Many of us living in cities used to take food availability for granted. Vegetables, cereals, and other fast-food items were readily available in groceries and restaurants. However, over the last two years, the global pandemic and lockdown impacted our lives by disrupting healthcare, businesses, and most importantly, food systems. Travel and transportation restrictions limited the supply and availability of fresh produce in markets and grocery stores in cities. Owing to this shortage of food supplies, city dwellers started to take an interest in urban agriculture by growing their vegetables and microgreens either in the terraces, backyards, balconies or within community spaces.
Based on a research project we are conducting at the Indian Institute for Human Settlements, we observed urban farming to be a popular trend amidst many city dwellers for different reasons.
“Tomatoes, brinjals, spinach, chilies and gourds from my terrace were the only source of fresh food for my family and me during the pandemic,” noted a 40-year-old Bengaluru-based software engineer who grew vegetables and a few microgreens in his third-floor apartment. Another urban farmer from Pune city reflected, “the pandemic taught me how we can grow enough for a family of four in a 100 sq.ft area. After a long time, I spent quality time with my wife and children while growing vegetables.” Several families increased their self-sufficiency by growing their own food that was cleaner, safer, and healthier. Our observations also indicated urban agriculture to provide joy and satisfaction coupled with an increase in familial bonding.
However, sustaining these practices despite the pandemic is critical when we intend to pace towards a more sustainable future. In times where cities are housing more than 54 percent of the global population and battling the impacts of COVID-19 and extreme events like floods and droughts, there is a need to rethink our lifestyle choices and daily food habits.
On this Earth Day, we can invest in a greener and more sustainable city by eating what you grow and growing what you eat. And the mantra for this is simple—plant a few microgreens or easy-to-grow vegetables on your roof-tops and terraces, reduce food wastage and eat local and seasonal. All it takes is intent, time, and a vision to create sustainable futures!
(Banner image credits: Susan Thomas)