Our first week has been a flurry of meetings and self-orientation. Delhi is an incredibly chaotic and lively city. At a cool 105F, we’ve certainly been wondering what exactly we were thinking when we decided to come here in the dead of summer… for doctoral students you would think we’d be smarter than that! Between trying to stay cool, fending off the incessant touts (low level street scams), and navigating the winding, often unlabeled street system, we have actually managed to get some work done. We’ve met with some wonderfully helpful and knowledgeable professionals who have helped us to get a sense of the urban agriculture scene in Delhi. We are anxious to get on the ground and begin talking to people who are practicing urban agriculture, but it is not that straight forward. First things first, we need a translator; someone who knows the local language and can help us navigate the city.
Last Thursday we met with Ashish Rao Ghorpade at ICLEI (www.iclei.org/sa). He was very enthusiastic about our project, and affirmed that it is an area of research in which ICLEI has interest. A few things we learned from this meeting: 1. Organic farming is gaining prevalence at the periphery of Delhi as it becomes more popular among higher income groups. 2. Agriculture occurring along the Yamuna River is discouraged because of the high pollution of the water and flooding occurrence. However, it is the main area for open “free” land, and allows access to water and fertilizer (due to high organic waste levels). 3. The New Delhi Municipal Council leases fruit-bearing trees in the heart of Delhi following the monsoon season to low-income harvesters; this keeps the grounds cleared of fallen fruit and provides a small source of income for the harvesters.
Thursday evening we had dinner with a diverse group of folks affiliated with ISET (http://www.i-s-e-t.org/) and IDRC (http://publicwebsite.idrc.ca/EN/Pages/default.aspx) coordinated by Marcus Moench, a colleague and long-time friend of John’s. The general consensus is that things are happening along the Yamuna. Friday morning, after a circuitous rickshaw ride, we met with Dr. Sabata of the Department of the Environment. Although no one we have met with as of yet is directly involved with urban agriculture, there is a clear concern related to sustaining the rapidly growing population–and food security is at the top of the list.
After our meeting, we decided that we had to get to the river just to see if we could see anything. We hopped the metro and, as we crossed the languid brown waters of the Yamuna, immediately recognized the organized rows of crops crowding the banks. Yep– it is time to get a translator!