Pact with Pusa institute for Delhi’s urban farming plan

Updated on Mar 28, 2022 05:10 AM IST

Officials said the Delhi government will also organise a conference with experts and NGOs working in the field of urban farming on April 25, following which training workshops are set to commence.

Indra Mani from the Centre of Protected Cultivation Technology at IARI says that urban farming has slowly been gaining traction over the last decade to ensure optimum utilisation of space. (Representational image/REUTERS FILE)
Indra Mani from the Centre of Protected Cultivation Technology at IARI says that urban farming has slowly been gaining traction over the last decade to ensure optimum utilisation of space. (Representational image/REUTERS FILE)
By, New Delhi

The Delhi government will soon sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Indian Agriculture Research Institute (IARI) in Pusa to help train women across the city in urban farming over the next two years, an ambitious plan with which the state government expects to create 25,000 ‘green jobs’, officials aware of the matter said.

The plan was first announced by Delhi environment minister on March 7. It was also mentioned by deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia when he presented the Delhi Budget for 2022-23 on Saturday.

Officials said the Delhi government will also organise a conference with experts and NGOs working in the field of urban farming on April 25, following which training workshops are set to commence.

“The aim is to cover all municipal wards and IARI, along with experts from NGOs could be roped in to provide training to RWAs in each ward. Once this training is imparted, they (the trainees) will be asked to assist others in their neighbourhood. A common helpline number will also be set up through which people can procure items such as manure, seeds, soil and other essential items,” a senior Delhi government official said.

Rai on March 7 had also announced the formation a ward-level environment committee, comprising of locals, RWA members and experts, which will assist in taking the initiative forward. “People can also reach out to these committees to understand urban farming better,” Rai said.

Indra Mani from the Centre of Protected Cultivation Technology at IARI says that urban farming has slowly been gaining traction over the last decade to ensure optimum utilisation of space.

“We realised the need for urban farming to be even greater during the pandemic and the aim will be to teach people, particularly housewives on how vegetables can be grown on rooftops by using simple farming techniques. There is a commercial scope to this as well and techniques such as hydroponic or aeroponic farming, which are still relatively unknown to the common man, are also going to be taught. Depending on the kind of space on people’s rooftops or terrace, different methods could be used, but the goal is to provide fresh produce and vegetables to people more easily,” said Mani.

Experts say urban farming can be done using hydroponic techniques (soil-less farming), aeroponic farming (soil-less farming and reduced water dependence) or a simpler technique called container farming where soil is used in narrow horizontal strips of wood.

GV Ramanjaneyulu, executive director at the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture in Hyderabad, where the trend or urban or rooftop farming is catching up quickly, says leafy vegetables are the easiest to grow. He recommends carrying out container farming by laying down a thin protecting film on the ground on which a layer of the soil can be laid. “The sides are generally covered by wood to prevent the wood from coming out. This has a dual effect. It keeps the roof cool and vegetables can be grown easily and different varieties can be grown together,” he says, stating the soil should be at least six inches deep and five to six hours of direct sunlight was recommended for anyone to carry out rooftop farming.

Plants such as radishes, lettuce and spinach may only take a month’s time from being sown to be ready, while carrots roughly take 45 days.

Umendra Dutt, a member of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and executive director of the Kheti Virasat Mission in Punjab says Delhi receives adequate sunlight throughout the year, making rooftop farming a viable and pesticide-free option, stressing that households carrying it out across the world are also cutting down waste generation. “Almost the entirety of the kitchen waste can then be composed. Even items like paper are utilised to produce manure and ultimately, not only is one getting fresh produce but only non-biodegradable items like plastic, metals and glass are being discarded from the household. With the right expertise, this trend can catch up quickly,” says Dutt, while also suggesting the government to build dedicated pockets in parks around the city for kitchen farming.

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