It was very interesting to hear at the Khoj meeting the ideas of organic and small urban farms being commodified in India. Agat mentioned a very new initiative of a Jaipur based company selling small squre meter plots for farming. Even advertising it heavily in Newspapers and media.
Recently Simrat had sent us a link to similar initiatives in Bangalore (http://www.openthemagazine.com/article/living/weekend-harvest) and i have been encountering many more such in other cities too. It seems another set of commodification, catering to rich urban classes. What about the poor farmers who have been forced out from these vacant plots in the first place. Where has gone their share?
When simrat had sent the article i had prepared the following reply, but somehow forgot to post:
Thank you Simrat for sharing the article. It is great and yes many cities have been experimenting with this idea of farming. In fact, as Ravi had already commented that urban farming is not new in Indian context, its been practiced for generations. We always had small farmers, practicing subsistence farming. In fact the phenomenon is precisely about subsistence and grow exactly in accordance with climate, nature of the soil and self-requirements. In Asia this has been practiced for centuries; in fact this is the primary means by which asia has been able to support such a large population on limited lands.
Even on the outskirts of Delhi, you will find many of such plots. They might not be organized as the Green Thumb Mini Farms in Bangalore, but they exists. What I have seen are Chattarpur farms, Sultanpur estates and around Gurgaon, especially on Gurgaon-Faridabad road, many of such lavish gardens exist. What would be interesting for us to discuss here would be:
Where are the original farmers, whom these urban farmers have displaced?
Where are the techniques of those farmers, whom these green novices are replacing?
Where are the seeds and knowledge of the indigenous farmers?
Did the earlier farmer ever get to profit the same way?
Did they get the fair share of what these lands are worth today?
I think in case of these fringe farms, Ravi’s discussion of land politics become primary to understand. Because we are watching something soul-satisfying, a ideal picture of development without seeing the dirty picture underneath. Also my concern of labour is linked here, cause I am talking about the original farmer who got displaced from these lands, where did he go, what happened to his knowledge of these lands and its climate, what is he doing now and whats going to happen to his future generations, once they lost this land. What is the rational basis of this exercise? Whom does it benefits? Isnt it land grabbing?