- The potential of Urban farming in alleviating food insecurity from cities requires holistic policy support from governments.
- Urban farming or urban agriculture refers to the practice of growing plants and raising animals for human consumption within cities and suburbs.
- According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, Urban farming contributes to food security, livelihood generation, poverty alleviation and increased resilience of cities to climate change.
Methods of Urban Farming
- Vertical farming refers to growing crops in vertically stacked layers to save space. They are in controlled, indoor environments where horticulturalists can maintain the ideal temperature, light, water, and nutrients.
- Hydroponics is a method of growing plants without soil, in a water based nutrient solution. It allows for faster growth and higher yields than traditional soil-based growing systems.
- Aquaponics is a combination of both Aquaculture and Hydroponics. Here, fish waste provides organic food for plants and plants naturally filter the water, which is used to replenish the fish tank.
- Aeroponics is a method of growing plants without soil, where roots are suspended in air and irrigated with a nutrient-dense mist.
- Container farming is the process of growing plants in shipping containers instead of planting them in the ground. This type of gardening allows for easier monitoring of moisture, temperature, and sunlight.
- Rooftop Gardening is essentially cultivating food on the rooftop of a building, residential complex, commercial spaces, etc.
- In India, some 60 percent of Delhi’s demand for meat, 25 per cent of its milk and 15 per cent of its vegetable needs are met through urban farming.
- In India, 50 per cent of women and children in urban areas are anemic due to lack of adequate nutrition.
- Compared to commercial farming, hydroponics requires 90 per cent less water, which can be reused.
Success stories in India/ State Models / State Initiatives
- In 2012 Kerala launched a Vegetable development programme to encourage gardening in houses, schools, government and private institutions. It also offered subsidies and support for eco-friendly inputs, irrigation, compost and biogas plants.
- According to Kerala State Planning Board, vegetable production rose from 825,000 tons in 2011-12 to 1.3 million tons in 2014-15.
- In 2014, 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.
- Since 2021, Bihar encourages terrace gardening in five smart cities through subsidy for input cost.
Challenges to Urban Farming
- There is also a need to make urban agriculture viable. Farming in cramped urban spaces marred by water scarcity and pollution is not easy.
- Studies show that excessive use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides in urban farms can lower produce and affect soil quality.
- There are food safety concerns regarding the use of wastewater and organic material in urban agriculture
- There also exists the threat of spread of diseases and lowered yields.
- There is a need to incorporate Urban Agriculture into Urban Land use planning for achieving food security.
- Skill development programmes for lower-income groups in urban areas offer them livelihood opportunities in gardening, food processing, etc.
- Public institutions and workspaces could be encouraged to create green corners in their premises by growing their own food.