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2. Prize Hands-on Project on Sustainability: Urban Agriculture in India

Read the future scenarios from the group ‘Nagri-Agri’ on the topic of urban agriculture in India.

from Anjali Sinha (India) and Dilip Kumbham (India)

Trend Scenario for India 2033: “No awakening from the slumber”

Radio Jockey (RJ): “Good Morning Mumbai! I am Prabha and I love you all Mumbaikars” “Today is 25th October 2030, Friday and I bring to you the local news at Eleven. We start with the health news - a special study shows that an average of 70% of the school going children is wearing glasses in Mumbai. We have Dr. Nayan Sukh from Jagjivan Ram Hospital, in our studio. Doctor, welcome to our show. Sir, can you tell us why Mumbai has 70% of its children with poor eyesight?

Doctor: “Yes, it is because of lack of nutrition in children. The children in Mumbai are consuming mostly fast food and processed food, rather than fresh food. The processed food is typically low in nutrition. Children are averse to eating vegetables and fruits, which are generally not affordable by the middle class. The poor people suffer the most, but even those who can afford are suffering because the fresh produce is mostly grown with high pesticides. Fresh produce is a very important component of our diet, and it must not be neglected. If only we had progressed the way Mangalore has, things would have been different!”

RJ Prabha: “Thank you doctor. That was Doctor Nayan Sukh stressing on the importance of fresh produce in a nutritious diet. We move on to the top news today –

Residents of Naval Dockyard Civilian Housing Colony are protesting against the dumping of solid waste at the compost plant in Kanjur Marg. Our correspondent Jyoti is currently talking live with the residents.”

Correspondent Jyoti: “Good Morning Prabha and Good Morning listeners! Prabha, the situation here is not good. The residents are very angry; we will talk with Shoba, one of the residents here. What are the reasons for your protest?”

Resident Shobha: “We are opposing the procedure of dumping waste in the plant for 45 days and then converting it into compost. We wanted the MCGM, the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai to follow the old practice of dumping waste at the dumping yard.”

Correspondent Jyoti: “But where is the land for dumping yard? City has developed and stretched to its full potential already!”

Resident Shoba: “We don’t know MCGM should find land for it. It’s not my problem; foul smell is an irritant for us. We cannot come outside in the morning and evening. This is a breeding ground for mosquitoes causing deadly diseases.”

RJ Prabha: “Thank you Jyoti. We have a guest in our studio Professor Dikshith, an expert in environmental management. Good morning Professor. Professor, why is this happening in our city?”

Prof. Dikshith: “This is an expected problem, as a city, we never looked into the seriousness of waste management and today the situation is beyond rectification. We must always have an integrated approach towards environmental challenges. Years ago, this compost plant was started with an aim to consume the biodegradable municipal solid waste. However, since there is no agricultural activity in Mumbai, and MCGM not being allowed to sell the compost outside Mumbai, there are no more funds available for the compost plant and today it has turned into a dumping yard. There is no political will to solve this problem. The current government blames the earlier government for this”.

RJ Prabha: “Is urban agriculture is still practical in Mumbai?”

Prof. Dikisht: “The rapid development we have witnessed in last 4 decades has made India a super power in technology and manufacturing and Mumbai has been the center of this development. Mumbai was busy in industrial development and creating a concrete jungle rather than adopting sustainable development measures. Urban agriculture and waste management was totally neglected.”

RJ Prabha: “Thank you Professor. We will now move to next news. The rising food prices have touched a new high. Let’s check how the common man is affected by it. We have correspondent Rupa in the Vashi local vegetable market. Hi Rupa!”

Correspondent Rupa: “Hi Prabha! The market is busy as usual. I will try to talk with one of the consumers here. Sir please can I have few minutes? Can you comment on the increasing prices?”

Consumer: “I came here to purchase my weekly vegetables and fruits but after checking the prices I feel that I will have to cut back my eating out and weekend travel to compensate for this rising prices. If an average middle class person is impacted like this, I really don’t know how the poor people are managing. We need to do something, this has to change.”

RJ Prabha: “Thank you Rupa. We have also received the news that a case has been filed against the local food agent on food hoarding charges. It is also being said that he has links with the mafia and is being supported by the underworld. We have the alleged food agent, Mr. Ravan live on radio. Mr. Ravan, first of all, please tell us why we need agents in controlling the food produce market?”

Food agent Ravan: “The farmer produces the food and brings to the local village market, we buy from them, store it and transport to the different local markets in the cities.”

RJ Prabha: “But you are charged with food hoarding allegations. The price which the consumer is paying is not reaching the farmers.”

Food agent Ravan: “Those allegations are politically motivated, this happens every year when we have elections. The prices of real estate and fuel are very high in Mumbai; this gets reflected in the food prices because storage and transportation costs are added to it.”

RJ Prabha: “Some of the food experts say that agents create false demand in food by hoarding - that’s why the sudden increase in food prices.”

Food agent Ravan: “Let them do my work, and then say what we do is right or wrong?”

RJ Prabha: “So you agree that some hoarding is done?”

Food agent Ravan: “I don’t want to say anything more, Mumbai works like this”

RJ Prabha: “That was Ravan who is vehemently denying the charges against him. Now, we talk to Mr. Adin, the food expert. Hi Adin, what are your views on the rising prices and how do we address this problem?”

Food expert Adin: “Hi, food prices have been rising continuously in Mumbai over the last decades, you name a product, and its price rise has been steep. We tried to solve this problem by introducing processed food and subsidized food for urban poor. Both have practical problems in implementation. We need to focus on urban agriculture, the way Mangalore has done.”

RJ Prabha: “Thank you Adin. Mangalore has become a hot topic of discussion not only in the country, but also across the whole world. Now before we end the morning news – I would like to remind you about the live telecast of the visit of the American President to the HPS School in Mangalore. Do remember to tune in to Radio Mumbai at 6:00 pm today.

Till then keep listening, keep moving… From Radio Mumbai – your RJ Prabha.”

Target Scenario for India 2033: “Be the change you want to see”

Radio Jockey (RJ): Good Evening Mumbai. This is Radio Jockey Nidhi, and I bring to you the live coverage of the visit of the American President to the HPS School in Mangalore. The President has just started his inaugural speech.

American President:World’s biggest concern today is the issue of climate change and its mitigation. However, there have been pockets of excellence in various countries across the globe. UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) along with some nations is driving a 2-year programme “Mitigation by Learning and Sharing 2031-33” whereby knowledge from these pockets of excellence will be captured, shared and deployed at other places which are lagging behind. I am sure your school is proud to be one such pocket of excellence!”

“Among the numerous challenges that the world faces today, a very critical one is ‘urban self-sufficiency’. A number of new cities have proliferated and the existing cities have become bigger and bigger, putting tremendous pressure on natural resources. I have come to your school to witness the innovative approach your city has adopted to address this issue of ‘urban self-sufficiency’ and for which your school has been the pioneer and the main driving force. I commend the great job done by your school principal Mr. Sarthak, the dedicated teachers and the wonderful students. Every nation, every city, every school has something to learn from this model…”

RJ Nidhi: “That is Mr. President addressing the school. We can see the excitement and enthusiasm around. The President has praised the efforts of the school over the last 2 decades for its role as a catalyst for this change. Today, the city of Mangalore is a benchmark in the area of ‘urban agriculture’. It all started in 2013, when Mr. Sarthak took over as the Principal of HPS School. Under his leadership, the school started its baby steps in addressing the issue of climate change mitigation. It learnt from scratch the concepts of ‘urban agriculture’ and it imbibed it in its course structure so well, that today, it is not just HPS, but almost every school (big or small) in Mangalore is practicing and promoting ‘urban agriculture’. A study done by Sustainability Consultants shows that today, approximately 20% of demand for fresh produce is fulfilled from within the city. With this background, I take you back to HPS School, where the Principal, Mr. Sarthak is addressing the gathering.”

Principal Mr. Sarthak: “… I will share with you my journey on this novel path of inculcating the values, virtues and practices of sustainability in the mainstream education in this school. It started 17 years ago when I took charge as the Principal. I am due to retire next year and I can say with utmost pride that these have been the most rewarding years in my life. I personally hail from a village in Bihar and have seen both the positive and the negative aspects of a village life. I as many others moved to the city for a career, better amenities and a better lifestyle. But, I always missed the closeness to nature that one enjoys in a rural setup. Unplanned urbanization has its numerous problems. In 2013 I decided to integrate the concept of ‘urban agriculture’ in SUPW (Socially Useful Productive Work).”

“Children have impressionable minds. They are most enthusiastic in trying new things. It was this fact that strengthened my belief that I can succeed. I shared with the teachers my vision of this school actively contributing towards climate change mitigation through ‘urban agriculture’. I gained the support of my teachers. The enthusiasm of the children for the new theme in SUPW got the teachers motivated. We adopted innovative approaches to ‘urban agriculture’; we gained knowledge by inviting experts in these areas, getting our teachers and students trained in workshops. Initially we used the 2 km² land that we had behind the playground as our pilot garden. Within 2 years, we started showing results and we gained enough confidence to carry on with the project in a big way. Soon, we started getting help from the scientific research institutes on the latest techniques and aid from the local municipal authorities and even the state government. Meanwhile, most students also started growing plants in their backyard, in pots and on the rooftops. Parents became our greatest supporters as they saw a new sense of responsibility among their children – they started eating vegetables and preferred fruits to other deserts because they were growing them. They became sensitive to nature and greenery because they were themselves rearing the plants. They appreciated the value of labor because they themselves toiled in the gardens.”

“The turning point came when we were approached by our competitor schools for sharing our methodology with them for they also wanted to adopt this in their curriculum. We were more than happy to handhold them. Today, we have an Inter-school Forum comprising over 35 schools in Mangalore who plan out jointly the way ahead. This forum organizes inter-school competitions in areas related to ‘urban agriculture’, organizes community awareness sessions, training workshops and act as a formal interface with the research bodies and government authorities in all areas related to this.”

“Our Head-Boy, Arul from Standard XII will share with you the various activities we do under ‘urban agriculture’. I thank Mr. President for his time and for appreciating our efforts…”

RJ Nidhi: “So, that is Mr. Sarthak, the school principal talking to you about his experience. We will take a small break and return to you to know what Arul has to share with us”

Commercial break

RJ Nidhi: “Thank you dear listeners for being there. We take you back to HPS School where Arul, the Head Boy is addressing the august crowd”

Head-Boy Arul: “… Previously the students thought that agriculture was something that villages did. But, today we not only grow plants the traditional way, but have learnt about the latest techniques in ‘urban agriculture’. We do roof top farming and we plant vegetables trees in pots. We have also been practicing “square foot farming” whereby areas as small as one square foot is used for cultivating plants. We have also learnt hydroponics and aquaponics. We have facilities for water harvesting and we judiciously use and re-use water. We use ‘olla’ irrigation during summer season to save water. We practice vermiculture to vermicompost, besides doing usual composting. This way we not only become self reliant for the required fertilizers, but we are also able to manage the solid waste that gets generated every day.”

“ Lastly, I would like to share with you that from next year onwards, we will be conducting summer schools for ‘urban agriculture’ where we will be inviting students not only from other cities in India, but also students from other countries. I will be passing out from school next year, and will not be participating in the Summer school, but I know I will be practicing agriculture throughout my life - wherever I am, for I know that space, water, fertilizer, etc. cannot be constraints for me as I am armed with the requisite knowledge. Thank you.”

RJ Nidhi: “It is a very positive and optimistic note Arul has ended his speech with. I must add that Arul has spoken on behalf of a majority of children in the city of Mangalore. We, in Mumbai have a lot to learn from them.

It is 6:30 pm now and I hand over to your RJ Ravi for the sports news. Good bye and good night from my side, keep listening, keep moving… From Radio Mumbai – your RJ Nidhi.”

Video for Urban Agriculture in India in 2033

More about the hands-on project on sustainability

November 2013

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