Inclusive Urban Farming in Delhi

Community Mobilization

Design Research | UX Design

Awarded Funding by Ministry of Human Resource and Development

Lead Design Associate, Design Innovation Center, Ambedkar University Delhi

June 2016-October 2017

"Everyone designs who devises courses of action aimed at changing existing situations into preferred ones."                                                                                                               - Herbert A. Simon

Why?

The capital of India, New Delhi, gets its produce from its neighboring states, except for some seasonal greens and vegetables which are grown on the banks of the polluted river Yamuna. Vegetables sold in the city's markets are many times highly contaminated, and the general unaffordability of organic vegetables is pushing people to adopt urban farming practices.

Project Brief

This project was an attempt at making urban farming possible across various socio-economic groups in the city by mobilizing people to set up vegetable gardens and community farms. What this project offers is an easily replicable model of setting up gardens at a household and community level. 

A major challenge for urban farming in Delhi is 

Space

The mobile application concept, also designed as a part of the project, allows urban farming enthusiasts to connect with each other, enabling them to share knowledge, resources, and produce. 

MEDIUM AND HIGH-INCOME HOUSEHOLDS

Qualitative Research

INTERVIEWS

Semi-structured interviews were conducted with the six families that volunteered for the project. It was made sure that they were available for the interview at their residence. 

INTERACTIVE GAME

An interactive game was used to understand their needs. This approach was used because the majority of families did not know what many plants looked like or how they are grown. The visuals helped them to understand how various produces could be grown. Some of them also learned how some produce or could be consumed differently from what they knew. The game also helped them to visualize a garden in their space.

Building and Installing Vegetable Gardens

Based on the interviews and spatial study, installations were designed to custom fit the needs of a household. The families were shown possible designs to choose from. The installations were designed to be low cost and reusable. However, the families were given the choice to choose their preferred materials. They were also required to pay for the soil, manure, seeds, or plants.

The process of installation was not restricted to just setting up the garden but also involved training the members of a family to maintain the garden. The installation process always required the family to participate. The following are some examples of installations.   

Mobile Application (Concept)

It allows the users to register themselves as an urban farmer in their choice of community. Urban Farmers in the network can see what other farmers have achieved. They share knowledge, gardening resources like tools, seeds, and even produce within their community. The app also keeps track of their garden through the calendar, notes, and reminders. 

The Urban Farming Social

LOW-INCOME HOUSEHOLDS

Low-income households in Delhi have a complicated definition. There are legal and illegal housings, which can look different in different areas. But the one thing that is usually seen in all these settings is compact spaces. The houses share walls and the arrangement leaves way for narrow lanes. Through a partnership with CURE (Centre for Urban and Regional Excellence), we worked in Dharmkanta Basti (slum) in Noida to experiment with urban gardens in compact spaces.

Community Mobilization

FOCUS GROUPS

The objective was to understand their needs. What vegetables would they need to grow? How do they use their space? and What are the dynamics within the community? The Basti was also divided in terms of caste and religion. Meeting at a middle ground and in a group was the first attempt in creating a sense of community. 

Focus group sessions were conducted with the women of the households, where they were introduced to the possibilities of a garden in compact spaces. The families were farmers in past generations, so they had knowledge about growing vegetables. 

INTRODUCTION

AWARENESS CAMPAIGN

An awareness campaign was conducted with the help of kids in the Basti. The campaign was a fun walk around the Basti with the kids which culminated with gifting plants to the curious residents. This helped in spreading the word and it also revealed that the men in the community were just as interested in this idea. By the end of the event, we had a few new families who were willing to volunteer for the project.

Setting Up Installations

The next step was building installations. Most of the installations were made out of whatever resources were dispensable and readily available in the houses. The families helped in building and installing the gardens. 

Happy Urban Farmers in the Basti!

Community Farming @ AUD

Setting up a community garden was another part of this project. After setting up gardens at the household level, this was an experiment in mobilizing a community to share gardens. 

The gardens in the university are now maintained by the Urban Farming Society. Invariably, the most enjoyable part of the process for everyone in the Society is harvesting. 

An Urban Farming Society was set up in Ambedkar University Delhi, where students and staff were trained to do gardening. Workshops were conducted on building simple installations and on methods of gardening. 

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