Hyderabad

Turning one’s terrace into farmland

Snake gourd grown on terrace by a farmer who is part of the terrace garden collective on the outskirts of the city.

Snake gourd grown on terrace by a farmer who is part of the terrace garden collective on the outskirts of the city.  

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Thousands in city take to terrace farming to lead a healthy life

In a city where privately-owned land is becoming more expensive by the year, thousands have turned to growing vegetables, greens and fruits on their rooftops. Intipanta terrace gardens, a collective that started in 2012 as a social media group, currently has 30,000 active members who have turned their house or apartment terraces into vegetable gardens or terrace farms.

Nearly 70% of this collective of terrace farmers depend only on their home-grown produce for culinary needs. The other members also depend on garden produce alone throughout the non-summer months. They interact on Facebook and WhatsApp and other social media platforms.

For families who have invested in terrace farming, the start was humble with most people planting just 25 to 50 pots, gardeners said. “I started growing just green leafy vegetables, including palakura (spinach) and thottakura, as I knew very little about farming. Once I gained confidence, I started planting all kinds of vegetables,” V.M. Nalini told The Hindu. She currently has plants growing in 400 pots spread across 70% of her 1,400 sq. ft terrace at Mehdipatnam.

The produce is sufficient for her four-member family, she added. In most cases, terrace farming requires a little investment, the farmers said. “When I started this a year ago, I invested on grow bags. But as I improved my skills, I realised that plants can be grown even inside used water cans and discarded air cooler bottoms. Ultimately, you end up spending money only on soil that you need for planting,” said Sindhuja Reguri Ramidi, a software employee at Tata Consultancy Services. One tractor load of soil costs ₹2,000 in the city. The soil is mixed with coco peat to increase porosity. Neem cakes and neem oil is also added to the soil to prevent pest attacks. A good 50% of terrace farmers in city’s farming collective are women, who turned to cultivation as a means to care better for their families. Both professionals and homemakers said they started farming as they were worried about the effects of chemical pesticides and fertilisers in commercial farming. “Almost all vegetables we get in the market have pesticides in them. And the organic varieties are more expensive than the commercially mass grown ones because of the farming costs involved,” explained Anjali Reddy, who has been farming for the past seven years. She cultivates a total of 1,500 sq. feet of the terrace of her duplex house near Uppal.

The farming group has been drawing more members into its fold, thanks to the interest shown by a good number of IT and management professionals, who have moved to city’s outskirts where independent houses are still affordable. In apartment complexes, terrace farmers seek permission from the rest of the residents before taking up a section of space for farming, members of terrace farmers’ collective said.

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Printable version | Jan 25, 2020 11:35:01 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Hyderabad/turning-ones-terrace-into-farmland/article24727627.ece

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