Three years ago, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) set out on a green mission to convert a one-acre barren land on the campus of a medical research facility in Navi Mumbai into an organic farm. The once-barren plot is now grows herbs, vegetables plants and fruit trees, which are fed to patients undergoing treatment at the facility. This urban farm is also home to more than 80 species of birds and 25 species of butterflies and moths.
The NGO, Green Souls, has ever since been promoting urban farming to city dwellers, who are encouraged to grow food on building terraces, balconies and small plots of land.
In 2013, Green Souls created an urban farm at Our Lady’s Home for Boys, an orphanage in Dadar. The group trains boys from the orphanage to segregate and use their kitchen and garden waste to create compost, which can be used to organically grow their own vegetables and fruits.
“On a 5,000 sqft rooftop area at Our Lady’s Home for Boys, we installed 300 pots with saplings using recycled paint containers and generated more than four tonnes of compost on the 3,000 sqft backyard area, over the past three years,” said Manasvini Tyagi, member, Green Souls. The group conducts regular workshops at Navi Mumbai and Dadar by teaching participants to grow their own food without using chemical fertilisers.
“Our vision is to continue growing pesticide-free, organic food for children undergoing medical treatment and also providing the children and their families a centre to learn the techniques of urban farming,” said Julius Rego, another member of the NGO.
A host of nutritious vegetables such as brinjal, cabbage, cauliflower and spinach, among others, are grown at the urban farm in Navi Mumbai, said Tyagi, adding, “The organic vegetables grown at this farm have benefitted patients as they provide them with the required vitamins and also boosts their immunity levels.”
The patients availing treatment at this medical facility said they have benefitted from the work done by Green Souls. Damodar Bhatkar, a resident of Akola district in Maharashtra, whose 12-year-old son is undergoing treatment for a brain tumour at the medical facility, said, “The not-for-profit, through its project, has provided the medical facility fresh organic vegetables that are grown without using chemical fertilisers. My son and I have spent many mornings learning about urban farming. It has been a therapeutic experience for us.”
Green Souls also conducts workshops on nutrition, biodiversity and ecosystems at 35 schools, including Don Bosco International School, Matunga and American School of Bombay, Bandra-Kurla Complex, among other schools in Mumbai and Navi Mumbai. “Thanks to Green Souls, the children have learnt how to practice farming and gardening activities amidst the challenges a city like Mumbai, which lacks open spaces, poses,” said Father Savio Silveira from Don Bosco International School.