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Smart Growth Award project nominee

Community garden flourishes in Tecate

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The women of the Comite de Mujeres Lluvia Del Sur are a group of migrants from central and southern Mexico who moved north to Tecate to work in the maquiladoras. This marginalized group lives on the easternmost outskirts in a shanty neighborhood known as Luis Donaldo Colosio on the hillsides above the dry stretch of the Tecate River.

In 1999, a woman known as Donna Carmen organized a group of local volunteers to clean up the trash-strewn dry riverbeds. Her goal was to keep the area clear and prevent future dumping.

With the support of Fundacion La Puerta, a foundation dedicated to working with the people to protect and conserve the environment and cultural and social heritage of the region, they have managed to stop the dumping. La Puerta Foundation advised the people to create a physical change as an obstacle to dumping, and the women responded with a community garden.

Approximately 25 women and some men have become involved in growing and tenting an organic vegetable garden to better the community. La Puerta Fundacion provided garden experts and volunteers to help and train them in the preparation of the land and growing techniques. The Mujeres soon encountered water issues and began a recycling center to raise extra money for water. The group has also overcome other obstacles by preparing grants to help offset costs of a greenhouse, tools, fencing, irrigation pipes and more. They have raised more than $10,000.

Today the garden has become a social center. The Fundacion La Puerta has helped organize workers and taught them basic reading and writing skills. They have built a playground next to the garden so that mothers can still keep an eye on the children while tending the garden, and schools now use the garden as an example of community building and sustainable practices.

These women and men take pride in the benefits of being self-sufficient. They are proud to grow their own food, make extra money to help the community and to be doing it in a sustainable way.

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