Young people with disabilities can sometimes struggle with self-confidence and autonomy. Urban horticulture is an increasingly popular way of helping them address these issues. Scientists from Department of Agricultural Sciences of University of Napoli Federico II meet Ivan, Chiara, Claudio, Federico, Ilaria, Enrico, Lucio, Alberto, and their therapists every Saturday morning to grow seasonal vegetables at Orto Più (by Si può dare di più Onlus), a patch of land on the Hill of Posillipo in the City of Napoli. This initiative is part of FoodE, a European-wide project to promote sustainable and local food systems.
Horticulture has been recognised as a tool to improve physical activity, social skills, and engagement for people with mental and physical diseases. It includes repetitive actions such as digging and watering, making observations about plant growth and relating plant life cycle to human life. It seems that taking care of plants can build up the self-confidence and increase enthusiasm towards horticultural activities in our young friends.
The participants cannot wait for the weekly rendezvous to the point that they always arrive ahead of schedule. One Saturday morning, weather was amazingly beautiful, despite the previous rainy days, blue sky kissing the horizon line of the see under a shining sun and fennels were ready to be harvested. Fennels taste better when you harvest them by yourself and fulfil the mid-morning yearning. In view of soil bedding, guys were properly recharged and able to keep on digging alternately. Luckily, the deep black volcanic soil of the site was already well-drained and dry.
When the ground is wet, activities move from the soil to the table and we all find our satisfaction in root cutting of Crassula arborescens or transplant of cabbages…into the bottle-pots. Once the work is done, the young growers bring their own potted plants back home. Every time they provide information on the progresses in growth of their plantlets and on how they manage to take care of them.
Authors: Chiara Cirillo and Giuseppe Carlo Modarelli, Department of Agricultural Sciences, University of Napoli Federico II
If you would like to learn more about the activities focused on social inclusion held in Naples by Si può dare di più Onlus, visit their Facebook page and/or Instagram (@sipuodaredipiu).