São Paulo, the most populous city in the Americas, is growing food in unexpected places to feed a burgeoning population. Almost 12 million people reside within the city limits of Brazil’s capital, while the greater São Paulo area is home to more than 20 million. This swelling growth presents great economic challenges that require creative solutions. Which is why the local NGO Cities without Hunger is working with residents to promote urban farming through school gardens, community gardens, greenhouses, and even under electricity pylons.

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São Paulo urban farmers seek out underused spaces in which to establish a productive local food source that boosts the local economy and provides farmers with a decent living. José Aparecido Vieira Candido is an excellent example of this trend. A former salesman, Candido decided to establish an organic urban farm underneath electric transmission lines. With the help of his mother and wife, Candido grows organic lettuce, cabbage, arugula, bananas, and more.

Related: Boston Food Forest inspires community through ecological design

With the assistance of Cities without Hunger, farmers like Candido can obtain legal protections to establish productive growing spaces in vacant or underused lots. According to the NGO, “The precarious situation of the people living in the favelas (slums) in the East Area of the megacity can be greatly improved through sustainable agrarian projects based on organic agriculture.” Through the work of Cities without Hunger, 21 community gardens have been built, 115 people have become community farmers, and 48 professional certification courses have been established, resulting in the certification of over 1,000 individuals.

Cities without Hunger has pioneered a new method of manufacturing greenhouses that results in a cost savings of 50 percent without sacrificing quality. Greenhouses are important tools in allowing São Paulo farmers to produce food all-year long. Cities without Hunger has also worked closely with São Paulo schools to create gardens which provide at-risk children with access to nutritious food. The school gardens also function as educational tools, which teachers use to educate students about the natural world and humanity’s role as its responsible steward.

Via Folha de S. Paulo

Images via Cities without Hunger and Marlene Bergamo/Folhapress