Urban farming at home

Monday, 14. January 2013

Urban farming workshop photo 5A two day workshop on Urban Farming at Home was organized by IYCN in collaboration with Nourish Organics, Initiatives of Change (IofC),, I Say Organic, EnvirohealthMatters and Shristi at the Kali Mandir Complex, Chittaranjan Park, New Delhi on 15 and 16 December, 2012.

The main objective of the workshop was to get young people, residents, gardeners and the general public connecting and learning about practising chemical and toxic free gardening using creative methods in their homes and community spaces within the urban context.

The workshop was designed using a participatory approach with audio visual aids, supported by inputs, by experts and facilitators.

Urban farming workshop photoA farmers market showcasing their products and services was also organized in parallel to the workshop for bringing organic produce in the front end of the supply chain, especially for the community. There were six retailers who participated and were together able to showcase to visitors that a complete range of organic products is easily available in the city, as opposed to the common perception.

The event experienced a footfall of 60 people on a daily basis, with 20 participants for the workshop.

The workshop was inaugurated by Dr A Mukherjee, President KMS and Advisor (Shristi). He touched upon the efforts put in by him as an individual as well as by the management for transforming an infertile piece of land to its present lush green state. The community in CR Park and local administration have played a significant role in the transformation of the space.

The workshop began with the organizers introducing their organization and their past activities. Dr (Mrs) Jain, a naturopath, introduced the concept of home vegetables and medicinal plants, which act as detoxifying agents. It was followed by a practical demonstration session by Ritu Mathur. Ritu went into the details of how  organic food can be produced. She explained ways in which nutritious soil can be prepared in natural ways, and she also explained the process of how symbiotic species can be grown together, and how plants can be grown according to season and soil.

The next session involved a guided tour of the decentralized waste management system at the premises by Sh Parveen of IYCN, who described the compost process using bio-mechanized means.

The proceedings of the day were summarized by Rishabh Khanna, lead facilitator of the event.

Urban farming workshop photo 3The second day saw the inaugural session addressed by Ashmeet Kapoor, founder of I Say Organic, delivering a talk on the background of his initiative of making organic food affordable and accessible. The next session was facilitated by Ms Seema Jijodia, owner of Nourish Organics, on the topic of marketing organics for an urban lifestyle. The talk was followed by a Question and Answer session. The final session before lunch was delivered by Dr Robert Verkerk on Global perspective on organic and natural ways of growing food, with emphasis on the food chain and the impact of chemicals on human health. He also touched upon the risk estimates, both individual as well as societal, for deaths due to health related diseases as compared to other causes. The talk was well supported by success stories in Africa, where thousands of acres have been managed through natural farming over years.

The post lunch session on the second day saw renowned activist and founder of Navdanya, Dr Vandana Shiva, speak and elaborate on the history of GM (genetically modified) seeds , the anti-GMO ( Genetically modified organisims) movement in India and the role different agencies played till date. She outlined the ill effects of GM crops and stressed the need to adopt organic locally available seeds. She advocated the idea of creating seed banks in different locations in the country to counter the imports of foreign seeds.

Urban farming workshop photo 4In addition to the above, the concluding session of the two day event was facilitated by Sh Ajay Mahajan of Vividhara, who has been active in promoting and marketing organic produce sourced from the mountains of Uttarakhand as well as other hilly states. Mr Mahajan also demonstrated the right way of planting samplings, showing the necessary stages of care required.

The workshop was then concluded with a vote of thanks by Rishabh Khanna and Pinaki Dasgupta.

The major outcomes of the workshop were as follows:

1) Establishment of a community seed bank in CR Park, so that people are able to get organic seeds at a nominal prices
2) To continue to hold similar workshops in other places
3) Making organic and natural ways of growing food mainstream
4) Continue to reach to more people and stakeholders and build trust within the community about organic ways of growing food 
5) To develop training on bio control for farmers in India.