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  1. 1. A D O W N T O E A R T H S U P P L E M E N T gobartimes MARCH 15, 2004 NO. 40 A P O N D E R I N G PA N D I T J I Dear Gobar Times Readers, Is your city a dead end in terms of what you consume or is it a living urban landscape that reuses and recycles all materials in a productive and efficient fashion — just like an healthy ecosystem? Imagine ‘edible cities’, with vast areas of agricultural plots, rooftop and terrace farms, parkland that grows fruits and vegetables in every available space. Urban Agriculture (UA) is a growing international movement. In a sense people are rediscovering what the ‘poor’ farmers of traditional rural and urban societies have always been practicing. And its not just a romantic idea of ‘beautifying’ cities with exotic plants. It’s dead serious business of providing food and jobs to poor people and managing the enormous waste generated in cities across the developing world. No wonder successful city farmers refer to their line of work as “political horticulture”! UA makes ecological sense, does it make economic sense in a country like India — where farmers, buffeted by global economic forces, are committing suicide and dumping tomatoes on the road to protest against falling prices of their produce? GT takes a look at the role of the modern ‘city farmers’. – Pandit Gobar Ganesh
  2. 2. CITY FARMER CIP Edible Cities Dear Cityfolk, here's why you need to grow food at home W e cityfolk consider ourselves to be very supermarkets of employment, technology and smart. Not so, discovers Gobar Times. processors of agriculture produce. Precious farm- The modern city has a garangutan lands are being lost all over the world to these ever appetite and is frightfully wasteful. It takes more expanding cities. Who will feed these millions of than it gives. It ingests tonnes and tonnes of cereals, cityfolk? meat, vegetables and fruits grown in rural areas far and wide; chomps, chews and digests all that food- City as an ecosystem stuff; converts some of it into human energy; burps, In a healthy ecosystem, nutrients are largely recy- and then spews the remaining all out as organic cled. The urban ecosystem, however, is a dead end. garbage and sewage. Nutrients in That means depletion of resources in this waste that should have been Before the railroads, areas outside the city and poisoning recycled back to the land that pro- the internal of places within it. Writes Toni duced the food, is instead dumped combustion engine, Nelson, a researcher at the World into and sealed in landfills or leaked Watch Institute in Washington, "This into rivers. Smart idea? cold storage, massive shifting of nutrients from perishable foods rural to urban areas has already Vanishing croplands had to be produced diminished the vitality of many of the With more and more people heading within the planet's most productive croplands, towards urban areas and the number grazing lands, and fisheries, and the of cities increasing dramatically, city limits itself. process could accelerate as more and something will have to be done more of the human population about these wasteful consumption habits. concentrates in cities in the coming decades. It is It is estimated that by 2030, 60 per cent of the also creating a dilemma: how to feed the growing world's population will live in cities. During the number of people who are far removed form rural-urban population shift the cities have become their main sources of food, without unbalancing 66 Gobar Times, March 15, 2004, Down To Earth supplement
  3. 3. COVER STORY and collapsing the ecosystems on which those majority of people who arrive in the city become part of people ultimately depend." large squatter settlements within the city limits, it is That’s where Urban Agriculture (UA) helps. UA challenging city managers to assist the newcomers with puts vacant unused urban land to good productive jobs, shelter, social services, and proper environment. use. All the rubbish like discarded containers, empty That’s why urban cultivation has been rediscovered in tins, plastic bags, styrofoam boxes along with developing world cities, in recent years. unutilised terraces, rooftops and bal- Toni Nelson in the World Watch conies become the 'fields' on which For the rich, Magazine again, "Political leaders have crops can be grown. Biodegradable growing your own been slow to recognise and respond to waste becomes organic fertiliser after food is in part a this dilemma. But in many cities resi- composting. That means less garbage, dents are not waiting. Both with and luxury and a less pollution and more food. Besides without official sanction, millions of welcome change producing affordable nutritious food- people are now producing food right from supermarket stuff for the urban poor in developing where they live–in empty lots, on countries, UA also generates more shopping. But for the rooftops, and in their own backyards." employment within the city. Smart idea! poor, it is often a Estimates say that as many as 200 mil- necessity. lion people are engaged in UA the Agriculture, an urban invention? world over. Half of Latin American Cities and farming have an ancient cities and 40 per cent of African ones relationship. The idea of farming in are involved in urban agriculture. In cities might seem strange initially to our Russia, 72% of all urban households urban ears. In the classic The Economy raise food and in China, the 14 largest of Cities, Jane Jacobs argues that agri- cities produce around 85 per cent of culture is actually an urban invention, their vegetables. developed in cities which were first founded as centres of trade. As the Want to be a city farmer? GREATER FOOD SECURITY: City Why farm the city? q produce supplements rural agriculture and To mitigate the two most intractable problems helps avoid food shortages. A step towards facing Third World cities — poverty and waste sustainable food management. management. qLESS WASTE: Cities produce a lot of solid q LESS FOOD MILES: Cities import food and liquid organic waste. This resource can products at great distances, thereby increas- be recycled to grow food, thus reducing ing energy use and decreasing nutrition. garbage and pollution in the city. Growing food in the city reduces the food miles from the land to the mouth. q MORE INCOME: Poor families can sup- plement their income by practising urban agriculture and middle class families can look to it as a form of business. q GOOD FOR THE SOUL: Believe it or not, but gardening at home has been known to strengthen family ties. Thanks to community farming in the city, neighbourhoods have become socially cohesive and crime has reduced. Gobar Times, March 15, 2004 Down To Earth supplement 67
  4. 4. LATIN AMERICA "The main task of the revolution should be to produce food." Cuban general Sio Wong Pushed to a corner, three Latin American countries resort to urban agriculture – local, organic. "Let's sow our T ill 1989, the USSR powered the Cuban cities with organic, economy. The Russians hydroponic sold Cuba oil at a discount and mini-gardens!" bought sugar from it at five times the market rate. In fact Hugo Chavez, president of Venezuela from 1959, when communist Fidel Castro came to power to 1989, when the communist to several hectares, which regime collapsed in Moscow, are cultivated by individuals 85 per cent of Cuba's trade or community groups. was with the USSR. The city now aims at Then in 1992, America feeding itself entirely —with- slapped a trade embargo. out imports from either rural By conventional economics, Cuba or anywhere else in the Cuba should have just world. Today, Havana rightly collapsed. But it responded to Organoponic gardening claims to be the leader of the crisis by restructuring it's is taking root in central Caracas urban agriculture in the agriculture in the country. amid the piles of garbage, world. Pesticides and fertiliser bands of homeless beggars. stocks dwindled. Oil was in The gardens of Peru short supply. Transportation, With 7 million citizens, capi- refrigeration and storage costs had to be reduced and tal Lima houses 30 per cent of Peru. The city was 2.5 million strong Havana had to be fed. groaning thanks to rapid growth. UA was used as an The Cubans found answers to these problems in instrument to improve the living conditions of the urban agriculture. The people took the situation into urban poor. their own hands and started gardening in their homes Slums started growing food in a bid to feed them- on a massive scale. The Urban Agriculture Ministry selves and generate income by sell extra produce. decided to back the urban farmers and made it a poli- After that, gardens were established in household cy of putting all the city's open land into production. plots, schools, hospitals and public spaces. The gardens of Havana are small parcels of No chemicals were used as fertiliser and solid state-owned land, ranging from a few square meters waste was used to produce compost, pests were 68 Gobar Times, March 15, 2004, Down To Earth supplement
  5. 5. POLITICAL HORTICULTURE controlled using domestic methods. The women con- Hydroponics: The cultivation of plants by placing the verted household leftovers, chicken and guinea pig roots in liquid nutrient solutions rather than in soil; dung to manure. Wastewater was used where there soil-less growth of plants. were water shortages. Aeroponics: A technique for growing plants without Venezuela's choice soil or hydroponic media. The plants are held above Venezuela is relatively well-off and rich in resources. a system that constantly mists the roots with nutrient- But it decided to take inspiration from Cuba and prac- laden water. Also called aeroculture. (See diagram below) tice UA in a bid to prevent food shortages and be less dependent on imports. Traditionally, more than half of Organoponics: A term peculiar to Latin America. It the country's food needs are imported. was originally the hydroponic systems converted to Organoponic gardening (See box) is taking root in organic cultivation by replacing the inert medium with central Caracas amid piles of garbage, bands of home- compost made from sugar waste. less beggars, and tens of thousands of vehicles belch- ing out polluting gas fumes. Inside Fuerte Tiuna military headquarters, soldiers FLOATING PLATFORM WITH PLANTS of the crack Ayala armoured battalion supervised by Cuban instructors have swapped their rifles for shovels and hoes to tend neat rows of lettuce, tomatoes, AIR PUMP carrots, coriander, and parsley. AIR LINE AIRSTONE A Cuban revolution If it was the socialist revolution of the fifties that changed the face of Cuba, it was the UA revolution of the nineties that transformed Cuba’s economy, bringing with it, it’s own In 1999, urban Cuba produced vocabulary. 65% OF ITS RICE Before 1989, 46% OF ITS FRESH VEGETABLES UA was virtually unheard of in 38% OF ITS NON-CITRUS FRUITS, of compost to soil and run either through a Havana, which is 13% OF ITS ROOTS, TUBERS & state institution or by private individuals. home to 20 per PLANTAINS cent of Cuba’s 6% OF ITS EGGS Autoconsumos: Gardens and small population. But farms belonging to and producing food today ‘organoponics’ and ‘hydroponics’ are for workers, usually supplying cafeterias of buzzwords and the mushrooming farms and particular workplaces. gardens of the capital are divided into five main categories: Campesinos particulars: Individual small plots cultivated by farmers, largely working in the Huertos populares (popular gardens): greenbelt around the city. Gardens privately cultivated by urban residents in small areas throughout Havana. Empresas estatales: Large farms run as state enterprises, many with increasing decentralisa- Huertos intensivos (intensive gardens): tion, autonomy, and degrees of profit sharing with Gardens cultivated in raised beds with a high ratio workers. Gobar Times, March 15, 2004 Down To Earth supplement 69
  6. 6. FOOD MILES Food in the United States travels an average of 2000 kms and changes hands half a dozen times before it is consumed (The Packer, 1992) How much distance does your food travel from the land where it was produced, into the marketplace, to the corner store, before it reaches your plate? FOOD SHED FOOD CIRCLE To describe sustainable food systems, defining the The Food Circle is a production-consumption-recycle If food products must travel 2000 kms, they must be origins and destinations of food within a particular model. A celebration of cycles, this model mirrors all sufficiently durable to withstand shipping. That, at the bioregion — the food shed — helps one to visualise natural systems and is based on the fact that all stable, WHERE ON EARTH DID THIS COME FROM? cost of palatability and nutritional content. The the actual ecological impact of what we eat. biological and other systems function as closed cycles denatured, deflavored, industrial tomato is but the or circles, carefully preserving energy, nutrients, best known exemplar of a process that has affected The foodshed concept uses the analogy of a resources and the integrity of the whole. many fruits and vegetables. These processed foods watershed to describe the area that is defined by a depend on artificial colours, flavours, stabilizers, structure of supply. Food comes to most of us now It links the many people involved in food production emulsifiers, sweeteners and preservatives. through a global food system, which is destructive together in interdependent, holistic ways. When we of both natural and social communities. While conceive of our food system as a circle, we acknowl- RUHANI KAUR / CSE Let’s get closer to our food chain by growing within corporations which are the principal beneficiaries of edge that we are connected with every other person in the city itself. Urban agriculture gives the city a chance a global food system now dominate the production, that circle through the act of food production. to close the ecosystem loop and move towards processing, distribution, and consumption of food, Practically, a Food Circle is concerned with promoting sustainable cities. And let’s also consume fresher and alternatives are emerging which together could the consumption of safe, regionally grown food that more nutritious food. Source: form the basis for foodshed development. For example In a New York supermarket, you can will encourage sustainable agriculture and help to maintain farmers, who will sustain rural areas. Dependence on a The distance from find tomatoes from Mexico, grapes from Chile, lettuce from California, apples from New Zealand. The goal of a Food Circle is to develop a community- based, sustainable food system by reshaping the globalised food which their food comes But the chances of finding city-grown tomatoes, relationships that surround food. Our dominant food economy is also grapes, lettuce, strawberries, or apples in the same system is globalized and industrialized, while Food represents their separation supermarket is pretty dim, even when those crops Circles seek to create a personalized and sustainable from the knowledge of how are in season locally. What is eaten by the great majority of North Americans comes from a food system. The Food Circle philosophy is built on four fundamental principles borrowed from Green thinking disconnecting us and by whom what they consume is produced, global everywhere! And metropolitan India is fast catching up. Source: and systems theory. In sum, a Food Circle is about knowing the person who grows our food or who eats the food we grow. from nature. processed, and Source: Food Circle Networking Project: MADE IN INDIA! transported. London city’s ecological footprint is 125 times its surface area, requiring the equivalent of the entire AMIT SHANKER / CSE productive area of Britain to sustain itself each year 70 Gobar Times, March 15, 2004 Down To Earth supplement Gobar Times, March 15, 2004 Down To Earth supplement 71
  7. 7. ASIA Asian feedback Waste of ducks, chickens, pigs, cows, humans, have all been traditionally used in Asian towns and cities to grow food. Asians are learning from their past for food Young city farmers hard security in the future. at work at a organic farm in Singapore HONG KONG Aeroponics has been tipped as one of the most Regarded as one of the densest large cities in the appropriate technologies for urban agriculture and world, it produces within its boundaries two-thirds of microfarming in warm climates. the poultry and close to half of the vegetables eaten by its citizens and visitors. All the nutrients taken to PHILIPPINES produce the food are returned back to the city food The early people of Manila were self-reliant in food. ecosystem as the duck and chicken waste are used as They used to fish and grow food crops along banks of fertilisers for the growing of vegetables. the river, evidence of the earliest forms of urban agriculture. Today, nearly one-third of children in SINGAPORE Metro Manila are underweight and one-fifth have The city farms between the high rise buildings, in its stunted growth and are suffering due to undernutri- suburban areas and the surrounding seas. Citizens of tion. Growing vegetable crops in recycled tin or plastic Singapore consuming 70 kg per capita per year are containers placed in the yard, on windowsills, and on self-reliant in the meat supply. Since 1974, mush- rooftops is helping address undernutrition. rooms have been grown on multistory stacking shelves using composts from agricultural waste such as INDONESIA banana leaves and straw. Currently only 5 per cent of Jakarta, the capital city of Indonesia houses almost 10 the 1,000 tonnes of vegetables eaten here daily are million people. Unable to feed the city, most of the grown locally. Malaysia supplies 45 per cent of the food consumed is imported from the satellite cities. demand, while the rest comes from Thailand, Urban farming spread quickly as a result of this crisis. Indonesia, Australia and even far away Europe. Urban agriculture provides workers, landowners and What does the city need to grow its own food? other people involved, with a small but significant Just a little water, no soil. Singapore's first commercial income to support families at home, daily expenses as aeroponics farm has arrived. Pioneers in this this farm well as expenses like school fees. Vegetables like use aeroponics technology to grow vegetables. spinach, lettuce and cabbage are sown and all crops 72 Gobar Times, March 15, 2004 Down To Earth supplement
  8. 8. INDIA are harvested. Homegardens (kitchen, dooryard or backyard gardens) are commonly found in many parts Kolkata Catch! of Indonesia. It typically has a very high diversity of In India, human waste and wastewater reuse in useful plants and animals. These multi crop household agriculture is an age-old tradition. West Bengal gardens produce three times the money value per unit has 279 wastewater fed farms on an area of of land as three-crop rice farming. 4000 hectares, supplying more than 13,000 tonnes of fish per year. It is perhaps one of the INDIA largest wastewater fed fish farming systems in Mumbai city farmer, Dr R T Doshi, began experiment- ing with food production on the terrace of his bunga- the world. This form of farming was started way low in Mumbai after retiring at the age of 61. He has back during Second World War and even today perfected a method of growing fruits and vegetables supplies a city with more than 14 million people for domestic consumption, which involves relatively their daily demand for fish at the same time low labour input, organic production methods and supports the livelihoods of more than 30,000 very high yields. Today he grows vegetables, pulses, people. The pond farms different species of fish fruits and cereals and has raised mango, fig and guava from local species rohu, catla to exotic fishes plants and also harvested bananas and sugarcane on and freshwater prawns as well. The city sewage his terrace farm. The method involves planting in is first treated through RANU GHOSH / CSE different methods devel- oped by the fishermen over the years. Fish yields from wastewater ponds are 2-4 times higher than those from ordinary fish. The city gets its fish supply, the city sewage gets solved, recovery of nutrients that would otherwise have been lost in wastewater. Dr R T Doshi at his terrace farm Fish produced from city sewage in Kolkata polyethylene bags or 45 gallon drums with the floating gardens that carry out vegetable farming. The bottoms stuffed with biomass, such as sugarcane gardens have been believed to have existed over several stocks from sugarcane juice vendors (something that generations and have been the source of food for the normally goes to waste). One quarter of the bag is city and source of livelihood for the urban farmers. then filled with compost and the remainder with soil. It is a type of water culture where weed rafts of The system is suitable for any scale of operation in any different lengths floating on the lake are covered open space. His methods have been adopted through- with thick layers of soil. The weed, over a period of out Mumbai and also in neighbouring cities, gardens, time, decomposes to function as the fertiliser for the and improving local environments, family nutrition vegetables to be grown in the floating gardens and public health overall. including tomato, pumpkin, cucumber, Srinagar’s Dal lake houses acres of UA gives the city a radish and lots of other vegetables. lotus plants in full bloom across its wet- chance to close the Although the practice has been there land ecosystem. It is not just a beautiful for many years, today when there is flower but also food. Lotus is harvested for ecosystem loop and high militancy in the area, vegetable or its stems called nadru which are eaten all move towards lotus farming is the only choice of round the year. The lake is famous for its sustainable cities income for many in the city. Gobar Times, March 15, 2004 Down To Earth supplement 73
  9. 9. HISTORY Modern colonial cities were planned and managed to have food production on the outskirts of the city using "modern" agriculture and producing "European" crops. The great Scottish urban thinker, Patrick Geddes, condemned these when he visited the city of Indore in India during the First World War: "from the callous, contemptuous city bureaucrat at Delhi, I have now to tackle here the well-intentioned fanatic of sanitation-perhaps an even tougher proposition. Instead of the 19th century European panacea of "Everything to the sewer!"…the right maxim for India is the traditional rural one of "Everything to the soil!" U rban agriculture (UA) gained importance farming systems. The Javanese aqua-terra system in the 1980s throughout the world with combining multi-crop water system and soil farming almost a three-fold increase in Moscow, systems have still survived in some areas. Russia and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and Like the Aztec aqua-terra chinampas in Mexico. At other cities of Africa as massive shifts of Tenochititlan, the site of Mexico city today, the Spanish urban land from open space, institutional and invaders in the 15th century found the largest city they transportation was used for agricultural production. In had known at the time. A principal source of food pro- the poorest of poor countries such as Kenya and duction was a form of aqua-terra farming known as Tanzania, three of every five families in towns and chinampas. Irrigation systems helped farmers to pro- cities are engaged in urban agriculture. The trend also duce three crops a year in areas that today give only spread to cities such as Bangkok where 60% of the two crops. These city farmers also had sophisticated land was farmed. Throughout the world there is a methods of soil improvement and insect control. long tradition of farming intensively in the cities. In all Manula describe the use of human and animal waste in parts of the world, ancient civilisations developed mixture with other waste materials to be used as inputs urban agricultural systems to feed the cities. Examples in agriculture. Cities' wastewater flowed into tanks include Ghana, India, China, Iraq, Java, Pakistan, and from tanks to irrigate fields. Guatemala, Mexico and Peru. The inten- Machu Picchu, the lost city of the sive production of perishables, small Inca appears to have been self-sufficient livestock, fish and poultry within the city in food within walking distance. The was essential to city life. Grains, fruits main city also had a suburban area that and vegetables were shipped from the carried out intensive agriculture. nearby countryside. In certain In the ancient systems various cultures crops such as mushrooms and techniques such as sun reflectors in medicinal and culinary herbs were Tigris and Euphrates were used to heat specially developed in urban areas. In the soil. At Machu Picchu standing Latin America, Aztec, Mayan and Incan water of aqua-terra systems held off cities were self-reliant in perishable mountain frost. In Bolivia today the fruits and vegetables but also raised sun’s heat is stored in the adobe walls some grains within the confined hinter- of the greenhouse even today. land. Similarly towns and cities of early Cultures throughout history have civilisations of Java and Indus valley used their dwellings, workplaces, and show traces of high-intensity irrigated communal spaces to produce food and 74 Gobar Times, March 15, 2004 Down To Earth supplement
  10. 10. ECOCITY other basic needs. In Yemen, for example, some towns by straw mats used to cover the crops during severe and cities have integrated high-rise architecture with winter. 50 kg of per capita of fresh salads, vegetables organic urban gardens over the last two thousand and fruits were produced annually which exceeded years. These gardens use traditional techniques of the levels of consumption of these foods. Products stacking layers of shrubs, vegetables, herbs and root were exported to as far as London. The system crops under a canopy of date palms —mimicking the reached its maximum peak in the plate 19th century, ecological structure of natural forests. its rapid decline can be explained by three factors: In Europe compost using horse manure has been the virtual replacement of the horse by the motor used over the years to heat raised vegetable beds. car, competition for land within the city and Before modern urban sanitation systems were devel- competition from areas with more favourable oped in the late 19th century, urban agriculture was climate outside the city-facilitated by the improvement the main treatment and disposal of urban waste. Food in the transport system. This system of cultivation was delivered by donkey carts to the markets and the remains one of the most productive ones ever >> The struggle to sanitise the cities has been waged for more than a decade now. But the systems are unsustainable because they shift increasing volumes of waste from one location to another within the urban ecosystem >> ARVIND YADAV / CSE PRADIP SAHA / CSE city wastes in turn were delivered to the fields — both documented. The productive biological recycling of rural and urban. waste products of the city's transport system contrasts For example, the Marais farming system of 19th with requirements and consequences of the present century Paris. 100 years ago a sixth of the area of Paris day urban ecosystems. But today the accepted idea was used to produce annually more than 100,000 has become the “the city beautiful” or the “city tonnes of high-value of of season salad crops. A clean”. Modern agricultural ways have replaced the sustainable cropping pattern as it used approximately traditional ones in many developing cities. But there is 1 million tones of stable manure produced each year quite revolution coming about as there are many cities by horses, which provided power for the city's who are in a process to adopt the biointensive marai transport system. This system became famous in system. Europe in the late 19th century that very intensive The struggle to sanitise the cities has been waged horticulture using heavy inputs of biological origin is for more than a decade now. But the systems are still called French gardening today. In energy, mass unsustainable because they shift increasing volumes of and money terms the inputs and output of the Parisian waste from one location to another within the urban urban agro-ecosystem exceed those of present ecosystem. With multiplication of urban populations day fully industrialised crop production. In this system and the food systems becoming more unreliable urban 3-6 harvests a year were obtained through inter-crop- hunger multiplied with urban growth. In response ping. Year round production was made possible by UA became the solution to the city. the heat and carbon dioxide released through the manure fermentation, shelter by two-metre high (Taken from the book, Urban Agriculture: Food, Jobs walls, glass-covered frames and bell-shaped glass and and Sustainable Cities, UNDP) Gobar Times, March 15, 2004 Down To Earth supplement 75
  11. 11. EDUCATION City farms provide children an opportunity to learn about ecology and create their own "Living laboratories" Towards sustainability C ommunity gardens and school gardens. Recre- Also, many such gardens are ation and education. environmentally sound. That's Food for the soul and food for because community gardeners thought. At the start of the last are often immigrants from devel- century, almost 80 percent of oping countries or rural areas. In the population were raised on some cases, they can't afford farms. What a reality teacher! commercial fertilisers and pesti- Now cityfolk in both the devel- cides. So, they practice sustain- oped and developing world are able ways of adding nutrients recognising the values and (composting and intercropping), ethics of an agrarian lifestyle. conserving water (mulching, City gardens can aid both urban mounds and furrows), and con- planners and educators. trolling pests (like the use of marigolds to repel nematodes, LEARNING FROM SCHOOL GARDENS We do it together use of soap solutions in place of In community gardens people SCIENCE: ecological literacy commercial pesticides). share land to grow plants, Rural gardeners retain ECONOMICS: rural and urban traditional practices that were exchange resources, socialise and cultivate a sense of "com- POLITICS: rich vs poor developed before industrial munity". Empty lots, apartment agriculture. HEALTH: nutritious food complexes ground or land next to social centres, land near tem- ART: aesthetics We all learn together ples, mosques and churches can Growing children and growing be converted to community gar- plants gel well together. It helps dens. These gardens become valuable green spaces in them understand the connection between their densely populated neighborhoods. health, the food they eat, and where it comes from. In Such gardens are mushrooming even in the addition to that they learn plant science and ecology. US. Local residents, tired of vacant land, trash, and School gardens have been known to increase their crime are transforming vacant lots into community confidence levels too. Through simple science experi- green spaces with vegetables, flowers, sitting ments and hands-on activities, schoolchildren are able areas and playgrounds. It is estimated that there are to see, smell, taste and touch plants. 15000 organised community gardens in the US. A Many of our schools offer students cold, concrete reason for their growing popularity is that school yards with chain link fences that make schools they address the unique needs of the particular look more like prisons. By transforming the school neighborhood. ground to include nature, the learning opportunities 76 Gobar Times, March 15, 2004 Down To Earth supplement
  12. 12. NUTRITION literally come alive. Schools need to redesign their play space to provide students with a healthy and Animation playgrounds safe place to play, learn, and develop a genuine respect for nature and each other. Extracts from a report based on research done by Oliver School gardens can become mini-farms and a Ginsberg, Chairperson of the Association of Adventure source of healthy, nutritious food, an opportunity for Playgrounds and Cityfarms (AKiB) in Berlin, on ninety such projects across six countries in Europe — what they environmental restoration and a well of inspiration contribute to sustainable urban development: for children, teachers and parents. School yards are an amazing land resource but, often neglected. It was the Danish landscape architect C. Th. Sorensen who Also, educators say that outdoor classrooms are a first recognized the importance of "skrammellegepladsen" priority. Students use outdoor classrooms to explore (rubbish playgrounds), which should give children access to various outdoor themes like the weather. various construction play materials and the possibility to Stepping outside the classroom to answer a create their own play environment rather then provide them question, plant seeds, or observe insects on flowers with already furnished, neat play sites. not only adds variety to the curriculum, but also In the official programmes of sustainable development motivates many students who are less engaged in the children and young people are obviously neglected. Within usual class routines. Students who strain to sit still in the 500 pages of the "Agenda 21" the world "child" or class may be captivated — and stimulated — watch- "children" appears just about 60 times, while the word ing a beetle make its way through a just-turned pile "government" is used more than 1000 times! They are usu- of dirt. When students have the opportunity to ask ally just mentioned in connection with social infrastructure like schools or day care centers. Their specific (play) needs their own questions about things that interest them are hardly mentioned, neither their need for open space and discover the answers, they are taking vital steps within the city. The fact that adequate play space tends to to becoming lifelong learners. "For more than ten thousand years, cultivation of land and the rearing of farm animals was a "natural" part of civilization. Farming is the root of the urbanisation process, the dynamics of which in turn has driven farming out of our daily experiences." Teaching sustainability disappear from the cities even within the frame of "vitaliza- Children are also introduced directly to the impacts of tion" and "interior development" simply has no impact on our present global food production and delivery the minds of many political decision makers. This kind of systems. They'll understand depletion of ecologically- play deprivation however is a very important part of the productive lands for the purpose of growing cash reason for increasing health problems and juvenile violence as has paradoxically been acknowledged most strongly crops, pesticide, energy and water use, transporta- in the US lately. tion, climate change, international trade routes, The fact, that the contributions of adventure playgrounds nutrition, global economics and social justice issues and city farms to sustainable development are still underesti- much better. mated in the public perhaps coincides with the fact, that School gardens saves urban children from being children and their way of life which is inevitably playful are detached from the food chain. For example in 2003, themselves restricted to the parts of "extras" in the debate the Japan Slow Food Association asked 100,000 kids on sustainability. They are often reduced to some anony- to paint pictures to decorate the dinner table. Few of mous upgrowing or future generations and their specific them drew real vegetables and fish. Most drew (play) needs and rights are hardly ever adequately addressed pictures of the plastic containers that line the shelves or, if their needs are articulated, it is usually done in such a of grocery stores. general way that hardly any definite conclusions can be Now that wouldn’t happen if you had a small drawn therefrom as far as urban planning is concerned, garden with vegetables in your school yard. which should adjust to these needs. Gobar Times, March 15, 2004 Down To Earth supplement 77
  13. 13. FAQS Urban Agriculture MYTHS & REALITY Myth 1: Urban agriculture means kitchen gardening. Myth 5: Urban agriculture is unhygienic. Household and community gardening are an Health problems are undoubtedly the most important and a very easy individual based serious consequence of inappropriately practiced contribution towards farming. urban farming. Pesticides, fertilisers and untreated But urban agriculture is not limited to the indi- sewage can pollute the urban environment. vidual houses.It goes beyond that and looks at the Farming along the roadsides, where crops are food system that feeds millions that live in the city. susceptible to automobile exhaust, can lead to food contamination. However, appropriate urban Myth 2: Urban agriculture is a marginal activity or agriculture is not harmful, but has the potential to means of survival. improve hygiene in the city because it uses polluting Urban agriculture means good access to food for waste as a production input. the poorest, a source of income and good food for the stable poor, savings, nutritious and safe food for Myth 6: Urban agriculture causes pollution and the middle class and profits for entrepreneurs. For damages the environment. the poorest, it cuts expenses on fuel and foods Urban farming can cause pollution that are by far the maximum of the soil, water and air and affect urban income spent areas by areas adversely. The solution is to provide this group. Also urban guidance and assistance to make it a safer agriculture is central to industry for farmers, consumers and the the city’s economy and environment. generates incomes and jobs within the city. Myth 7: Urban agricul- ture is unsightly and aes- Myth 3: Urban agriculture thetically inappropriate grabs land that could have in the city. been given higher price value Urban agriculture as rent. It is a bad investment. creates green spaces in the Urban agriculture usually utilises land that is city, replacing vacant or unproductive spaces within either lying idle or unsuitable for other purposes. the city into green and productive spaces, while at Or, it uses land that is allocated for other uses, thus the same time providing livelihood to the urban giving back higher values. Most cities have many poor. If the fields in the rural villages are considered unused spaces in the city that can be made green beautiful, why are plots of vegetables considered an spaces. In Delhi, vast tracts of land are devoted to eyesore? lawns. These can be used for urban agriculture. Lawns are aesthetic, but have no productive value, Myth 8: Urban agriculture is an archaic, utopian consume enormous amounts of water and are concept and cannot be created today. mainly for the rich. This passion for lawns has its In the past, western thought nurtured the con- origins in British colonial tradition. cept of garden cities or farming in the city. Of late, "modernity" is equated to concrete cities. “Urban” Myth 4: Urban agriculture competes with and is less is associated with "industrial" and “rural” with efficient than rural farming. “agricultural”. This paradigm shapes the world of The truth is that urban agriculture thrives on today. That is why urban agriculture has been omit- products that are less suited for rural farming and ted from urban planning requirements. Farming has that might be too costly for the urban poor. been positioned as an outdated and backward Mushroom and broccoli are two such examples. activity, not fit for the modern city by planners. 78 Gobar Times, March 15, 2004 Down To Earth supplement
  14. 14. Make Your Own Micro-garden at Home! You don’t need land. Making a small farm at home is quite simple and can be done so with things lying around the house and some waste material and water on a rooftop, terrace or balcony. Step 1 You need a container to grow the plants. Earthen or cement pots are the best. Wooden crates lined on the inside with plastic, old tires, egg trays,any plastic containers can also be used. You can even take an old wooden bed and cover it with thick black plastic. Step 2 You need to put a substrate in the container. Rice hull, sawdust, volcanic scoria, sand, gravel, coconut fibre, perlite, peat, peanut husks etc. You will also require a nutrient solution which can be obtained from the fermentation of organic waste material. Step 3 You need a suitable location. Basically, you need 1 to 10 square metres of free space, a minimum of six hours of daily sunlight and a clean water source. So the options could be your rooftop, balcony, backyard or any place else that meets the requirements. Step 4 You have to select what you have to grow. Tomato, beans, onion, garlic, gourds, potato, celery, pepper, chilly, carrot, lettuce, basil, cucumber, radish, cabbage, red beet, spinach, eggplant, medicinal plants... People have even grown mangoes and maize on a terrace garden. Go organic: Be a chemical free farmer. Buy readymade, or compost your own organic kitchen, garden, left over food, household waste. You can create a vermi- compost bin even on a balcony in a flat. It really works. Be Waterwise: Wastewater from kitchen and bathrooms can be treated, recycled and used. Be chemical free: make use of bio-pesticides using neem, turmeric, lemons, tobacco, garlic, onions. Soap solution helps. Plant 'plant traps' like marigold or chrysanthemums to mitigate bugs. Remember pests cannot be controlled, only managed. Now you’re ready to be a City farmer! To know more about organic kitchen and terrace gardens or school or community gardens, write to Gobar Times, March 15, 2004 Down To Earth supplement 79