Greening Mumbai: Bringing Agriculture to the Rooftops of India’s Largest City
Mumbai, India ranks among the largest cities in the world, with a total metropolitan population of 21 million people. As one of the most densely populated cities in the world, Mumbai does not have much room to spare for agriculture. Undeterred by this challenge, Mumbai-based organization Fresh & Local is growing food on the flat rooftops of city buildings to provide fresh produce to the city’s residents.
Fresh & Local was established in 2010 by Adrienne Thadani, an organic food advocate and activist. The vision that drives the project is “an urban India where city residents have the resources and knowledge to use urban farming to transform the spaces around them.” According to Fresh & Local, urban gardens address many aspects of wellbeing in the city by “empowering city residents with the ability to grow their own food and medicine, creating active outdoor urban places, greening the city, improving air and water quality, increasing urban biodiversity and building community.”
With this vision in mind, in 2010, Thadani and her partners created their first rooftop garden atop a middle-income apartment building which produces food for residents while creating a green space where they socialize and work together. Since then, Fresh & Local has expanded to work with more than 2,000 individuals in Mumbai, Alibaug, Jaipur, and North Goa.
In their article entitled Deepening Food Democracy, Jill Carlson and M. Jahi Chappell highlight an innovative new take on democratic rule, known as deep democracy that is being used to address the problems in the food system. In theory, deep democracy is a system of governance in which all voices must be heard in order to fully understand and act upon a current issue. Instead of rule by a simple majority, deep democracy is accessible to everyone. It particularly ensures that marginalized and minority populations are involved and heard in the process of creating policy and implementing change. No issue, even the most divisive, is off-limits, according to the authors: in smaller, local contexts there is less emphasis on winning or losing, less expectation that everyone will agree. Instead, say Carlson and Chappell, the deep democracy formats allow for all citizens to share knowledge and experiences and engage in valuable compromises that result in the best scenario for the most people.
So while vertical farm concepts are to be applauded, their construction deserves much more.
New York has been the focus of intensive urban planning, especially in relation to urban farming. Fantastic concepts have been designed that create imagery of giant lush vertical forests, and amazing futuristic spaces, all of which have a very distinct focus on the US city. Perhaps because of its chic nature, stereotypically trendy population and dense population, New York has become something of a Mecca for urban farm concepts.
What some designers are missing in the maze of bright greens and blues of stylish concept images, is that for some time now, New Yorkers have been making the most of their extensive rooftop space and creating their own ground up rooftop farming systems.
Today, all over the developed world, important parts of the population are combating the economic crisis and in particular the food crisis by switching to production of fresh food. Produced at home, even in the smallest quantities, this “own fresh food” plays a considerable role in the well-being of families, in particular of children. Container gardening, vertical gardening, bottle towers, gardening on risers, balconies or windowsills, hydroponics, aquaponics, gardening in self-watering buckets, bags, sacks, crates, boxes, pots, guerilla gardening, edible forests, …, it are all different initiatives taken to alleviate hunger and malnutrition problems.
Day after day, messages and photos or videos on the internet confirm that people feel the need to produce their own fresh food, even in the smallest available space, e.g. a balcony on the 17th floor in the city. It is marvelous to notice that most of these “novice farmers or gardeners” proudly announce the successes of their first experiments and the swift progress made thanks to “lessons learned” and “exchange of information”.
Thanks to these personal initiatives of private gardening, the most vulnerable part of the population in developed countries is less affected by the food crisis, in particular by the high food prices.
Therefore, I feel the need to formulate a very simple question :
“If a large group of people in developed countries, affected by the actual crises and suffering from hunger or malnutrition because of the high food prices, is successfully setting up actions to produce an important part of their own food, why don’t we teach the billion hungry people, mostly living in developing countries, to do the same ?”.
The answer to this question seems to be a very difficult one.
My Chinese friends are telling me : “Don’t bring that hungry man a fish that he will eat in one day, but teach him how to fish and he will eat all year long“.
As Chinese is not my mother tongue, I translated it into : “Don’t bring the hungry people rations of nutritious food that they will eat in one day, but teach them how to grow their own fresh food and they will eat all year long”.
Purely by coincidence I found today these 3 publications confirming that food production has become a very hot topic all over the world. Please read :
Rooftop gardens to reduce refugees’ dependence on aid
Jillian Kestler-D’Amours The Electronic Intifada Dheisheh refugee camp
DHEISHEH REFUGEE CAMP, occupied West Bank (IPS) – Asmahan Ramadan and her family have taken thousands of photos on the rooftop of their home. Not of themselves, or of the overcrowded Dheisheh refugee camp they see every day, but of the vegetables that they grow.
“It’s like raising a child,” said Ramadan, smiling widely under the netting of the small greenhouse on the rooftop of her apartment building.
Tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplants, green beans and other vegetables hang from dozens of plants set in four rows of tubing. Thin, black pipes with adjustable spouts dotted along their length are used to water their garden twice daily. Ramadan, her husband and their five children look after the plants.
Quer umas verduras? Vá buscar lá no telhado. O estudante Marcos Victorino, da Faculdade Cantareira, está desenvolvendo um projeto de hortas sobre telhas em espaços pouco valorizados da metrópole, como lajes, quintais e terrenos de imóveis comerciais e residenciais. As hortas foram plantadas no Colégio Jardim São Paulo, na Zona Norte, e no próprio campus da Faculdade Cantareira, no bairro do Belém, ambos na capital paulista.
A produção da horta do colégio tem a participação dos alunos do ensino fundamental, e vai direto para a merenda das crianças. A primeira colheita da horta da faculdade deve acontecer entre esta semana e a semana que vem, e também está prevista para ser consumida localmente. Esse é um dos benefícios: os vegetais vão direto da terra para o prato.
Want some vegetables? Go get them on the roof. The student Mark Victorino, Cantareira College, is developing a project on garden tiles in the less valued spaces in the metropolitan area, on pavement and on commercial and residential properties. The gardens were planted in the Garden of St. Paul College and on campus of Cantareira College in the neighbourhood of Bethlehem, both in the state capital.
‘FOOD from the SKY’ is a world first – A pioneering Permaculture food growing and educational initiative on the roof top of Thornton’s Budgens supermarket, Crouch End, North London. ‘A new template for our future’.
‘To grow Life, Food and Community in our most cemented places and to bring the Heart back in our supermarkets!’
Food from the SKY is about inspiring and growing a healthy and sustainable relationship with food in cities and with our supermarkets.
Beirut is almost completely bereft of public green spaces. Satellite images show expanses of grey apartment and office blocks and a depressing lack of trees or any other kind of greenery. But architect and urban designer Wassim Melki has a plan to radically change all of this. Whilst finding space to create public parks, or even planting trees alongside roads is practically impossible, he suggests that the solution lies on rooftops.
“The idea of having a rooftop garden is not something new,” he told Green Prophet, “[but] the approach we took is a little bit different.”
Conjuring images of the legendary Hanging Gardens of Babylon, Melki’s company StudioInvisible propose to apply their project on an enormous scale. They plan to make everyone, “by force, if necessary”, plant a couple of trees on their rooftops, in a way that is “accessible, cheap and easily maintained.”
How green roofs could work in Beirut
Whilst most conventional rooftop gardens encounter many difficulties, such as issues of drainage and insulation, and the danger of rooftop trees being toppled in high winds, planting them in pots seems to be the most effective solution.
Home Farmers Club (Urban Container Gardening Enthusiasts)
Jojo ROM (Davao, The Philippines) is a gardener becoming more and more famous for his remarkable successes with URBAN CONTAINER GARDENING. Growing vegetables and fruit trees in bottles, pots, sacks, crates, etc., Jojo showed how easy it is to react upon the food crisis with simple tools.
Since many years, Jojo ROM produces all kinds of vegetables and fruits in his small backyard, but also on the balcony of the first floor and on the rooftop of his house.
He posted a series of interesting photos on Facebook (link above), showing that any family, not only those having a backyard, but also those living in an apartment or having a rooftop can easily produce a sufficient quantity of fresh food to alleviate hunger and malnutrition or to provide the necessary quantity of vitamins and mineral element for all the family members.
By re-posting these photos I hope to motivate people to start their own container garden at home. I am strongly convinced that URBAN CONTAINER GARDENING (UCG) in backyards, on balconies and rooftops is one of the best methods to fight the food crisis, having a direct positive effect on public health and even on annual income by avoiding the high food prizes. Jojo ROM’s nice work is highly commended.
It goes without saying that RURAL CONTAINER GARDENING (RCG) has the same positive effect on the standards of living of rural people.
I recommend to all fans of container gardening (UCG and RCG) to also try “bottle tower gardening“, as this technique has a lot of advantages, particularly production of a maximum of food in a minimal space (see : http://youtu.be/-uDbjZ9roEQ).
Wishing a lot of success to you all !
“Thank you Willem, I’m always inspired to go on with this project despite surging ocean of challenges. I also would like to congratulate everyone in this group for trying UCG. If we practice this at home we are in one bandwagon to battle hunger and doing the ecological sanitation starting from our own backyard through composting. If we do this we are no longer negotiating starting from zero ground. Government’s support to this project is always possible as long as we never forget our counterpart. Love, not leave agriculture, it is still the basic way of life… good food leads to good thinking and thanking about the resources provided to us by our creator. Great is the work of Willem who relentlessly supports the effort of the Filipinos.”
1. BALCONY GARDENING
Balcony gardening : vegetables in bottles on the balcony edge (Photo Jojo ROM)
Balcony gardening : eggplants and other vegetables in bottles (Photo Jojo ROM)
Let us read again attentively the former posting on this blog :
“WITH HIGH FOOD PRICES SET TO CONTINUE, UN AGENCIES ISSUE CALL TO ACTION” (New York, Oct 10 2011 10:05AM)
Let us first underscore the main issues :
A flagship report states that “small, import-dependent countries, particularly in Africa, are especially vulnerable to poverty and food insecurity“
The United Nations agencies working to combat hunger today called for action to ensure long-term food security.
Our efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of reducing the proportion of people who suffer from hunger by half in 2015 are challenged.
“Even if the MDG were achieved by 2015 some 600 million people in developing countries would still be undernourished …………….. and suffering from hunger on a daily basis which is never acceptable“.
Therefore, “The entire international community must act today and act forcefully to banish food insecurity from the planet“.
My first question is : “Who are these 600 million people suffering permanently from hunger?“.
No one will deny that most of them live in the developing world, not in developed countries. We can deduce from it that the entire international community should concentrate its forceful actions to banish food insecurity from that part of the planet, where “small, import-dependent countries, particularly in Africa, are especially vulnerable to poverty and food insecurity“, not from the developed countries where food is even wasted.
Before thinking at reducing food waste in developed countries “through education and policies“, before thinking at reducing “food losses in developing countries by boosting investment in the entire value chain, especially post-harvest processing“, before even thinking at engaging in the combat of “high and volatile food prices, major contributing factors in global food insecurity“, the entire international community and in particular the United Nations agencies concerned should focus on the daily situation of the most vulnerable and poorest of those 600 million hungry or malnourished people.
It is my strongest believe that such a focus would clearly show that investment in the large-scale agricultural sector (to enhance food production and to improve “food security in the long run“) is not the sector in which we should preferentially “act forcefully to banish food insecurity“. On the contrary, if the number of hungry people has still been growing from 850 million to an estimated 925 million in 2010, our actions should be focused in the first place on the hungry themselves, not on those who have to subsidized and supported to produce efforts to improve food security in the long run.
My second question is therefore: “Shall we continue to invest in large-scale industrial agriculture, aiming at enhancing food export potentials to stimulate the economy, “incentives for increased long-term investment in the agricultural sector“, or shall we really act forcefully to help the hungry people and their malnourished children to at least one decent daily meal ?“
With 925 million hungry people in 2010, the international community can not afford to consider actions that would possibly improve food security in the long run. Time has come to start as soon as possible actions that offer ALL THE HUNGRY PEOPLE, WHEREVER THEY LIVE, a chance to produce their own fresh food.
Maybe you belong to that group of people who think that such a world initiative is totally impossible ? Well, open your eyes widely and look at what is going on all over the world today. People who can’t afford the high food prices, the hungry of this world, are waiting no longer for the aid organizations to offer them food, they start growing fresh food themselves, in different ways, in different places, with minimal means, but with maximal results :
Allotment gardening (the Victory gardens of the hungry people during the two World Wars 1914-1918 and 1940-1945, but still a growing success at world scale, especially now).
Container gardening at home (in recycled, discarded pots, bottles, buckets, barrels, gutters, in a small yard, on the balcony, on the deck, …).
Sack gardening (multi-storey gardening like in some refugee camps).
Urban gardening (in open spaces, replacing weeds by vegetables, rooftop gardening, …).
Vertical gardening (on racks, on trellises, against walls, on stairs, in bottle towers, …).
Even guerilla gardening in the cities !
Denying this multitude of splendid successes booked by the hungry people themselves is refusing to recognize that inexpensive, but very efficient solutions are at hand to save the lives of millions of children and unfortunate people. Why aren’t we giving them a helping hand at almost no cost ? Why would we invest in the far future, if we can offer them a more decent life today ? Making people healthier and stronger is also a form of investment in the far future !
It suffices to look at the evidence of thousands of already published photos and videos, illustrating the efficiency of all these simple gardening methods, applied by the most vulnerable people without consistent help of the international community, to realize what the effect could be of a possible UN-supported program to offer every single hungry family a small kitchen garden (see my photo above). It should not remain a dream.
Let the UN agencies not offer them A FISH anymore, but teach them HOW TO FISH ! For food security can better be achieved by the hungry themselves, if only we decide to give them that helping hand.
Their nice dinner menu is figuring the gardening techniques mentioned above.
Green Roof Proves a Cost-Effective Way to Keep Water out of Sewers
ScienceDaily (May 7, 2011) — Green roofs like the one atop a Con Edison building in Long Island City, Queens can be a cost-effective way to keep water from running into sewer systems and causing overflows, Columbia University researchers have found.
The Con Edison Green Roof, which is home to 21,000 plants on a quarter acre of The Learning Center, retains 30 percent of the rainwater that falls on it. The plants then release the water as vapor, the researchers said in the study (http://www.coned.com/greenroofcolumbia).
If New York City’s 1 billion square feet of roofs were transformed into green roofs, it would be possible to keep more than 10 billion gallons of water a year out of the city sewer system, according to the study led by Stuart Gaffin, research scientist at Columbia’s Center for Climate Systems Research.
New York City, like other older urban centers, has a combined sewer system that carries storm water and wastewater. The system often reaches capacity during rains and must discharge a mix of storm water and sewage into New York Harbor, the Hudson River, the East River and other waterways.
A blooming rooftop garden, or a share in a local CSA. Individual actions add up to change for the better in our fragile world.
A far-off cry in the wind, that’s what the vital issue of climate change has become. Legislation imposing change on carbon-emitting industry drags. American politicians even argue that the U.S. can’t afford to protect the environment – a short-sighted view that will inevitably create a frightening debt to nature. Saving the planet is no longer sexy. The well-fed have turned their attention to problems like obesity and health, issues that hit them where it hurts personally, and pay mere lip service to the world hunger crisis.
Recent innovations in urban agriculture production technologies promote space and waste management. Examples are vertical gardens that make use of recycled sacks or biodegradable cement bags, and rooftop gardens that harvest and treat household wastewater.
Urban farming activities are being brought to school gardens and extension schools that provide urban farmers and students with materials and technical assistance.
“There is increasing recognition of the urbanization of the world and the role that urban and peri-urban agriculture plays to provide food supplies for the population that is most vulnerable in cities,” Daniel Gustafson, Director of Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Liaison Office for North America told MediaGlobal.
Urban growth has been tightly linked with the rise of slum population. In sub-Saharan Africa, the swelling of urban population with migrants displaced from conflict and natural disasters has pushed many people to the slums, which is now 62 percent of its urban populace.
Slum dwellers have restricted access to adequate and safe food, water, sanitation, employment, and education. Dependence on consumer products is further aggravated by the rising cost of food and limited, often nonexistent, economic resources to neither produce nor purchase it.