To save some money for education and health care, St Catherine’s Home, an orphanage in Andheri (West), has turned organic. With help from two NGOs – Clean Planet and Society for Promotion of Research, Outdoors, Urbanity, Training and Social Welfare (Sprouts) – the 350 girls residing at the orphanage are now growing their veggies and eating it too.
The urban farming project – the brainchild of Savitha Rao, founder, Clean Planet – began in the summer of 2013 with the planting of different vegetables in the 2,000 square foot bare plot.
Rao said she had initially visited a municipal school to explain urban farming to schoolchildren, but she was told that various approvals were required. After doing several rounds of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), she found it difficult to get the idea across.
“Eventually, I came across St Catherine’s Home, an orphanage spread across 10 acres. They have a beautiful campus, which would be favourable for growing vegetables. We planted saplings of tomatoes, eggplants, lady fingers, sweet potatoes, mint, coriander, chillies and spinach among other vegetables, which grew ready for consumption within a span of a few months,” said Rao.
Anand Pendharkar, NGO Sprouts, said, “The girls, like most children, were hesitant to eat vegetables from the market. But when they began to nurture the vegetables, there was a different kind of attachment and curiosity towards nature.”
“We noticed that plants grow well when children are around them. Within a few months, we had a variety of fresh vegetables that were not only a source of nutrition, but also a beautiful learning experience for children,” said Sister Shanti from the orphanage, who involved the children in the project.