"Plants are a sign of change. Now everyone can hope for progress. Everyone who has a garden," said one of the residents who in 2013 embarked on a community project to create "healthy gardens."
Like her, fifty families planted next to their humble housesornamental and edible plants, such as radishes, lettuce, onions, carrots, and passion fruit.
Only 12 months later, "participants' social and mental health had improved by 30%"Jorge" Coco "Alarcón, the researcher at the University of Washington who led this project under the Informal Urban Communities Initiative program, told BBC Mundo.
"Happier and better nourished"
"I love that when you plant a plant it grows and becomes beautiful. I made this garden that blooms and I am happy," said another of Eliseo Collazos' neighbors.
Alarcón and a team of landscape designers and public health specialists measured the impact the gardens had on the community according to various indicators.
"The most noticeable change is that ofthe aesthetics of the house, which has a direct impact on the perception of well-being", explained the researcher.
"The perception of well-being is reflected in stress and stress has a direct relationship with physical health," he added.
On the other hand, there was also a nutritional impact: "After two or three years into the project, almost all the families with a garden have at least one edible plant," explains Alarcón.
"We are talking about people who live in poverty and sometimes in extreme poverty", he points.
"And in some cases they no longer need to go to the market, they produce fruits that are for family consumption, sale or barter in the community."
There are gardens of all sizes, from the smallest of a meter and a half square to the largest, of 16 × 4 m.
"In some cases they even have a small farm," says Alarcón.
The project also strengthened ties in the community, something that according to the researcher is "very important", because "having a strong social network is one of the ways in which one can deal with poverty."
In addition to making single-family gardens, the University of Washington project promoted the creation of fog traps and common recreational spaces, such as a central park.
The researcher insists that what distinguishes this initiative from others is its participatory design: "DWe define projects with the community, according to their priorities, needs and desires", said.
It is the neighbors who design the gardens in community workshops and who define what types of plants they want, what colors, and what aesthetics.
The construction phase ended in 2016, but plants continue to grow in this arid part of Lima.