Rooftop farming

Published:  01:31 AM, 15 January 2020

A strategy of sustainable urban agriculture

A strategy of sustainable urban agriculture

Bangladesh is highly dense and the 8th most populous country in the world. About 37.8 percent of the total population lived in urban areas in 2018.

Urban population is expected to grow over 50 percent of the whole population by 2040. Capital city, Dhaka will be a megacity of 20 million peopleby 2030. Speedy and unplanned urbanization escalates the incidence of urban poverty and food insecurity across the country.

Rapid urbanization gives birth to numerous problem such as declines green space, increase in heat island effect and loss of biodiversity in urban areas. Impetuous urban growth is making huge demands on urban food system. Urban agriculture is intimately correlated to food and nutrition security.

The Sustainable Development Goal (SDG)-2 is about sustainable solution to end hunger and achieve food security. The climate change issue has been stated in SDG-13. Sustainable urban agriculture can play a prominent role to acquire these goals. As urbanization converts arable land into concrete building, rooftop farming can be a potential strategy for resolving these problems.

Rooftop farming is a system of cultivating fresh produce on the tops of buildings, either by using pots or containers or covering the roof surface by a soil bed. Von Rabitz, a German architectwho first disseminates the modern concept of rooftop gardening.

Vegetables, fruits, flowers etc can be grown smoothly in rooftop farming. Rooftop gardening can ensure the gardener to get fresh, chemical-free organic produce and also reduce family's food related expenditure. A report shows that if a gardener cultivates some varieties of vegetables on a 600-700 square feet roof, it will be sufficient to meet the annual need ofa family having six or seven members.

Food security is not only related to the production of food, but also focuses on food availability, accessibility and safety at individual, household, national level. The effect of rooftop gardening can be seen through the availability and accessibility of food, nutritionally adequate diet,which result in food and nutrition security in the practicing family.

The effectiveness of rooftop farming has been proven around the world. In Singapore, local vegetable production can meet only 5% people's needs. If rooftop farming is possible to implement national wide, the share would increase to 35.5%. In Bologna(Italy), rooftop gardening could supply 12,500 tons vegetables annually, which meet 72% of residents' requirements. Lufa Farms, Montreal produces over 25 varieties of vegetables,which supply the needs of over 1000 people.

Most of the roof, especially in Dhaka city is suitable for rooftop farming. Sometimes they require only some modifications rather than vast improvement work. The procedure of rooftop farming or gardening is dissimilar to conventional farming. Thereof, before practicing a rooftop gardening, gardener must be mindful about important facts.

First thing have to check whether the adjacent buildings are taller, because their shadows is not conducive to the garden. Thereafter, keep in mind about the provision of shades for protecting tender plants from intense heat in summer.Thirdly, have to know about appropriate soil preparation for the rooftop garden. Finally, rooftop must be equipped with proper irrigation and drainage facilities.

City dwellers often tend to practice rooftop gardening due to their aesthetic sense and amelioration of their roof environment. Rooftop gardening is positively affects our mental and physical health by providing greenery and clean air. Apart from these, it also improves the air quality, control the heat island effect, increasesbiodiversity and retains storm water. A research shows that a green roof with a12cm substrate layer can insulate sound 40 dB and a 20 cm can reduce 46-50dB sound.

The rooftop farming is becoming popular tothe city inhabitants of Bangladesh. Findings from a recent study shows that 59.2% buildings in Lalmatia and 39.1% buildings in Dhanmondi have rooftop gardening. This practice hasspread outside of the capital city, including Chattogram, Khulna, Sylhet. Approximately, 25 vegetables and 20 fruits are grown in rooftop gardening in our country.

  The mostly cultivated vegetables are tomato, brinjal, gourd, lady's finger, spinach, chili, and bean. In case of fruits, mango, guava, lemon, papaya and hog-plum are grown in the rooftop garden. Research shows the reasons behind not practicing rooftop farming are lack of leisure time, technical knowledge, manpower and harder to grow than buying. Sometimes people think that rooftop farming might cause damage to the roof.

Government, media and other organization can play a vital role in spreading this phenomenon to mass people. Thegovernment should provide training and take some incentive policies such as a tax rebate. Rooftop farming induced building design should be initiated.

In the meantime, agriculture development activist ShykhSeraj has taken good initiatives to spread rooftop farming through the television program namely 'HridoyeMati O Manush'. Some more TV program should be arranged to inform people about the beneficiary aspect of rooftop farming.

There is a Chinese Proverb "we all are farmers by birth".  Accordingly, we can mend our own souls by spending time in rooftop farming. It would be a key pathway to attain food and nutrition security, ultimately to achieve a sustainable urban agriculture. In the end, we are optimistic that the day is not so long when every city will have a cover of greenery.

The writer is a student of Nutrition and Food Science at Patuakhali Science and
Technology University (PSTU)

---Md. Hasan Al Banna

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