Madrid’s Community Urban Gardens Network

From Insurgency to Recognition
A network of urban gardens in Madrid exchanging knowledge, experiences, and resources to promote urban gardens and advocate for public policies that has successfully linked various social actors, activists, and collectives, resulting in a legal framework for urban gardens


Following the 2008 financial crisis, many cities experienced a restructuring of urban policies based on a neoliberal model of “austerity urbanism” which included the formation of large public-private partnerships, the commodification of green areas, and the privatisation of public spaces.1Jamie Peck, Austerity Urbanism: The Neoliberal Crisis of American Cities, City Series #1 (New York: Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung, 2015) <> [accessed 29 November 2022]. Against such austerity urbanism, the collective actions of citizen-led initiatives emerged through large-scale protests and demonstrations, from Cairo’s Tahrir Square to Madrid’s Puerta del Sol, New York’s Occupy Wall Street, and Istanbul’s Gezi Park. These actions helped initiate collective thinking and expose how recent urban development strategies had ignored citizens’ needs.


In Madrid, community gardens emerged as a form of spatial protest against imposed neoliberal urban policies. Local neighbourhoods organised themselves and occupied abandoned plots, in-between spaces, and neglected green spaces. Gradually taking care of the sites, communities formed social infrastructures by organising cultural initiatives and community meals. In 2010, many such diverse initiatives formed a coordination network called Red de Huertos Urbanos Comunitarios de Madrid (RED). RED raised visibility of the community garden initiatives, encouraged knowledge and resource sharing (such as a seed nursery and exchange, and a scheme to buy manure collectively), and fostered mutual support mechanisms offering advice and training to individuals and groups interested in setting up new initiatives.

Responding to the risk of eviction, and seeking legal recognition that would protect the gardens by registering them as part of the city’s official green infrastructure, the RED network established a dialogue with Madrid City Council in 2013.2See: José Luis Fernández Casadevante Kois, Nerea Morán, and Nuria del Viso, ‘Madrid’s Community Gardens’, Tni Longreads, State of Power, 2018 <> [accessed 29 November 2022]; Marcela Riva de Monti, “The Community Gardens As A New Form Of Appropriation. The Case Of The Urban Orchards In Madrid”, in Composite Cities (presented at the EURAU 2014, Istanbul, 2014) < Marcela Riva Monti..pdf’> [accessed 16 November 2023]. The following year, seventeen community gardens gained legal recognition, and RED developed a process for the regularisation of further sites by transferring municipal land to community associations. In 2015, RED organised the first national meeting of Urban Community Gardens, most of which were located in low-income neighbourhoods on the outskirts of Madrid. This meeting facilitated dialogue and cooperation among diverse initiatives and led to the creation of the Municipal Urban Gardening School, which offers training courses and has launched a pilot project for community agro-composting.

RED exemplifies ways in which urban agriculture can reveal, and critically respond to, social issues that extend far beyond gardening. Urban agriculture initiatives confront the speculative, market-driven policies that threaten neighbourhoods by developing from initial insurgent occupations into negotiated settlements with lasting power.


External links

Orto Errante in Rome—emerged as a “wandering garden” based on movable vegetable patches through city’s guerrilla gardening groups and community garden (CG) collectives during Occupy Rome 

Community gardens in the Lower east Side—created by local residents as a response to 1970’s recession as a form of political act. Occupy Wall Street organised tours there as well 

Occupy the Farm—an urban farm on an occupied site in the University of California, Berkeley 

Horts Indignats in Barcelona—self managed managed squatted garden in the Poblenou neighbourhood 

Huerta Dignidad—community garden in Malaga initiated by a group of unemployed people during the 22M Movement 

BBBFarming—an online platform that supports agroecology, responsible consumption, food sovereignty, and social transformation through promotion and training 

Esta es una plaza—a community in Madrid converted a 1,800 sqm plot that was unused for more than thirty years in 2008