Mumbai, India – City Farmers recycle waste to generate organic farm products right in their homes
Mumbai Port Trust Garden receives Friends of The Trees first prize for its Terrace Garden at the Central Kitchen from the hands of the Governor of Maharashtra, in Durbar Hall At Raj Bhavan.
This garbage dump doesn’t raise a stink. Rather, it helps produce exotic fruits, vegetables and flowers. Lekha Menon meets city farmers who have mastered the art of making the most out of waste.
By Lekha Menon
April 05, 2009
At 80, Y V Damle conducts laughter therapy classes for women at Hindu colony, Dadar East. But the “fees” for his efforts is rather interesting – a bag of garbage! On other occasions, he trudges to the Dadar sabzi mandi where, along with greens and fruits, he asks the vendors to pack in vegetable peels and sundry rubbish. All of which find their way into plastic bags, drums and laundry baskets in his terrace where the retired BMC engineer farms for veggies, fruits and flowers.
Sounds incredible? But that’s exactly what the magic of city farming is all about. Like Damle, quite a few Mumbaikars are recycling waste to generate organic farm products right in their homes. Not just an effective method of waste management, these green thumbs believe, this form of urban agriculture is just what the eco-doctor ordered for solving critical food security issues.
Developed and patented in the eighties by the late Bandra industrialist and Padmashree award winner R T Doshi, the charm about city farming is the way waste is used to produce vegetables and fruits. Today, the method is being promoted by his son Sunil Doshi and his associate Vandana Shah, who are trying to spread awareness among corporates, residential societies and schools through workshops and practical experiments. “The basic objective is to dispose of organic waste in the same premises. The costs are so minimal, anybody can do it,” says Doshi.
You don’t need to be an agricultural scientist to grow vegetables in concrete. City farming requires a gunny sack or drum in which holes are drilled for aeration. The containers must be open at both ends in case of sacks, hence the base is cut open. The bottom half is filled tightly with biomass, preferably sugarcane residue (baggase). The remaining space is filled with compost and then normal garden soil. It’s now ready for sowing seeds. These bags are placed on the terrace or on balconies. Water them on and off, keep adding organic waste, and soon you can see the fruits of your labour.
“Most people are worried about leakage on their terrace floors. But by using compost that problem can be negated,” says Anil Ranglani, a city farm enthusiast and promoter of Daily Dump, a product aimed at creating compost at home. “It’s a bottoms up approach where waste is used to produce nutritious products.”
Another advantage of city farming is its role in decreasing food miles – the distance food travels from where it’s produced to the time it reaches the consumer. The more the food miles attached to a particular food, the less sustainable it is. On an intensive scale, say environmentalists, city farming helps reduce food miles. Above all, its practitioners vouch for the sheer joy that growing your own food gives. Four such Mumbaikars share their thrill at turning farmers in a concrete jungle.