‘There is a Bee in my Balcony’: A Guide to Growing Food Anywhere You Live Using Illustrated Narratives of Diverse Urban Farms

Deborah Dutta, Amrita Hazra | 2023


Food is a fundamental aspect of our everyday life, with deep connections to sustainability and social justice. Unfortunately, our current conventional industrial food systems form a core part of the ecological crisis. To engage with these systems, we require a radical transformation of our relationship with food, acknowledging that we as humans are also a part of the natural environment. Recognising the interdependence of agrobiodiversity, soil health and indigenous knowledge about nutrition and well-being requires the collective participation of diverse socio-economic groups at the local level. Efforts to encourage such involvement will be a robust systemic response to the “wicked problem” of unsustainable food systems and climate change. In this project, we focus our research on exploring the potential of local urban food systems in promoting socio-cultural and ecological sustainability. The discourse and practices on urban farming in India are relatively understudied. We aim to examine local knowledge systems and the spatial, climatic and socio-economic considerations of Indian cities through our work. Specifically, our research entails gathering narratives from urban farmers belonging to various socio-economic backgrounds. Based on these narratives, we developed interactive workshops to explore the possibilities of sustainable food systems. We collectively interviewed 15 urban farming practitioners spread over six cities and towns and held two webinars with social entrepreneurs working to support urban farming initiatives. We also collaborated with 10 practitioners involved in urban farming activities to co-write articles on various themes pertaining to growing plants, ranging from practical concerns and ecological considerations to socio-cultural dimensions and policy directives. Our journey of co-creating knowledge and initiating conversations across academic institutions, civil society organisations and individuals culminated in an illustrated handbook, documenting the possibilities of reimagining sustainable food systems in cities. We used illustrations to make our research visually appealing, as well as to encourage diverse imaginations of city spaces and gardens beyond the conventional aesthetics of manicured lawns and “clean” terraces.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.24943/TESF0305.2023