Urban Farming in India

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    • Recently, the “Draft Citizen’s Policy for Urban Agriculture in Delhi” was submitted to the Delhi government by Delhi-based research non-profit People’s Resource Centre.

    More about the Policy

    • Aim:
      • The policy aims to provide a holistic framework for urban farming
    • Urban Agriculture in Delhi:
      • Some 60 percent of Delhi’s demand for meat is fulfilled by city-grown produce, as is 25 percent of its milk and 15 percent of its vegetable needs
      • Yet policies on land use and farming in the National Capital do not acknowledge the role of cultivation and distribution of food in urban areas, says the draft policy.
    • Recommendations:
      • It recommends building on existing practices, promoting residential and community farming through rooftop and kitchen gardens, allocating vacant land for agricultural use, creating a market, developing policies for animal rearing and spreading awareness.

    Significance

    • Food security:
      • Issues like rapid urbanisation, population explosion and climate change increases the risk of food shortage.
      • These recommendations are crucial to ensure food security for urban communities. This benefit has long been highlighted in arguments for urban farming.
    • Fulfilling nutrition demand:
      • 2010 report by M S Swaminathan Research Foundation, Chennai, notes that 50 percent of women and children in urban areas are anaemic due to lack of adequate nutrition. 
      • The study also recommends urban agriculture.
    • Poverty alleviation:
      • Globally, in 2020, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization acknowledged that urban and periurban farming can contribute to local food and nutritional needs, enable jobs and reduce poverty.

    Initiatives in India

    • In India, urban farming has seen some traction across states, prompting governments to introduce small-scale initiatives to promote the practice. 
    • Pune:
      • In 2008, Pune’s civic administration launched a city farming project to train and encourage people to take up farming on allocated land.
    • Kerala:
      • State of Kerala had been food dependent until 2012 after which the state government launched a vegetable development programme to encourage gardening in houses, schools, government and private institutions.
      • It also offered subsidy and support for eco-friendly inputs, irrigation, compost and biogas plants. 
      • According to Kerala State Planning Board, vegetable production rose from 825,000 tonnes in 2011-12 to 1.3 million tonnes in 2014-15.
    • Tamil Nadu:
      • Similarly, in 2014, the Tamil Nadu government introduced a “do-it-yourself” kit for city dwellers to grow vegetables on rooftops, houses and apartment buildings under its Urban Horticulture Development Scheme. 
    • Bihar:
      • Since 2021, Bihar encourages terrace gardening in five smart cities through subsidy for input cost.

    Challenges

    • Lack of policy:
      • While such initiatives are welcome, their impact cannot be expected to be widespread without a strong policy for urban farming. 
      • For instance, Pune’s 2008 initiative failed to take off due to poor interest from people and the government.
    • Lack of recognition:
      • Even the recently released draft Master Plan of Delhi for 2041, does not acknowledge the role of the practice. 
        • It aims to divide 8,000 hectares of land along the Yamuna into two sub-zones and restrict human activity or settlement in areas directly adjacent to the river.
        • However, several communities on the floodplains practise urban farming. 
        • According to critics, if this draft master plan comes into practice, informal settlements like Chilla Khadar and Bela Estate will lose the agricultural land,
    • Lack of parallel benefits:
      • Farmers cannot avail benefits under any agricultural schemes such as crop insurance.
    • Issue of rapid development:
      • Rapid development is also a hindrance in continuing with existing practics. 

    Suggestions & way ahead

    • Practicing innovative techniques like Hydroponics:
      • Studies show that excessive use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides in urban farms can lower produce and soil quality. 
      • However, urban farmers believe such hurdles can be overcome with innovative techniques.
        • Hydroponics, a method of soilless farming that uses nutrient solutions to sustain plants, offers a cleaner approach.
        • Compared to commercial farming, hydroponics requires 90 per cent lesser water, which can be reused. 
        • Although such initiatives are still niche and at a nascent stage, one can grow more plants in the space given.
    •  Small-scale farming – cushion in crisis:
      • Kitchen gardening or small-scale community farming cannot sustain the large population, but can act as a cushion to protect urban residents from inflation, vulnerabilities of weather or crises such as COVID-19. 
      • Even though, such innovations, cannot match the scale of rural agriculture, before more villages become urban, early interventions can result in a sustainable system.
    • Recognition & funding:
      • There is a need to bring in more institutional clarity and also multi-disciplinary expertise to solve such challenges. 
      • To promote urban farming, governments must recognise informal practices and link them with agricultural schemes.

    Source: DTE