Friday, May 17, 2013


Mindless urbanization world over is progressively shrinking the farming population which in turn is bound to have a telling effect on the food security of a country seriously. Manual labor is becoming a scarce commodity even in a country like India where unemployment is supposed to be a factor that adversely affects economic growth. This stark reality had dawned on many industrialized nations which were wise enough to come up with mechanized tools, gadgets and machinery which can efficiently replace man in many human activities including food production. Constraints on land for expanding cultivation in small countries like England, Japan and others make them more and more dependable on imported foods from far way places. Added to this the "Locavore" movement which is assuming serious tones during the last one decade is making the citizens aware of the pitfalls involved in bringing food from outside their locality and stressing the need for finding ways and means to generate food from local land and resources. Out of this arose the farmers market, urban gardens, gorilla gardening, sky gardens, terrace gardens, production cum sale outlets within the city etc which attempt to produce as much food as possible locally. The emerging threat of global warming that creates adverse conditions like drought, floods and other natural calamities also is a driving force for such local initiatives. Here is an example of a city in Canada which is planning vegetable gardens right in the middle of the city that will be of immense benefit for the citizens there.  

Amongst the towering buildings of downtown Calgary, volunteers are hoping to sprout some community-grown veggies. For the fifth year, Downtown Calgary, the Calgary Drop-In and Rehab Centre and the Calgary Food Policy Council utilized planters along 3 Street between 5 and 6 Avenue S.W. to plant a community garden. From spinach and swiss chard to potatoes and herbs, the food grown in the heart of the downtown will eventually be harvested and used at the Drop-In Centre . "This year we're changing up what we're planting — we're doing more root vegetables and herbs based on what the chef at the Drop-In has asked for," said Downtown Calgary executive director Maggie Schofield. "It's a great community builder." While the amount of food produced is often only enough for one meal for the clients at the Drop-In, Paul Hughes with the Calgary Food Policy Council said the garden is largely symbolic. "It's really not that much space, it doesn't produce a lot but it shows people that even in this challenging environment, things can grow right in the middle of the city."

Of course in a country like India where urban land costs are astronomically high, sparing land for gardening may be a far fetched idea with most land usurped by land mafias and real estate companies. Lakes are filled up illegally, public land is encroached upon and private lands belonging to citizens are fraudulently transferred for commercial purpose in collusion with government officials and politicians. How is it possible to put up gardens for raising vegetables in such cities? Fortunately still there are many towns and cities in the country with public parks where trees and ornamental plants are raised for providing adequate lung space and it is a relevant question why these parks cannot be converted into vegetable gardens over a period of time. Similarly citizens with land around their building should be encouraged to raise vegetables on their own, in stead of lawns and other plants with no food value, providing suitable tax incentives as reward for this noble cause. There are hundreds of vacant sites belonging to people who buy such properties as an investment and do not build houses for years together. Through suitable policy orchestration these places should be released for raising vegetable gardens without the ownership of the site being compromised in any way. There are millions of square meters of land adjoining railway tracks running through out the country and as they are all barren why not lease them to prospective "gardeners" for growing vegetables and fruits? Unless GoI thinks in such novel ways, country's food security will increasingly be compromised!


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