Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Visiting Dr R T Doshi's terrace farm in Mumbai; India

I had read of Dr. R T Doshi in the late eighties. He is a retired industrialist who lives in Bandra, Mumbai and is fascinated by plants and the proper utilisation of waste biomass. What I read in the article was unbelievable. Here was a man who was using the crushed sugarcane from a nearby 'juice centre' and growing plants in open sacks. He had attained such a degree of success that his terrace was like a mini forest. He had even succeeded in growing strawberries in the humid Mumbai climate. Some years later I read about him again and saw him in a science program named Turning Point in Doordarshan. Seeing him on television added to the fascination I had developed for him and his methods. It was unbelievable that someone could use open sacks, sugarcane and kitchen waste and get the kind of results that he had got. But those were the pre-internet days and I could not follow up on my fascination which had bordered on obsession.

Sometime during the late nineties I read about Prof Dabholkar of Kolhapur and his Prayog Parivar and his unique method of teaching students using the humble postcard. It was also fascinating that someone who had taught mathematics for many years could become an expert on plants and was able to communicate with unlettered peasants and farmers - something many of our agricultural scientists just could not do. I will need another blogpost to do justice to Prof Dabholkar and his family of experimenters. I also came to know about a book titled Plenty For All written by Prof Dabholkar in which he wrote about his work and his philosophy. His simple ideas of harnessing the power of the sun and of biomass would appeal to anyone who liked a common sense approach to things. Through this book I was able to again read about Dr Doshi and I came to know that he was associated with Prof Dabholkar.

I also came to know about a booklet named City Farming which was written by Dr Doshi. I ordered a copy for myself. In this booklet Dr Doshi explains his method of city farming in which he uses biomass especially crushed sugarcane and very little soil to do wonders. To cut a long story short I rang up Dr Doshi and he was kind enough to invite me over to take a look at his city farm. I booked a seat on an Indore Mumbai bus and on a cold winter evening on a Saturday in January 1999 I took a bus ride to Mumbai.

Mumbai was warm when I arrived there. Dr Doshi's house "Jamunotry" on the 26th Road Bandra was easy to find. I was welcomed very warmly by Dr Doshi and his family. I also saw a wide spectrum of visitors from different areas of specialisation who had come to see his garden. I was asked to get ready and return. After a bath and breakfast l was taken up to the terrace by Dr Doshi and his assistant. It was an awesome sight. 1200 square feet of greenery on a rooftop. This included a coconut tree with fruit. Dr Doshi had also started experimenting with growing plants in drums and it was fascinating to see plants sprouting out of the sides of huge 200 litre drums. Each drum was dedicated to the kitchen waste from a neighbouring family and with the help of crushed sugarcane the Doshi family had converted their terrace into a mini farm. He called this community farming.

The bus ride back to Mhow was thrilling for the simple reason that I was infected with the enthusiasm that Dr Doshi had in him. Over the years I have experimented on a modest scale with growing plants using waste biomass and kitchen waste and have attained a fair degree of success. I also remember reading a talk by the Vietnamese Buddhist Monk Thich Nhat Hanh in which he compares the composting process of biomass with the composting process in our hearts and minds. Thich Nhat Hanh talks of conerting garbage to flowers and he says that we can do the same thing with our negative emotions. They are the garbage which life gives us and if we can compost them properly we can grow flowers of a different nature there. I had got these lines printed using a word processor and presented a copy each to Prof Dabholkar and to Dr Doshi.

In memory of that fantastic day and the fantastic work done by Dr Doshi here are a few photographs of his city farm.

Camera used: Yashica MF2

Below: A beaming Dr Doshi amidst his 'children'








Above and below: The greenery is so soothing...




Below: A coconut tree on the terrace. Dr Doshi's farm assistant is standing besides it.





Below: Tasty brinjals growing out of a drum.



Below: A date palm (khajoor) which one would normally see in a dry and arid area.



Below: A Papaya (papita) grows out of a drum.




Below: Bamboo growing in one corner of the terrace.




Below: I am not sure which plant this is. I would guess it is a chikoo. Just look at the richness.




I have read newspaper articles about many others in Mumbai and Pune who are trying this method and have attained varying degrees of success. But whenever I hear or read about such terrace/city farms my mind goes back to that sunday I spent in Bandra enjoying the sight of what Dr Doshi and his team had created through sheer hard work and scientific insight. Dr Doshi has been awarded the Padma Shri for his pioneering efforts in this area.

25 Comments:

Blogger bess said...

Love that idea of negative emotions being like compost for the soul...meaning, I guess, that we can use the energy for better purposes

7:15 PM  
Blogger Dev Kumar said...

You are right bess.... life keeps throwing uncomposted material at us. It is upto us to compost it and grow flowers where there was nothing but disease and stink

3:36 AM  
Blogger tpraja said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

8:15 AM  
Blogger MUDALAGIRI MADHUSUDHAN said...

Hi Devkumar, I am really impressed with your article. I tried a lot to get contact address of Dr R T Dhoshi

but could not get through. I am in intense need of an answer to my burning question. I am very much passionately looking for

ways to solve the hunger problems in India. I am requesting your good self to please enlighten me about this. My question is --


is it possible to grow enough vegetables in a limited land to feed a joint family every day...Is it possible to make the family entirely to depend on

such farm which can make them not having to depend on their financial earning to feed the family. If it can be done how mach on approximate minimum land necessary to feed the family of size say 10.

The farm should be able to produce every day like Dr Dhoshi. His farm is producing 5kgs of veggies every day as I have read about it in wikipedia article : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urban_farming

ever since that I started to try to contact him but I could not. Now I am contacing you in this regard with the hope of your response. I am very much concerned about hunger free India. Is that miniature vegetable

farming would meet the needs of a poor family , then it would be a great revolution. I have also researching on aeroponics and hydroponics system for food production. Please also tell me will thise technologies going to help the poorest families to grow there own food which is enough for their day to day life with very minimum investment. I am really on looking for your response. Please kindly help me out. My email address is 21.madhu@gmail.com. Hoping for your reply. bye

9:34 AM  
Blogger vinaypchandra said...

Hi

That was a nice article. May I know the contact no of Mr Doshi. Im from Bangalore and keen on learning this method of terrace cultivation.
Thanks in advance.
You can also mail me at vinaypchandra@yahoo.co.in

12:37 AM  
Blogger Jyoti said...

Hi,
I was wondering if you could pass on Dr Doshi's contact information to me. I would like to visit his terrace farm in Mumbai. You can contact me at jyoti@goingtoschool.com

10:44 PM  
Blogger hydroponic said...

Thanks for the post, we will post your Methods of hydroponics article. I will post for our customers to see your articles on your blog Methods of hydroponics

11:22 PM  
Blogger Ravi said...

Can you briefly tell the procedure of planting from the booklet named City Farming which was written by Dr Doshi.
Such people should be honored and the good practices should be replicated. Can you mail me more details at ravi_limaye@yahoo.com

4:09 AM  
Blogger Ravi said...

Can I have more details to be able to plant atleast one plant using process used by Dr Doshi?

4:11 AM  
Blogger XYZ said...

hi is it possible to get a phone number for mr. doshi? could you please mail it at faiza15@yahoo.com? thanks.

4:14 AM  
Blogger Salman said...

Please somebody give me the email address or contacts of Dr. Doshi as i need to invite him to my college

salman.enc@gmail.com

5:15 AM  
Blogger Jade said...

hi my email address is jade1387@gmail.com

i was wondering if i could have Dr. Doshi's address and phone number. wanted to visit the place with 6 of my students.
thanks

3:57 AM  
Blogger Jade said...

hi my email address is jade1387@gmail.com

i was wondering if i could have Dr. Doshi's address and phone number. wanted to visit the place with 6 of my students.
thanks

3:58 AM  
Blogger mihir thakkar said...

Please send me Dr Doshi's Contact details and address.
Thank you.

2:32 AM  
Blogger RAJAGOPALAN KRISHNASWAMI said...

Accidentally happened to see Dr Doshi's site in Google and was amazed to see his efforts in promoting Garden in his Roof. I am 80 yrs and started taking interest in garening abut 4 years ago and have a Roof Garden with Flowers and Vegetables. I have around 200 SFT of roof and have around 120 pots of different sizes. I am happy to go through the details of Dr Doshi's site. Thanks. -- rkrajagopalan.

11:09 PM  
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Blogger The True Me!! said...

Hi. Could you send me the contact details of mr. Doshi? Would like to take 5 of my students to visit his place. My email is- maya@touchonelife.org

9:12 AM  
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Blogger Unknown said...

PL send me contact details of Mr. Doshi,l stay in Mumbai,eager to see his farm.nayanapise@gmail.com

10:18 AM  
Blogger Alecia Madonado said...


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