NGO “Penki, keturi plius” | Artist and creative producer
Together with the naturalist, ornithologist, zoologist, and local residents of Šilainiai, we have explored the nature in our neighbourhood for the first time and discovered the unexpected biodiversity in our footsteps! This experience has changed the way the local community see nature in Fort no. 8 and the hidden biodiversity has “become visible” and valued.
We learnt new things about our environment by making invisible things visible
Using online tools (iNaturalist app), we have co-created an online biodiversity map of Kaunas Fort no. 8, which continues to be updated by local residents. A printed version will be published as well and will be given to all schools in the Šilainiai neighbourhood, encouraging children to explore their surroundings. An accompanying educational colouring book will be released too. During the lockdown, we felt there was an increased need for self-led activities for families with children, which we tried to address. Learning about our surrounding environment in a fun and engaging way is the best!
We built partnerships and delved deeper
We have collaborated in creating a new document for the Kaunas Fort no. – “Fort no. 8 Stories” – which brings historical, urbanist, social, and other contacts together for the first time. It will be the solid base for the project to move forward – involving more stakeholders, developing and co-designing the vision of Fort no 8. This document will also be presented to the municipality and other decision-makers in Kaunas city in order to inform them of the work that is being done here and the process that is ongoing.
Whilst exploring biodiversity in the fort, naturalist Tomas Pocius has discovered plants that were signals of pollution. We have built a partnership with the Vytautas Magnus University department of Environmental science who did testing of soil and water samples in the fort. This data has enabled us to choose a collaborative clean-up plan to clean up the pollution in the worst affected areas, which we started to implement in March 2021. Scientists are testing the soil and water again a year later to see if there have been any changes. These tests highlighted the lack of scientific data in relation to growing food in Kaunas city. Questions of food safety can only be answered with tests, therefore we are doing testing of vegetables grown in the garden, which has never been done in the Lithuanian urban garden context. We will make this data publicly available and we hope it will contribute to breaking the myths about growing food in the city.
We are setting up formal processes in order to ensure that Fort no. 8 will always be a place for nature, community and diverse culture. We are establishing a new organisation that will enable us to formally continue (sign important agreements!) our work and help us to start implementing the financial sustainability strategies.
The community developed new urban gardeners and new partnerships.
The Urban Gardens in Fort no. 8 has been more important and popular than ever. More gardeners joined, the place has become popular with families with children and youth. A safe place to relax, be in nature, learn something new. During the pandemic, the importance of gardening to our mental health and resilience, in general, has become paramount. Kaunas Samaritans’ Day centre children have joined the urban gardens and learned how to grow pumpkins and squash in the educational raised beds this year, while Kaunas City Public Health Centre contributed knowledge and supported the urban garden.
Credit to our amazing extended teammates and contributors;
Rūta Lukošiūnaitė, sustainability practitioner, spacial design specialist, facilitator
Ugnė Balčiūnaitė, participatory design specialist, facilitator
Vytautas Paplauskas, photographer
Kotryna Ražinskaitė, illustrator, graphic designer
Tomas Pocius, naturalist, biodiversity expert
Mindaugas Kirstukas, ornithologist
Assoc. Profesor Jūratė Žaltauskaitė environmental scientist