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Mumbai Port Trust’s ‘Wild’ Kitchen Garden – India

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By Anand Pendharkar
August 14, 2008
Visits a 3000 sq ft terrace kitchen garden in Ghadiyal Godi (Victoria Dock) of the Mumbai Port Trust, India

I walked out on the terrace of the catering department and entered through a canopy of climbers into a heaven of chikoos, guavas, bananas, coconuts, lemons, mint, bhindis and a 120 other varieties of trees, shrubs, herbs, climbers standing in drums and plastic baskets right on the roof of the building. I saw that the plants had not only food value but also immense medicinal and ornamental values.


Complete article follows:

When one thinks of biodiversity hotspots, the immediate images that flash across the mind are of dense evergreen forests or mangroves crashing with waves or at least huge city gardens. However, would you ever imagine a mere 3000 sq ft biodiversity hotspot? A wildlife oasis in the midst of a deserted, constructed space called the docks!

Huge trailer trucks laden with massive cargo containers were passing by, railway tracks crisscrossed the road we drove on, sky-hugging cranes were operating next to enormous ships loading them with such myriad variety of cargo. This was a foreign land to my eye used to gardens, forests, birds and butterflies. And the scanty buildings in the huge expanse were office complexes, with the catering department hidden away in one corner, close to the Red Gate of the Ghadiyal Godi (Victoria Dock).

I walked out on the terrace of the catering department and entered through a canopy of climbers into a heaven of chikoos, guavas, bananas, coconuts, lemons, mint, bhindis and a 120 other varieties of trees, shrubs, herbs, climbers standing in drums and plastic baskets right on the roof of the building. I saw that the plants had not only food value but also immense medicinal and ornamental values.

Preeti Patil, the catering officer, in-charge of Mumbai Port Trust’s (MbPT) smiles like a proud parent and extols the whole-hearted support she has received from her superiors and parent organisation, in creating and maintaining this terrace garden. Her associate staff, Kondar, Badve, and gardeners Nakti and Buwa excitedly explain how they converted an apparent eye-sore into this wildlife haven!

“A mere six years ago, there used to be a pile of kitchen waste rotting and raising a stink, right next to our kitchen and that was most undesirable. When you cook food for over 30,000 employees, the waste generated could be immense,” says Patil.

A need to handle this waste was answered in the form of a radio report on ‘City Farming’ by the (Late) Dr. Doshi. On visiting Dr. Doshi’s terrace garden in suburban Mumbai, around 20 MbPT officers along with Patil and her kitchen team took training to replicate this project in the Port Trust set-ups.

However, the enthusiasm of the catering department team was far ahead of any of the other departments. They started with a mere five plants in 2002, and within just two years and had already started to experiment with a dozen other varieties of plants.Using young green, mature and old leaves in combination with other plant wastes provides the diversity of minerals and nutrients soil needs, as against only old and dry leaves that most use for composting or mulching.

From that day till today, Kondar, the canteen supervisor, says it has just been constant victories and learning for all. A herbal tea section, with tulsi, mint, lemon grass, lemon and pepper, and all guests are welcomed by this amazing decoction.

This tiny kitchen garden and wildlife haven has been an inspiration to all its visitors including housewives, school and college students, corporate organisations desirous of a green image.It just goes to prove the Gaia Hypothesis which simply put states that ‘Life on Earth itself creates suitable conditions for more life on Earth to thrive’.

The garbage recycling effort has gone way ahead of being a composting unit or a terrace vegetable garden, converting itself into a biodiversity hotspot, a mini-sanctuary for the local orioles, jezebels and green-starved souls of Mumbai.

Link to article source here.

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Link to Preeti Patil’s photo album of bio diversity on the terrace farm.

And photos of produce from the terrace farm.

Going Green on the Terrace

By Joeanna Rebello
August 10, 2008

Mumbai: Who knew the Garden of Eden had been relocated to the Mumbai Port Trust? On the terrace of one of its canteens, no less.

The fruits of this kingdom swallow the eye—guavas hang like cannonballs, the lemons are pert and the pomegranates polished. Dragonflies, butterflies and birds are this emerald city’s flying squadron and slothful caterpillars and other creeps, its ground police. Mistress of these sights is catering manager of MPT Preeti Patil.

The patch of green started with looking for a way to dispose of kitchen waste produced from cooking for 2,000 employees a day, Patil recounts. It only took a workshop with seasoned urban farmer Dr R T Doshi for Patil to return with the lessons to turn waste to compost. She started with four saplings on her 3,000 sq-ft terrace—two of chickoo and two of guava. Five years later, 116 others fruits, vegetables and ornamentals moved in. Plastic laundry baskets, half-sawn drums and low brick rings (that can be widened as the plant grows) are now the tenements occupied by coconut, betelnut, pineapple, ladyfinger, tomatoes, custard apple, ginger, papaya, bananas, cherry, mango, amla, red guava, peppermint, strawberry, allspice, tamarind—the whole plant kingdom it seems.

The harvest, she says, weighs 3 kg ginger, 10-15 kg bananas and 6-7 kg cucumber per plant.

Now, Patil has miniature greenhouses and a compost pit that converts peels, pulp and other digestibles into high-nutrition feed for the farm. This once barren terrace has not just transformed into a cooperative farm with the canteen help eager to return to their roots, but it is also their ‘famers market’ where they take home fresh organic produce in exchange for their labour.

City fruits and vegetables are virtually insipid, Patil says, and with high doses of chemical inputs, their nutritional value is very low. “We city-breds are so out of sync with nature, we cannot even identify what grows around us, let alone what we eat. The first time I tried to grow corn on my balcony, I mistook the silk for wheat.’’

On Friday, Patil was invited to a dialogue on urban agriculture, where she, along with two others, narrated their experiences and research on recycling waste and growing food. It was a discussion initiated by the Centre for Education and Documentation and KISC (Knowledge in Civil Society).

For Pune’s Snehlata Srikhhande it was garbage that precipitated action. The Kachra Manthan, which she started with the local women, segregated waste, gave the inorganic recyclable deposit to ragpickers to ease their work and turned the rest into compost for terrace gardens. “Space should not be a contraint,’’ she says, producing the slide of a papaya tree growing on a narrow balcony.

“The roots don’t break into the floor, like people believe. In fact, only when roots need to anchor, they dig deep,’’ says Patil. “If support is provided externally, like a wall, for example, the feeder roots, which nourish the plant, only need nine inches of soil. And city plants should be pruned so they don’t grow too tall or you may not be able to pluck the fruit easily.’’ What an idea to be able to pluck a mango from a tree on your terrace!

Environmentalist Bharat Mansata propped Cuba as a macro specimen of urban agriculture. Mansata, who just launched a book, Organic Revolution, on the subject, referred to Cuba’s dire straits in the early 1990s, when it had to resort to growing its own food on account of the American trade embargoes and the collapse of its erstwhile supplier, the Soviet Union. In 2006 Havana grew 3 million tonnes of food; the city has 300,000 small gardens. No vacant land went uncultivated, he said. Citing Cuba, Mansata showed how urban farms are a unifying community tool, outside their tangible benefits of nutritional yield and green cover. “Let’s not wait to reach the brink, like Cuba did, but start growing our own food now,” he exhorted. “With food prices already high, we are not far from a stage when we have no food at all.” Srikhande ended with some practical advice—the next time you want to go on a tree-planting drive, begin at home.

Link to article source here.

Visiting Dr R T Doshi’s terrace farm in Mumbai; India

I had read of Dr. R T Doshi in the late eighties. He is a retired industrialist who lives in Bandra, Mumbai and is fascinated by plants and the proper utilisation of waste biomass. What I read in the article was unbelievable. Here was a man who was using the crushed sugarcane from a nearby ‘juice centre’ and growing plants in open sacks. He had attained such a degree of success that his terrace was like a mini forest. He had even succeeded in growing strawberries in the humid Mumbai climate. Some years later I read about him again and saw him in a science program named Turning Point in Doordarshan. Seeing him on television added to the fascination I had developed for him and his methods. It was unbelievable that someone could use open sacks, sugarcane and kitchen waste and get the kind of results that he had got. But those were the pre-internet days and I could not follow up on my fascination which had bordered on obsession.

Read more in Dev Kumar’s Blog here.

Urban Agriculture in India: A Survey of Expertise, Capacities and Recent Experience

By Gisèle Yasmeen, Ph.D.
A Study Commissioned by:
International Development Research Centre
South Asia Regional Office
New Delhi, India
February 5, 2001

This link will download the 1.6 MB Word document.

4 comments

1 Herbal pest control in mumbai { 10.08.10 at 8:59 am }

Looking very good.

2 jsrana { 05.28.11 at 7:42 pm }

Beauteefull

3 Suhas Jaideo Wankhede { 09.07.11 at 10:08 am }

Very nice concept.I think about terrace gardening last few months but didn’t get idea.But from you I am very much inspire. So thanks a lot….I am tring all these things from today onwords…….
Thanks

4 deepak lal { 12.03.11 at 12:45 am }

i stay in delhi – i am looking for dr rt joshi’s book ” handbook on terrace gardening”…..can u pls suggest which bookstores in mumbai will stock this ? preferably bookstores around andheri / bandra will be preferable….or if u can deliver to my relatives house in versova – yari road i will be very grateful …payment on arrival with delivery charges.