The concept of rooftop farming is not new, existing from perhaps as far back as 500 BC
—the hanging gardens of Babylon. In the present context there have been many experimental rooftop farms too, a very successful one being the Brooklyn Grange in midst of the bustling New York City. India too is not far behind, with organic farms on rooftops been experimentally successful in many Indian homes panning Jaipur to Bangalore. What is however missing is a well-focused programme that provides near-doorstep outlets for organic farming technologies, inputs and training for ‘farm-at-leisure to food’.
The discourse in the following section attempts to address the felt need of our citizens—to enable access to food free of a cocktail of chemical residues. An easy option to grow chemical free produce for self consumption ensured through state-sponsored training programme/yojana will instil a sustained interest in organic farming at home. This farm-at-leisure programme will make every individual self-sustaining by providing them the opportunity to acquire a new set of skills. Experiments show that intensive rooftop or kitchen garden can provide good results at minimal cost. A step by step guide of how everyone may be mobilized to get into action, eat healthy and stay fit at the same time, with organic rooftop farming helping to shape up, has been put together.
To turn tiller
Step 1: To begin with, the scientific fraternity of India needs to put together an organic farming kit from ‘conception to culmination’. The start-up kit may include a bag of treated chemical free soil and a planting pot, organic seeds, organic manure and basic implements. An illustrated book/poster should be provided to show which crops/vegetables may be easily grown sans weedicide/pesticide and chemical fertilisers. The kit should also include information about required restructuring in case the ‘new’ farmer intends to qualify from one pot status to full terrace farm. The cost of the start-up kit may be subsidised by the state to provide an impetus to rooftop organic farming.
Step 2: India has a very fine meshwork of farming outlets manned by Krishak Bharati Cooperative Limited (KRIBHCO), Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative (IIFCO), etc., which may be used in rural areas, while in the urban areas the government’s milk and vegetable dissemination outlets may be utilised.
Step 3: Once the kit is disseminated the ‘new’ farmer may be provided training during the establishment of the start-up kit. The involvement of the ‘new’ farmer is essential as he/she will maintain the organic farming momentum thereafter. This constitutes the support and training phase.
Step 4: To understand the strengths and weaknesses of the programme, record keeping must be imbued during the training period. Each kit will need at least one crop cycle support to induct the ‘new’ farmers into the vocation. A computerised data system will prove the efficacy of the system and ascertain the number of users.
Step 5: Long term support in terms of pest control and manure to enrich the rooftop soil must be ensured. This can be stepped up to the building of rooftop farms congruent with the building norms.
Step 6: With diffusion of innovation this experiment would extend into farmlands ensuring a healthier produce for the country. The Swajaivik Farming Scheme has an enormous potential and can change the way we live, making ‘grow to eat’ the catch phrase of tomorrow.
It is without a doubt that everyone in this country laments that their food is contaminated. Given an opportunity every individual would try to atleast augment part of his/her diet into organic produce grown before their eyes. Thus the scheme would be very successful as most Indians are either vegetarian or near-vegetarian (considering that most of us don’t eat meat or fish on a daily basis). It goes without saying that a pilot project may be launched in any mega-city for initial year (or atleast two vegetable cycles) to test the scheme before an all-India launch.