Guerrilla Gardening and the Combat of Desertification (Brigit Strawbridge / Willem Van Cotthem)

One of my Facebook friends, Brigit Strawbridge, shared with us the following :

Pimp Your Pavement

is a project from

For six years I’ve been cultivating neglected patches of land in my neighbourhood of the Elephant & Castle. Driven by a life long love of gardening, a lack of a garden, and the fun of doing it in public I found easy opportunities in the abandoned flower beds, neglected traffic islands and tree pits near me. Since then I’ve gardened alongside hundreds of others and met a lot of inspiring people who are doing the same thing as me in corners of their community all around the world.

It’s my hobby, my passion and I’m keen to get more people gardening like this. The local overlooked landscape – in both meanings of the word – forgotten about but also in great view is a space in which we can make a very tangible and welcoming contribution to improving our local environment, both ecologically and socially. As a guerrilla gardener, blogger, author and talker on the subject, I’ve got plenty of people involved too, but guerrilla gardening is just a strategy, and the result can be all sorts of landscapes of varying scales and purpose, sometimes overtly provocative. I’ve noticed that enthusiastic newcomers can feel a bit daunted by expectations of enormous transformation and the risk of prosecution for criminal damage (even though both are quite unlikely)!

This campaign will be a way of giving people, particularly newcomers, a very tangible objective – transforming a patch of pavement and taking back responsibility from the local authorities who have plenty of other things to be concerned with on our behalf.

Pimp Your Pavement will be a more palatable way of inviting the authorities who are in charge of most of our pavements to participate in this grass roots enthusiasm. In cities around Europe (Zurich, Berlin, Amsterdam and to a much lesser extent London) I’ve seen how guerrilla gardening can change the authorities view of their responsibilities, and I’m keen that these examples are inspiration to encourage change in more places.

Explore these pages, join the Facebook Page, and if you’re already pimping pavements or helping people pimp pavements get in touch, share what you’re doing and let’s work together.

Richard Reynolds, 2010


Brigit Strawbridge wrote : Pimp Your Pavement; what a great way to bring nature back to our streets –


I reacted immediately and joined ‘Pimp Your Pavement’ at

where I read :

Transform a patch of pavement with a colourful addition of your own. Sow sunflower seeds in an empty tree pit, plant pansies in a derelict planter… the pavement is your canvas. Sow the seed, spread the word…

If we can ‘bring nature back to our streets’ and considering the success of ‘guerrilla gardening‘ in many countries, I sent the following comment to this Facebook page :

‘Guerrilla gardening being successful in the cities, even on the most incredible, infertile spots, it should be easy to grow some vegetables and fruit trees in the drylands of the developing countries too. Guerrilla gardening can pave the way to efficiently combat desertification, hunger, child malnutrition and eventually poverty by introducing small gardens around the houses of the rural and urban people. Let gardening guerrilleros reach hands and exchange their experience for the benefit of smallholder farmers in the drylands, in particular for their kids.  See the embryo of a kitchen garden in a refugee camp in the Algerian Sahara desert.’

2007 – Family garden in Layoun refugee camp (Tindouf area, S.W. Algeria, Sahara desert) – (Photo WVC)

Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.