The book from Auroville promises to teach you all about urban food farming.
It is therapeutic and a great conversation starter. As Indian cities wake up to the idea of the aroma of mint and tulsi grown fresh at home, a book from Auroville promises to teach you all the know-how of urban food farming, whether you have a spare terrace or just a windowsill.
‘My Pumpkin Roof: How to grow your own urban food garden’ published by Auroville Consulting and Earthcare Books is a collaborative effort by Nafeesa Usman, Urvashi Devidayal, Malvika Pathak and Martin Scherfler. It came about in the wake of using Auroville as a learning ground for urban food farming.
Urban food farming is a growing movement in North America and Europe, says Mr. Scherfler of Auroville Consulting. It has developed into what is termed as ‘productive landscaping’ as more areas are tapped for producing food.
“Food has a fundamental connection with us. It is something we put into our bodies. Through urban farming, there is some kind of food sovereignty,” says Mr. Scherfler. Food sovereignty is the knowledge and control of where the food has come from, and what has been used in production. This means you can be assured that the vegetables you have grown are chemical-free and fresh.
Urban farming can also revive vegetable biodiversity, says Mr. Scherfler. Industrialised production requires batches of a vegetable to be of the same size, shape and variety, while one is free to experiment in their garden.
Unlike traditional farmers who are dependent on their produce for their livelihood, urban farmers can afford to learn through mistakes.
Good for environment
With industrialised production of food, and the setting up of the sewerage system, there was a disruption in the natural cycle of producing and consuming food as well as nutrient supply to agriculture.
“Earlier, food production was integrated into each town. Urban farming encourages one to use biodegradable waste as fertiliser, thus reducing its flow into landfills. In fact, biodegradable waste makes up 70 percent of landfills,” says Mr. Scherfler. Urban farming also means reduced food waste during transportation.
Urban food farming must be seen as being complementary to traditional farming, says Mr. Scherfler. Inputs including seeds and grains come from farmlands. Urban farming also has restrictions on what can be grown. “After all, you cannot grow a mango tree on your roof. Traditional farming or urban farming alone cannot feed. Thus it will be a collaborative process of food production,” he says. In a positive, it will also make people respect and appreciate the hard work put in by farmers, he adds.
The government can step in the role of supplier of equipment, soil and other inputs to encourage more people to take up urban farming, he says. Puducherry has potential to grow in urban farming, thanks to a large number of flat roofs.
Auroville Consulting is also planning a 9-day programme in June for high school children, ‘Camp Auroville’, where the participants will design and implement a small urban farm.