The Fifth Edition of Beejpatra explores the symbiotic association between ‘waste’ and urban agriculture.
Under capitalist urbanisation, waste is overproduction and a ‘non-value’ that can neither be consumed nor be invested back into the process of production. The production process itself is a linear rather than a circular system, focused solely upon increasing the rate of profit by externalising the cost of producing waste. Landfills have become a common sight in cities and an easy way to dispose of things that are no longer “useful”. In this, the share of organic waste is also huge. In Delhi, thousands of tons of garbage are generated daily, consisting of agricultural waste, waste from households and commercial establishments, and human waste. When we reconsider our common understanding of “waste”, it opens up possibilities of approaching the issue of waste management more holistically.
Suppose we start thinking about the problem of waste differently. In that case, the substances categorised as ‘waste’ can actually form a symbiotic relationship with urban agriculture, where compostable waste and surplus heat can be turned into consumable outputs. Due to its close proximity to cities, urban agriculture can easily absorb a significant amount of waste generated in urban centres and integrate it into the food system. It can help us move towards a more sustainable food system and healthier urban environment.
Rethinking how we perceive waste can help tackle many urban issues. It is directly tied up with the reduction in ecological footprint. The production phase of food contributes to almost half of the overall GHG emissions in the food system. The efficient management of food waste by turning it into fertiliser and energy can reduce GHG across the entire food system. Moreover, combining other forms of “waste” to create energy has even more potential to impact our food systems’ overall ecological footprint. Wastewater can be used for irrigation in acutely water-stressed city regions. Agricultural waste like stubble which remains a serious concern due to its contribution to air pollution can be integrated into the soil to increase fertility. Even biomass could be incorporated into the nutrient cycle through organic waste and can also prevent soil contamination. This edition of Beejpatra is a small contribution to building a clear understanding of the role urban farming can play in addressing the problem of waste.
This edition is the result of the brilliant contributions received from Arpita Joshi, Kapil Mandawewala and Namrata Acharya, Aakiz Farooq, Archana Singh, Geetanjali Gurlhosur and Rosamma Thomas. People’s Resource Centre would like to extend our gratitude to Manoj Misra for agreeing to the conversation that has been published as an interview in this edition. Lastly, PRC could not have produced this leaflet without the efforts of Akshita, Avikal and Nishant, the members of the editorial collective for the fifth leaflet. On behalf of the editorial collective, PRC welcomes your feedback and suggestions on the leaflet. Please write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In this edition,
Editorial Note by Akshita Rawat and Nishant
Arpita shares a personal anecdote ‘Returning to soil’ about how a chance encounter with Kuvempu and his poetry helped her understand the connection between the disintegrating state of her city, the need for better waste management and how all citizens can contribute to reversing this process through simple acts like decentralised segregation and composting.
Kapil and Namrata, both associated with the innovative initiative Edible Routes, share stories of residents of a neighbourhood in Delhi who have been composting and taking charge of their kitchen and yard waste. Read their essay ‘Home Composting: A Silent Revolution‘.
In their respective articles, Archana and Aakiz, members of People’s Resource Centre, map how our urban centres manage their waste, especially the effectiveness of Sewage Treatment Plants (STPs) and the need to question our understanding of ‘waste’ to move towards a sustainable future, respectively. Read ‘How India Treats Its “Sewage” ‘ by Archana Singh and ‘Making Cities More Sustainable- Questioning the Waste of Human Waste‘ by Aakiz Farooq
Along similar lines of enquiry, one of us talks to Manoj Misra, the senior environmental activist credited with life-long efforts to rejuvenate the river Yamuna. This interview touches upon the relationship of river Yamuna, waste, and STPs and presents an environmentalist perspective on the claims of farming communities on the Yamuna floodplains. Read the interview here: “beautification of floodplains is a meaningless exercise unless ecological considerations override everything else”
Apart from these original contributions, this edition also features excerpts from the case studies of urban agriculture in Mumbai and Pune by Geetanjali Gurlhosur and Rosamma Thomas, respectively, from the series “State of Urban Agriculture in Indian cities” published by the People’s Resource Centre. These excerpts share some examples of initiatives by citizens and communities towards collective self-management of waste. Read ‘Women Waste Managers: Case Study of Stree Mukti Sangathan‘ by Geetanjali and ‘Ecofarm at Velhe Road, where the city’s household waste feeds vegetable patches‘
For the urban farming community to grow and thrive, collaboration is essential. Therefore we invite urban cultivators, researchers and enthusiasts to share their experiences and ideas. You can share with us-
- Your experiences (or experiences of your friends/relatives) of farming in the house, terrace or balcony
- Essay, article, brief report etc. on community initiative of farming or encouraging farming in cities
- Discussion on technical and theoretical questions related to urban farming
- Brief of original research work, short notes, or comments related to urban farming