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Urban home gardens – healthy use of urban spaces

Urban areas are fast becoming monotonous concrete jungles. The entire focus is on modernization with disregard for preserving traditional and culturally unique landscapes.

Bangalore is caught in this frenzy too. In fact, the city is growing more rapidly than many other cities, owing to its favourable climate, infrastructure facilities, and potential to grow in all directions. However, Bangalore is still recognized as a garden city. It is well endowed with state maintained gardens in the middle of the city, residential layouts where parks are an integral part.

To protect and nurture the garden culture which is still alive in some pockets and help citizens grow their own healthy vegetables, AME Foundation, an organisation promoting ecological agriculture in Bangalore, took some initiatives. With the support of Dr. Vishwanath, in 2007, training programmes were organized for citizens in growing vegetables and greens in eco friendly ways in available spaces – roof tops, backyards or front yards and balconies. These one-day training programmes help citizens learn the art of growing vegetables, in a practical way. Till now, more than 500 citizens have been trained in organic terrace gardens, majority of whom are youngsters from the IT sector and keen on making gardening a hobby.

AMEF’s journey into terrace gardening has its beginnings in promoting peri-urban agriculture initiatives. In the year 2006, AMEF as the focal agency in Bangalore promoted peri urban agriculture and urban horticulture as part of RUAF’s Cities for Future programme. Along with IWMI, AMEF facilitated multi stakeholder processes and jointly undertook exploratory studies. Not satisfied with just studies and surveys, pragmatic capacity building programmes on home gardens were conceived.

Resident associations were identified and awareness campaigns conducted. Some of them were keen to convert bio degradable kitchen wastes into manure too. Some citizens took lead sharing their own experiences with others. Efforts were also made to train women SHGs on nurseries. Later, in collaboration with FAO-Washington, AMEF tested different media suitable for promoting terrace gardens.

Gaining momentum

Importance of growing vegetables by urban citizens was brought to the attention of town planners in few public meetings. Promotional efforts were made through participation in horticultural shows and maintaining a demo site on the roof top of its office building.

Many of the youngsters who got trained brought new energy in strengthening the e-group interactions. Some of them have started offering courses on their own in select locations.

Pioneered by Dr. Vishwanath, some of these citizens, by their sheer enthusiasm and drive along with few likeminded individuals have gone several steps forward by organising themselves as Garden City Farmers Group. The group which transformed into a Trust organized several awareness workshops in the City. A public event titled “Oota from your Thota” which means ‘food from your garden’ is a tremendous success. The event, organized at a regular basis, has transformed into a platform for having meaningful interactions and serving as a market place for all the eco-friendly products under one roof. Citizen Matters is one another initiative taken up by the group for sharing news and information across garden enthusiasts.

K V S Prasad

Executive Director, AME Foundation and Chief Editor, LEISA India
Email: leisaindia@yahoo.co.in