 household planters and 10 communal planters were obtained. Programs are now in place to market the products.
  • The vegetables are produced without use of chemical fertilizers, protecting both human health and the environment.
  • Open areas and patios are put to productive use as part of a sustainable development program. It is also noteworthy that this program does not use electric energy.
  • Women are the ones who have given their overwhelming approval to this program, which they put to use at the family and community levels. The community kitchens have also benefited from the production, obtaining important results in the nutritional quality of meals served.
  • The program has contributed to community development. Inhabitants have found an alternative to their unemployment problems through this program, while at the same time obtaining support for their nutritional security.
  • In general terms, the economy is strengthened and ecological perspectives have emerged in the population, helping to improve the area environment.

The results obtained from the experience have served to promote changes in the community, and the experience has been replicated in neighboring areas.

The San Carlos settlement faced the following obstacles:

Conflicts with inhabitants who disagreed with the Urban Remodeling and Renovation program, who took legal action by suing the leaders.
The installation of a new avenue cut the settlement in half.
Marches were carried out to the Lima Municipality and the Palace of Justice to demand timely attention to the requests for approval of property titles.

More of these programs are being promoted, which will help improve the environment of the communities and the nutritional security of their inhabitants.

8.- Key words

Peru, Lima, San Carlos, hydroponic crops, productive habitat, women’s role, mobilization, popular economy, sustainable development programs.

9.- Contacts

ESTRATEGIA (Centro de Investigación y Acción Para el Desarrollo Urbano)
Lima, Perú