Life on a concrete: A course on urban gardening

Life on a concrete: A course on urban gardening

Story by : Anshuman Das
Written on : 1st December, 2017

Welthungerhilfe and its partner DRCSC have introduced a training on urban gardening in Kolkata. Through the skills learned at the course, trainees are able to design their own vegetable garden or start their own ventures.

Ujaan, is a 10-year-old boy, who doesn’t eat vegetables. His worried parents would like him to love the greens and think gardening is the way out.

Mahua is a psychologist. She wants to use gardening as a therapy.

Milan has completed his studies but is unable to get a suitable job. He is looking for innovative options.

Sourav offers private tuitions to school children and is unsure about his career. He is interested in gardening but is uncertain if he can make a living out of it.

Antara feels that vegetables she buys from the market are full of toxic chemicals that cause health problems. She wants to have a food that’s safe.

All these people, with different concerns, have one thing in common: gardening.

Given the need, Welthungerhilfe and its partner DRCSC have begun a course on urban farming. The idea is to popularise the concept of sustainable gardening in the city and motivate urban people to consume safe vegetables. The objective is also to train young people on urban farming techniques, enabling them to professionally help others develop their gardens. The 30 sessions’ course is largely practice-based and has generally 12-15 trainees per batch.

Trainees being taught about soil and manure

Difficult start

Since urban gardening has long been considered nothing more than a hobby, there weren’t many takers for it initially. Also, it was associated with a high-income group and wasn’t considered a popular or viable option for the middle class. Therefore the beginning was not easy at all.

But slowly, following some newspaper reporting and through word-of-mouth, the course began to pick up. So far 140 people have been trained. These included young entrepreneurs, who wish to start their own business on gardening, parents as well as garden enthusiasts. 30 trainees have initiated their own business while 15 pupils, who wanted to have their own venture, but didn’t have resources, have been given a start-up support.

Dozens of trainees have become service providers

Encouraging response

The response to the training has been extremely positive. Many trainees have developed their own gardens using the skills learned. “About 40% of what we eat comes from my rooftop. I have never seen myself so happy,” said Antara, a trainee.

Antara is happy about growing vegetables at home

Another trainee has taken up a creative business idea of selling plants as gifts.

And Ujaan and his parents are happy now. They have a garden developed with the support from trainees. Ujaan now not only eats vegetables but helps his parents grow plants as well.

Ujaan enjoys gardening too

Further, 15 gardens have been developed for demonstration purposes across the city and are used by trainers to teach various techniques and models.

A demonstration garden for training purposes

The young trainees, who have become trainers, have also helped five schools in the city develop vegetable gardens on the campus.

Sustainable Integrated Farming Systems (SIFS) Programme

Promoting sustainable local food systems for a better rural-urban connect in India