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Objectives, Hypotheses and Concepts

Drawing on the current situation in Managua, Nicaragua, this research examines existing relations between human and environment at the household scale. It describes how humans interact with the environment in the establishment and management of gardens and food production in urban areas. Managua provides an especially interesting case study because it represents in many ways a city that defies dominant notions of ‘the urban’ (Wall, 1996). Managua has often been referred to as un-urban, primarily because it was never fully rebuilt after the devastating earthquake in 1972, and as a consequence the contemporary urban form does not resemble a typical ‘urban’ centre (McGuire, 1991; Wall, 1996; Rodgers, 2004). Most noticeably, Managua’s built landscape is unusually horizontal with very few buildings exceeding five storeys. A large make-up of this landscape are houses, which are the most common type of dwelling in the city. In fact, detached houses account for 97 per cent of the dwelling types in the city (INEC, 2006).2 The majority of these houses have yards large enough to grow trees and plants, and most have at least one tree. As a result, Managua’s cityscape is remarkably green. This research looked at the small-scale agriculture and agro-forestry within home patios (yards) in San Augusto,3 a marginalized barrio of Managua. It examined the relations through which these forms of UA and gardening are produced and what role they play in the development of sustainable urban spaces. Additionally, the study examined whether the human-environment relations used and created in UA assist in generating community-based actions around social and environmental change in the barrio. The concept of ‘networks’ is used to explain the interactions between humans and the environment, which are referred to in this chapter as socioecological networks.