norsk tekst

Allotment Gardening In Oslo

A Status Report

This report sums up the main findings from a questionnaire survey conducted among allotment holders in Oslo in the autumn of 1999. The initiative for the survey was taken by Siri Haavie who also conducted the fieldwork and analysed the data. The City of Oslo Research Society and several municipal agencies have contributed financially.

Up until now, Oslo's allotment gardens have not been taken into account in area planning and land use in the city. In fact, very little has been known about allotment gardening as a leisure activity, in the city's administration or among its citizens. During the last few years, a number of allotment gardens have been downsized and several are under threat from new developments. As of today, this type of gardening is not considered a recreational activity on par with other leisure activities, and no public agency has overall responsibility for the future of the allotment gardens.

This questionnaire survey among allotment holders in Oslo is a first step towards putting this type of recreation and land use on the agenda. It aims to document how many allotment gardens there really are in Oslo, what characterises the city's allotment holders and what motivates them to use their allotment. In recent years, allotment gardening as a recreational activity has met with increasing recognition internationally; the time has come for public agencies in Norway to realise that this type of use of the city space is of considerable value in a modern city.

Data collection
A questionnaire with 49 questions was sent to all allotment holders in Oslo for whom a postal address could be obtained, hence the data presented are based on the whole population of allotment holders, not on a sample.

A response rate of 69% should be seen as highly satisfactory, given the fact that some of the respondents have a modest command of the Norwegian language and may had problems filling in the questionnaire. A total of 650 questionnaires were sent out; 14 were returned by the postal service because of incorrect addresses. 4 were returned by respondents who did not fill them in. 442 completed questionnaires were returned (405 before reminder letters were sent out). Posters about the survey were put up in all 21 allotment gardens.

This survey could be a starting-point for far more detailed studies of the social, cultural, therapeutic and ecological impact of allotment gardening.

Chapter Key findings
1.1 a 63% of allotment holders are women.
b Almost one third of all allotment holders in Oslo are single, divorced or widowed women.
c 13% of the women and almost 30% of the men come from a non-western cultural background.
1.2 a Two thirds of allotment holders are younger than 55.
b 73% of the women and 54% of the men are younger than 55.
1.3 44% of allotment holders have children under the age of 18.
1.4 a 25% of allotment holders are foreign citizens or naturalised Norwegian citizens.
b Thirty different nationalities are represented among the allotment holders.
1.5 Half of all allotment holders have a university or college education.
1.6 a One third of allotment holders are not economically active.
b 10% of those with a western cultural background and 25% of those with a non-western cultural background receive disability benefits.
1.7 9 out of 10 live in a block of flats or apartment building.
1.8 28% are handicapped or suffer from chronic health problems; 9% are registered as having health problems.
1.9 a More than 40% had little or no previous experience from gardening/agriculture.
b 44% have leased their allotments for less than four years.
2.1 a Three out of four tend their allotments several times a week and spend more than one hour there each time.
b Old-age pensioners, disabled people and allotment-holders with a non-western cultural background spend the most time on their allotments.
c 40% live less than 500 metres’ walk from their allotments.
d 70% live less than 10 minutes away from their allotments.
2.2   Informal networks are the most important source of information on allotment gardening and the possibility of leasing an allotment from the municipality.
2.3 Only 5% had received information from the municipality. Proximity to home or place of work are most important determinants for choice of allotment garden.
3.1 a The most important reasons for taking up allotment gardening are non-material: the pleasure of seeing things grow, mental and physical well-being, and social interaction.
b Respondents from a non-western cultural background emphasised getting out into fresh air and having a leisure activity as well as the social aspect.
3.2 a Almost everyone grows vegetables; flowers are extremely popular.
b Flower-growing is much more popular with women than with men.
c For allotment-holders with a non-western cultural background, growing one's own food is much more important. In this group there are fewer flower growers, more people grow herbs and spices.
3.3 Only a few have weighed the harvest or calculated how much it is worth.
3.4 A considerable number of allotment holders state that some of the time, or often, they say to themselves that they would not know how to survive without their allotments.
4.1 a 60% often or some of the time get help with their gardening.
b One third some of the time are helped by children.
4.2 Among those who were invited to voluntary tidying-up activities during the last twelve-month period, two out of three attended.
4.3 30% of those with a western background and 60% of those with a non-western background sometimes have dinner on their allotment, apart from organised get-togethers.
4.4 50% have attended social get-togethers or parties in the allotment garden.
5.1 Less than 7% uses insecticides, fungicides or herbicides on their allotments.
5.2 Over 80% compost their weeds or use weeds etc. as mulch
5.3 a More than 60% use ecological methods.
b 50% of those who indicate that they don't use ecological methods say they would like to learn how to.
5.4 In line with the population at large, allotment holders are generally not very concerned about environmental issues. However, close to 50% tick off as quite correct that they are concerned about what they themselves can do to protect the environment, which is far more than the population at large.
5.5 10% are members of associations of environmentalists.
6.1 5% are vegetarians.
6.2 44% have used alternative medicine.
6.3 Allotment holders are not very active in organised leisure activities. 60% go hiking in the woods around Oslo on a regular basis; 8% do yoga or meditate regularly.
6.4 98% say that they like it in Oslo, one in two says they enjoy Oslo very much.
7.1 Two third have experienced thefts from their allotments; however, only 7% have experienced several episodes of theft.
7.2 25% state that there have been plans for closing down their allotment garden over the last five years; 10% states that their allotment garden has been reduced in size.
7.3 More than 80% of allotment holders have suggestions for improvements of the gardens. The most frequently suggestions are for toilet facilities, more gardening tools, courses in horticulture, (better) fencing, more benches.
7.4 a 8 out of 10 are satisfied with the size of their present allotment.
b 75% of those who have an allotment of less than 20m2 think that their allotment is an adequately size.
7.5 Three out of four allotment holders are satisfied with orderliness and maintenance in the communal areas.
7.6 88% states that, everything considered, they are highly satisfied or satisfied with their present allotment.

Translation: Sveinung Løkke