Published by City Farmer, Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture

Development of City Farms by Street Children

A pilot project to improve the socio-economic condition of destitute children through integrated environmental management

This web page includes extracts from four PDF's that describe the project and its development. These four PDF's, which have lovely colour photos as well as details of the project, can be downloaded here:

June 2006, Rosary Project Final Evaluation Report (MS Word formmat)

Development of Mumbai City Farm

School Workshop February, 2005

School Workshop March, 2005

Project Background


The rationale for the project is based on the premise that environment and socio-economic issues are closely interlinked and that one can be tackled with the aid of the other. City farming by itself is a very beneficial activity. It improves the quality of health and environment in the city by providing locally produced organic food which is otherwise transported from long distances using precious fossil fuels generating greenhouse gases and pollution. It also adds to the visual greenery in the city and reduces the paved surface of the city.

On the other hand, street children, who are normally looked upon by urban dwellers as vagabonds and trouble-makers, are highly talented. Having to fend for themselves and survive in a megacity, their creative instincts are better trained than children who are taken care of by the family. It is these latent creative abilities that need to be tapped in order to make them productive, economically independent and free from exploitation in society. The project would be a unique experiment in socio-economic and environmental management of resources in a community. In many ways, it is unprecedented and will set up a model for cities all over the subcontinent.


The concept of city farming was first experimented and developed by Dr Ramesh T. Doshi, whose 1200 sq. ft. terrace in Bandra yields 5 Kg of fruits and vegetables daily for 300 days a year. These plants, ranging from lady's finger, eggplant and leafy vegetables to coconut, pomegranate, chickoo, guava and spices, not only consume the entire household's organic waste, but also provide more than sufficient food throughout the year, thus making the household self-sufficient. Dr Ramesh Doshi is considered one of the initiators of the Green Revolution of the 1960s. Having spent his entire career on chemical farming pioneering the NPK variety of chemical fertilizers, 76 year old Dr Doshi is now convinced that organic city community farming is the only way out of the urban waste juggernaut.

CITY FARMING is easy, can be done on an open surface which recieves ample sunlight; all that is needed is organic garbage, bagasse, minimal soil and water requirements and sapling or seeds; they can be grown in used drums with holes for aeration or netted plastic baskets wrapped with a wire mesh, and the daily load of organic waste can be deposited into them. City terrace farming not only adds greenery to the city, but also allows a number of green vegetables and furits to be grown for consummption, which are otherwise procureed from far off places TOP: the 1200 sq. feet of terrace farm developed by Dr Doshi; BOTTOM: the terrace farm developed by Priti Patil at the BPT, Mumbai.

The Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai spends Rs. 1.5 crore each day for the collection, transportation and disposal of approximately 7,500 metric tonnes of garbage. The burden of disposing off this waste is a whooping Rs. 265 per person per annum. The city farming technique is based on the rapid aerobic decomposition by thermophillic bacteria, an odorless and non-mechanical method patented by Dr Doshi.

Street children, most conspicuous in emerging urban centers of the global South, are the visible manifestation of the deteriorating socio-economic and cultural fabric of a society. There are an estimated 20 million street children in India (R. Agarwal, Street Children, Shirpa Publications, New Delhi, 1999) accounting for almost 7% of the child population. They are vulnerable and subject to exploitation and abuse. Many migrate from their hometowns into megacities like Mumbai, breaking away from their families in search of survival, while many others migrate with their families becoming their sole means of livelihood, and many others are abandoned in streets, left to fend for themselves.

According to research conducted by Shelter Don Bosco Research and Documentation Center, a Mumbai-based non governmental organization working with street children for the past 15 years, 56% of street children in Mumbai originate from within various parts of the State of Maharashtra. A majority (62%) reside in the Central and South zones of Mumbai. Most of the children are between 9 and 18 years of age, and have spent more than 5 years on the streets. The report concludes: "The fact that so many displaced children migrate to Mumbai reveals the tragic proportions to which our country's ailment has swelled. Not only is the number of children on the street expanding, these children are finding this atmosphere an improvement over their previous situation, which indicates the grave depths to which abject poverty reaches."

Fruit trees and flowering plants are likely to yield economic benefits to the children, also providing them with nutritious food.

Development of a City Farm at Rosary High School Dockyard Road, Mumbai

Introduction: "Dockyard" is an historical quarter of the port city of Mumbai. The arterial road running through this area connecting north and south Mumbai on the eastern most side is P. D'mello road, ridden with slums whose occupants are primarily workers at the docks and fishing wharfs. This road bears heavy truckers traffic during most hours during the day with slum children dashing carelessly in front of colossal transport vehicles belching black smoke into the sea-kissed air.

Preeti had been witness to this sight of shanties and life in it for twelve years. This scene of poverty evoked in her at first feelings of repulsion, followed by compassion and then anger at being mere spectators to this environment. She noticed that life in ghettos continues despite all adversity. Having learnt the survival skills at a tender age, the children live a daring life willing to face challenges. Preeti was drawn by idea of doing something creative for the children who had lot of potential in improving their lives given some opportunities.

Preeti had learnt an organic farming technique that required little material and manpower resources to grow plants successfully in the year 2000. Using this technique she went on to developing a terrace farm at her workplace at the Mumbai Port Trust, Central Kitchen that won accolades from horticultural authorities as well as impressed everyone who came to see it. The gardening activity turned out to be a great source of joy, a stress buster and a team builder. Then one day, while passing the often-traversed route of P.D'mello road the idea struck her of teaching this technique to the slum children to better their environment. The picture drawn in her mind's eye of an idyllic city, with people's resources used to green the otherwise gray and black hues of Dockyard Road, was extremely motivating. Her dream turned into a reality when she discovered piece by piece all the elements she needed to start a city farm project for the underprivileged children. Amongst the first building blocks of her project was the discovery of the NGO Vimla Vikas Kendra situated in the Rosary School compound right in the heart of Dockyard Road.

Aim: "To create a city farm on the terrace of the Rosary School, Dockyard Road within six months and teach the pavement dwelling children to grow plants the organic way"

What the project hopes to achieve:

  1. The activity also ensures eco-friendly disposal of organic waste that is the need of the hour in this city.
  2. The project hopes to bring awareness about organic farming techniques in slum dwellers. To make them realize that organic farming does not require much investment, gives good nutritious food and can help them to become self-reliant.
  3. The activity of farming not only nourishes the body but also the soul. Watching the plants grow responding to your care and yield fruits vegetables can be a very empowering experience enhancing the self- esteem. This can instill in them a confidence that they can live with self- respect.
  4. Increases the green cover, beautifies the surroundings, in the concretized jungles.

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Revised June 14, 2006

Published by City Farmer
Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture