Tijuana Rio Bordo Farm

UT San Diego

TIJUANA.- An ambitious group of young professionals is developing an urban farming project along the upper rim of the Tijuana River canal, in an area known as “El Bordo”. The first stage of the project is set to begin this morning, January 17, 2015 and will launch with an installation of thirty farm beds along a dirt path on either side of the river channel. The idea is to not only provide sustainable farming, but to offer jobs to desperate deportees who reside along the river bank.

The project, named BordoFarms, sources inspiration from urban farming projects in cities like Los Angeles, Seattle, and San Francisco and urban spaces such as the New York High Line, with the ultimate goal to construct vertical farms and additional urban installations in a what is now semi-abandoned part of the city.

At the helm of the project is the Global Shapers Tijuana Hub, an initiative under the World Economic Forum, in conjunction with two non-profits in Tijuana, Transición Tijuana and Tijuana Calidad de Vida A.C.. The thirteen members of the Tijuana Hub, consisting of local entrepreneurs, executives, non-profit leaders, chefs, and journalists, in collaboration with their counterparts from San Diego and Los Angeles will work side by side with the other organizations to build the farm beds and plant the crops.

At least one dozen deportees who reside in the canal will also assist with the construction of the thirty beds which will occupy around 36 square feet and will be used to plant fruits and vegetables. The farm is just steps away from the Tijuana City Hall, and about five-hundred meters away from the border fence and the metal turnstile though which thousands of migrants are deported each year.

The contaminated river water and the destitute deportees are practically the only signs of life along the canal – an area which is mostly avoided by most city residents and under-utilized as a whole.

According to Miguel Marshall, curator of the Global Shapers Tijuana Hub, “we’re using land that was not being used for anything, and we’re using a workforce that is readily available. These people want to work, but no one will hire them. They have nothing.” This project plans to employ deportees to produce food which will be used to support the booming Baja-Med industry, by being sold to local restaurants and markets. The profits will be used to cover the costs of operation, support local migrant shelters,and to expand the project along the length of the river, thus employing additional deportees along the way.

Authorities periodically conduct raids of the makeshift encampments in the canal, yet offer no alternative housing for the displaced deportees, many of which are residing in Tijuana with little to no support system, without documents that would enable them to work, and penniless. Out of desperation, many are driven to crime and drug abuse. “This is a viable solution,” says Marshall.

The group initially requested authority from CONAGUA – the federal agency that controls the river infrastructure- to support the project, but nothing came about. The group decided to move forward with a grass roots strategy instead of waiting months or years for a decision from the authorities.

The Global Shapers organization began the project to call attention to the plight of the homeless deportees, which has long been a problem for the city of Tijuana. Despite being a federal issue, Tijuana receives little support from the federal government to assist with the reintegration of the thousands of deportees that arrive in the city each year.

Just last year alone, the U.S. deported about 65,000 immigrants to Tijuana, most of which arrived with little more than the clothes on their back. After whatever money deportees arrive with runs out on hotel rooms, and they overextend their stay in local shelters, thousands end up living under bridges, in sewers and manholes in the river channel.

The Global Shapers reached out to local organizations, Transicion Tijuana – an organization that operates urban farms throughout the city- and Tijuana Calidad de Vida. – which promotes environmental awareness and quality of living in the Tijuana Metropolitan area. The project is being funded by donations, and will cost around $5,000.00 dollars to launch. There is an ongoing IndieGoGo campaign requesting funds and donations in-kind.

Participants will arrive at 6 am on Saturday morning to start building the raised beds. The public is invited to participate, volunteer, or simply support the project. For more information, visit their website, or follow them on Facebook.

– See more at: http://www.sandiegored.com/noticias/60340/BordoFarms-Tackling-Tijuana-s-Deportee-Problem/#sthash.5EmJDfqB.dpuf

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