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Cow Pats

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Waste of ducks, chickens, pigs, cows, humans, have all been traditionally used in Asian towns and cities to grow food. Asians are learning from their past for food security in the future.

Regarded as one of the densest large cities in the world, it produces within its boundaries two-thirds of the poultry and close to half of the vegetables eaten by its citizens and visitors. All the nutrients taken to produce the food are returned back to the city food ecosystem as the duck and chicken waste are used as fertilisers for the growing of vegetables.

The city farms between the high rise buildings, in its suburban areas and the surrounding seas. Citizens of Singapore consuming 70 kg per capita per year are self-reliant in the meat supply. Since 1974, mushrooms have been grown on multistory stacking shelves using composts from agricultural waste such as banana leaves and straw. Currently only 5 per cent of the 1,000 tonnes of vegetables eaten here daily are grown locally. Malaysia supplies 45 per cent of the demand, while the rest comes from Thailand, Indonesia, Australia and even far away Europe.

What does the city need to grow its own food? Just a little water, no soil. Singapore's first commercial aeroponics farm has arrived. Pioneers in this this farm use aeroponics technology to grow vegetables.

Aeroponics has been tipped as one of the most appropriate technologies for urban agriculture and microfarming in warm climates.

The early people of Manila were self-reliant in food. They used to fish and grow food crops along banks of the river, evidence of the earliest forms of urban agriculture. Today, nearly one-third of children in Metro Manila are underweight and one-fifth have stunted growth and are suffering due to undernutrition. Growing vegetable crops in recycled tin or plastic containers placed in the yard, on windowsills, and on rooftops is helping address undernutrition.

UA gives the city a chance to close the ecosystem loop and move towards sustainable cities

Jakarta, the capital city of Indonesia houses almost 10 million people. Unable to feed the city, most of the food consumed is imported from the satellite cities. Urban farming spread quickly as a result of this crisis. Urban agriculture provides workers, landowners and other people involved, with a small but significant income to support families at home, daily expenses as well as expenses like school fees. Vegetables like spinach, lettuce and cabbage are sown and all crops are harvested. Homegardens (kitchen, dooryard or backyard gardens) are commonly found in many parts of Indonesia. It typically has a very high diversity of useful plants and animals. These multi crop household gardens produce three times the money value per unit of land as three-crop rice farming.

In India, human waste and wastewater reuse in agriculture is an age-old tradition. West Bengal has 279 wastewater fed farms on an area of 4000 hectares, supplying more than 13,000 tonnes of fish per year. It is perhaps one of the largest wastewater fed fish farming systems in the world. This form of farming was started way back during Second World War and even today supplies a city with more than 14 million people their daily demand for fish at the same time supports the livelihoods of more than 30,000 people. The pond farms different species of fish from local species rohu, catla to exotic fishes and freshwater prawns as well. The city sewage is first treated through different methods developed by the fishermen over the years. Fish yields from wastewater ponds are 2-4 times higher than those from ordinary fish. The city gets its fish supply, the city sewage gets solved, recovery of nutrients that would otherwise have been lost in wastewater.

Mumbai city farmer, Dr R T Doshi, began experimenting with food production on the terrace of his bungalow in Mumbai after retiring at the age of 61. He has perfected a method of growing fruits and vegetables for domestic consumption, which involves relatively low labour input, organic production methods and very high yields. Today he grows vegetables, pulses, fruits and cereals and has raised mango, fig and guava plants and also harvested bananas and sugarcane on his terrace farm. The method involves planting in polyethylene bags or 45 gallon drums with the bottoms stuffed with biomass, such as sugarcane stocks from sugarcane juice vendors (something that normally goes to waste). One quarter of the bag is then filled with compost and the remainder with soil. The system is suitable for any scale of operation in any open space. His methods have been adopted throughout Mumbai and also in neighbouring cities, gardens, and improving local environments, family nutrition and public health overall.

Srinagar’s Dal lake houses acres of lotus plants in full bloom across its wetland ecosystem. It is not just a beautiful flower but also food. Lotus is harvested for its stems called nadru which are eaten all round the year. The lake is famous for its floating gardens that carry out vegetable farming. The gardens have been believed to have existed over several generations and have been the source of food for the city and source of livelihood for the urban farmers.

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Dr R T Doshi at his terrace farm

Fish produced from city sewage in Kolkata

It is a type of water culture where weed rafts of different lengths floating on the lake are covered with thick layers of soil. The weed, over a period of time, decomposes to function as the fertiliser for the vegetables to be grown in the floating gardens including tomato, pumpkin, cucumber, radish and lots of other vegetables. Although the practice has been there for many years, today when there is high militancy in the area, vegetable or lotus farming is the only choice of income for many in the city.


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