German Allotment Gardens - A Model for Poverty Alleviation and Food Security

Tent Cities are now appearing around American Cities !
The unemployment rate is officially 9.4 % but the real unemployment rate is
nearer 16%.
The loss of 500,000 jobs a month means the USA is quickly approaching
Depression levels of unemployment In the 1930`s Shanty Towns of unemployed
homeless men were called Hoovervilles and were named after the President of
the time Herbert Hoover.
When I went to Germany about 14 years ago, I was spellbound by the
village-like gardens, with charming little huts surrounded by high density
plantings of vegetable plots and fruit trees. I saw them through the window
of the train I was traveling on, as these village-like gardens were situated
on waste land near railway tracks.
I only found out when I came back to NZ that these garden villages are
called Schreber Gardens. They are part of a larger movement called Small
Gardens or Kleingarten in German.
I think it is possible to create something similar in New Zealand with Adobe
Huts, Biointensive Raised Bed Gardening, Alfresco Courtyards, Pizza Ovens,
Outdoor Open Rumford Fireplaces, Espalier Fruit Trees, Grapevines, Pergolas
etc etc, because in NZ you can live 9 months of the year semi outdoors.
Whereas in Germany you can stay overnight in the gardens only in summer
because the rest of the year you would freeze to death.
We do not need Hoovervilles when we have everything we need to create
Adobevilles !

Schreber Gardens

The history of the allotment gardens in Germany is closely connected with
the period of industrialization and urbanization in Europe during the 19th
century when a large number of people migrated from the rural areas to the
cities to find employment and a better life. Very often, these families were
living under extremely poor conditions suffering from inappropriate housing,
malnutrition and other forms of social neglect. To improve their overall
situation and to allow them to grow their own food, the city
administrations, the churches or their employers provided open spaces for
garden purposes. These were initially called the "gardens of the poor" and
were later termed as "allotment gardens".

The idea of organised allotment gardening reached a first peak after 1864,
when the so-called "Schreber Movement" started in the city of Leipzig in
Saxony. A public initiative decided to lease areas within the city, with the
purpose to make it possible for children to play in a healthy environment,
and in harmony with nature. Later on, these areas included actual gardens
for children, but soon adults tended towards taking over and cultivating
these gardens. This kind of gardening type rapidly gained popularity not
only in Germany, but also in other European countries, such as Austria and

The aspect of food security provided by allotment gardens became
particularly evident during World Wars I and II. The socio-economic
situation was very miserable, particularly as regards the nutritional status
of urban residents. Many cities were isolated from their rural hinterlands
and agricultural products did not reach the city markets anymore or were
sold at very high prices at the black markets.
Consequently, food production within the city, especially fruit and
vegetable production in home gardens and allotment gardens, became essential
for survival (Berliners cultivate vegetables by the ruins of the Reichstag
in June 1946). The importance of allotment gardens for food security was so
obvious that in 1919, one year after the end of World War I, the first
legislation for allotment gardening in Germany was passed. The so-called
"Small Garden and Small-Rent Land Law", provided security in land tenure and
fixed leasing fees. In 1983, this law was amended by the "Federal Allotment
Gardens Act"(Bundeskleingartengesetz). Today, there are still about 1.4
million allotment gardens in Germany covering an area of 470 km².

Nevertheless, the importance of allotment gardening in Germany has shifted
over the years. While in times of crisis and widespread poverty (from 1850
to 1950), allotment gardening was a part time job, and its main importance
was to enhance food security and improve food supply, its present functions
have to be seen under a different point of view. In times of busy working
days and the hectic urban atmosphere, allotment gardens have turned into
recreational areas and locations for social gatherings. As green oases
within oceans of asphalt and cement, they are substantially contributing to
the conservation of nature within cities. What was previously a part time
job is nowadays considered as a hobby where the hectic schedule of the day
becomes a distant memory, while digging the flowerbeds and getting a little
soil under the fingernails. It appears young families are also rediscovering
gardens as a place where children can grow up within a more natural


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Comment by Stillcookin on February 14, 2010 at 11:04pm
I’m told that war bonds I must buy, in twos and fours and dozens,
Enough to make a full supply for all my aunts and cousins.
For war stamps, too, those signs of thrift, I dig into my pocket,
to give Uncle Sam a lift in cleaning up his docket.
But I’ve no kick for those who come with all their pleas beguiling.
It never makes me sad nor glum. They always find me smiling.
I know that I’m too old to fight; I can’t be caught re-nigging.
So I regard it just and right that I should keep on digging.
– “Let’s Dig & Dig & We’ll Be Big”
Comment by Stillcookin on February 14, 2010 at 10:59pm
Comment by Grant Steven on August 28, 2009 at 8:52pm
thanks James but the best photo I had is from a Czech Allotment.
Comment by James Samuel on August 28, 2009 at 8:18pm
Blog articles like this just need a few pics to make them visually interesting, then we can feature them on the front page. Good work Grant.


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