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International Gardens Dietzenbach

Lydia Koglin

Abstract (English)

“International Gardens Dietzenbach” is one of almost 100 gardening projects under the patronage of the Stiftung Interkultur (Foundation Interculture). Following the example of “International Gardens Göttingen”, in many German Cities intercultural gardening projects were initiated. However, the organisation and result of each gardening project are achieved by the members, who are mainly families with a migratory background as well as German families. One of the “intercultural” ideas behind the project is bringing together families with different nationalities or countries of origin.


Abstract (italiano)

"International Gardens Dietzenbach" è uno dei quasi 100 progetti di giardinaggio sotto il patrocinio della "Stiftung Interkultur" (Fondazione Interculturale). Seguendo l'esempio dell' “International Gardens Göttingen”, in molte città tedesche sono stati avviati progetti di giardinaggio interculturale. L'organizzazione e la messa in atto di questo progetto di giardinaggio sono state attuate dai membri della fondazione, che nel complesso sono famiglie sia di migranti sia tedesche. Una delle idee interculturali contenute nel progetto è quella di far incontrare famiglie di differenti nazionalità o diversi paesi di origine.

The practice

1.1 Description of the project

“International Gardens Dietzenbach” is one of almost 100 gardening projects under the patronage of the Stiftung Interkultur (Foundation Interculture). Following the example of “International Gardens Göttingen”, in many German Cities (and even in one Bosnian town) intercultural gardening projects were initiated. The idea of making it possible for migrants and families with a migratory background to have their own garden was used and transferred to other cities and communities.
This example of an integration project features the “Internationale Gärten Dietzenbach”, a gardening project that took place in a fast growing city near Frankfurt. In short, the activities and objectives of the association and its members are:
• Integration and participation of families with a migratory background in the city’s life
• Establishing German as the language of communication, also offering German language courses
• To support the independency of migrants

1.2 Time, structure and steps of the project

“Dietzenbach 2030 – definitely incomplete”
Between 2001 and 2003 the project “Dietzenbach 2030 – definitely incomplete” took place. It was the aim of this project to arouse public interest for one of the most emerging problems of the city: the abundant but unused public space in the city. About 1,000 people used the contact point to inform the project workers about their ideas and possible plans about what to do with the sites. Even 250 people made a request for the actual use of the space and as the report states: “It was also possible to mobilise a group of people that were until this point not so involved in such activities: the citizens with migratory background, among these lots of female migrants. Also old German women, mostly pensioners, were more present than before.”
One result of the project was that there was found a lack in providing the space for gardening especially for the population with a migratory background. 80 % of the requests for use concerned gardening and playgrounds. Particular high was the demand of female Muslims with a migratory background for so-called semi-public spaces.

Internationale Gärten Dietzenbach e. V.
When, in spring 2005, the European Social Fund (ESF) provided the needed means, the idea of using the idle space for gardening and for creating living space was picked up again. Within the scope of the programme “Lokales Kapital für soziale Zwecke” (LOS, local capital for social programmes) which was conducted and financed by the German Federal Ministry for Family, Seniors, Women and Youth (BMFSFJ) the non-profit organisation “Internationale Gärten Dietzenbach e. V.” was founded in order to coordinate the following actions.

The number of the participants recently grew from 11 to 15 families from Dietzenbach who come from 7 different countries of origin (Afghanistan, Morocco, Pakistan, Poland, the Czech Republic, Turkey and Germany). A further enlargement of the group is planned.

The project “international gardens” in Dietzenbach took place between November 2005 and October 2006.

The first steps were:
• Gathering of the participants
• Starting German language courses
• Contact and negotiation with politicians
• Networking
• PR
• Looking for sponsors and donators, fundraising

From January 2006, when the lease agreement with the city of Dietzenbach was signed, the preparation of the ground took place
• distribution and design of the parcels
• preparation of the gardening, cultivation of the land
After the cold spell the planting of trees and bushes began. Additionally tool sheds, playgrounds and other facilities were built. On March 14th 2006 the ground breaking ceremony took place. During the following months the cultivation and planting was done by the families: chickpeas, lettuce, tomatoes, and pepper are now growing in the gardens. The community area is used as a meeting point and a playground by children. There has been put a fence around the area and the much-needed well has been built. For the future they want to build a community house and a compost toilet. Lately more fruit trees were donated so that an orchard could be planted.

From February to June 2006 the female members of the gardening group but also other women from Dietzenbach with a migratory background took part an alphabetisation course.

1.3 Place and context

About Diezenbach in Hessen
The town of Dietzenbach is located the south-east of the urban agglomeration Frankfurt Rhein-Main. The city’s structure is characterised by an old city centre but at the same time it is dominated by residential high rises that were built in the 1970s when the idea of a car-friendly environment with big streets became very popular and the population of Dietzenbach grew rapidly. Especially the high rise neighbourhood “Spessartviertel” is an area of social conflicts.

Since the 1960s the population of Dietzenbach escalated from 3,000 to 35,000 inhabitants, among them a lot of commuters working in Frankfurt for instance. In contrast to other towns in the region, Dietzenbach has with a number of 30 % a relatively high percentage of migrant inhabitants, in some residential areas such as the Spessartviertel the number reached even 86 %.

Stiftung Interkultur (Foundation Interculture)
"Stiftung Interkultur" was founded in January 2003. It is based upon the long-standing cooperation between the Munich research association anstiftung and the “International Garden association in Göttingen”, the first gardening project of its kind. The immense success of this intercultural garden project and the widespread interest in its contribution to the integration of immigrants inspired the research association anstiftung to establish the foundation Stiftung Interkultur in January 2003.

The foundation offers assistance to communities that want to start an international garden project and functions as a facilitator in the network.

1.4 Target

The targets of the integration project are:
• Integration and participation of people with a migratory background
• Providing help to learn and practise German
• To connect different groups of migrants and encourage the dialogue between the participants
• To generally improve the quality of life for the people (e. g. of the Spessartviertel)
• To participate actively in the design of the urban landscape
• To prepare a long-term social and economic basis for the project

The main target group of the project were the inhabitants of the problematic living area Spessartviertel, mostly people with a migratory background (but not only) living in high rises without many chances to have an own garden. Besides, especially women were encouraged to take part in the project. The aim was to have international members in the group of participants but at the same time to keep it as multinational as possible, i. e. to have not more than one or two families from the same country. Consequently this was done to encourage the intercultural exchange and to secure that German was used as a collective language for communication.

1.5 Methodology

From the beginning “Internationale Gärten Dietzenbach” was planned as a community projects, trying to involve as many people as possible and encouraging everyone’s own initiative. How the project workers want to enforce participation:
• To establish a face-to-face and direct contact within the group of participants
• Task sharing: to place responsibility on the families, to develop and discuss rules for the project together
• To organise events together: group activities such as contributing to and presenting oneself at public festivities leads to a common appreciation of the project on the side of Dietzenbach’s inhabitants and might also strengthen the participants self-confidence.

Participants do get their own parcels in the garden, but there is plenty of space for community life: a playground and space for celebrations and spontaneous encounter. In contrast to the usual type of German “Schrebergarten” (allotment) there were no fences used to separate the single parcels to favour teamwork and make it more possible for the families to get in contact.
As already mentioned the optional German language course was offered to give all the participants the chance learn a language in which they can communicate.

1.6 Authors, Financing and networks

The registered association was founded by several inhabitants of Dietzenbach. Now, there are 15 families involved in the project as members of the association. However, the project planners want to include more families in the project, which is at the moment dependent on the land capacities.

Financially, the project gets grants from German and EU funds. Additionally, private and local donators contribute to the construction and improvement of the gardens. The main sponsors are:
• Support programme “BIN” (Bürger initiieren Nachhaltigkeit/citizens initiate sustainability) Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF)
• Support programme “LOS” (Lokales Kapital für soziale Zwecke / local capital for social programmes ) by the Federal Ministry for Family, Seniors, Women and Youth (BMFSFJ)
• The European Social Fund (ESF)

Furthermore, there are several cooperation partners on a more local lever:
• City of Dietzenbach
• Administrative district Offenbach
• Foreigners represenative sitting in the city council of Dietzenbach
• „Runder Tisch für ein humanes Miteinander“
• „Zusammenleben der Kulturen e. V.“
• Stiftung Interkultur (Foundation Interculture) 

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