Why did your city decide to apply under Urban Innovative Actions?
The project originated from the strategy that the city of Pozzuoli had already developed for the district of Monterusciello, aiming at turning the unused open spaces of the municipality into agricultural land for urban uses. Over the last five years, the municipal administration has worked intensively to develop an urban regeneration strategy for the neighbourhood of Monterusciello, but mainly on the buildings. This was to develop regeneration actions also on the unused open public space in the district whose total area amounts to more than 30 hectares. To this extent a planning committee had been organised with Archaeological Heritage and Agriculture Associations. The objective was to develop urban agriculture as an economic, social and environmental resource and to guarantee local agricultural enterprises opportunities for development and income, enhancing the attractiveness of the Monterusciello district. The scheme, though, was challenging and not easy to put in practice in a sustainable way. The UIA call gave us the opportunity to develop the strategy further, involving not only agriculture but also engaging economic, social and urban aspects. With the partners and through their contributions we studied a process of transformation where agriculture becomes a driving force to trigger a virtuous process of urban growth involving employment, local economy, entrepreneurial capacity, use of abandoned areas and the improvement of the physical environment. The UIA funding will give us the opportunity to realise our project and make a real transformation in the borough of Monterusciello.
What do you consider to be the most innovative element of your project towards the fight against urban poverty?
The proposal is designed to trigger a process of urban poverty reduction in the neighbourhood of Monterusciello, where poverty is understood both in the social and economic aspects and within the the physical environment. The project is innovative in the use of public areas to generate an economic process that starts from agriculture and aims to combat urban poverty within a social housing neighbourhood. Innovative elements can be found in a variety of issues: the use of public property as a resource; the nature of the project which rather than a finished project is a process; the use of agriculture which goes beyond the urban gardens and urban farming, proposing a new business and experimental model which sees agriculture as an opportunity of urban growth; agriculture itself is innovative through the permaculture approach and the bio-intensive techniques; innovative is also the linking of agriculture to a production and marketing circuit which uses the agricultural waste; innovative is the creation of an ongoing training school and laboratory; innovative is also the improvement through agriculture of the urban environment and the creation of agro-urban landscape; finally, the project is innovative for channelling all the municipal actions within a synergic process, building a cycle which will ensure the sustainability of the project beyond the project life.
How important are the urban-rural links in a municipality like yours?
Agriculture production will become a powerful driver of the territory of Pozzuoli, connected to the food and wine production, history and tourism. We believe that is possible to improve the social housing district of Monterusciello reconnecting the borough to the rural use of the land within a new, contemporary and innovative approach to agriculture. Today the urban space of Monterusciello appears very fragmented. Through the creation of an urban agricultural landscape, we aim to bring beauty into a neighbourhood that is today deprived. Agriculture areas will be open to the city; they will be crossed by paths and spaces for events. The result will be the construction of a new agro-urban landscape which will radically transform the character of the district. It will be a landscape made of urban areas and agriculture land connected by a productive thread: the agriculture providing work opportunities, training and production for the city; the city benefitting from agriculture of a space like a garden.
What are the main changes that you expect to achieve in your municipality with this project?
We expect a real regenerative process within the borough with the creation of new work opportunities, the training of new skills, the development of the local economy and the production, the activation of areas and of unused spaces, the improvement of the environment. A strategy that will see in the definitive revival of the neighbourhood upcoming years.
After six months of implementation, can you tell us where you are with the project and what are the main challenges you expect to be confronted to?
The initial phase of the project allowed us to prepare the useful elements for the start of it. The cleaning and preparation of the land showed the potentiality that the Monterusciello district has to offer. We expect already from the first scholarship call an enthusiastic involvement of citizens. We also expect a strong response from the local associations and the schools at the launching of the first field operations. We want that the people living in the neighbourhood could feel connected to their spaces and identify with where they live. To this extent, we must continue to work to build a network of relationships between local institutions, organizations, local associations and residents. We are planning a series of participative design initiative that we expect will be able to further strengthen this aspect of the project. This is an issue that is essential in order to keep the project alive even after the UIA funding support. We trust in a strong response of the citizens and of all the stakeholders.