Dubai Municipality’s ‘Grow Your Food’ Campaign has led to a harvest of kitchen gardens across the emirate as more and more residents become farmers, eat organic produce and support the environment
Dubai: A farming revolution has been spreading across Dubai and beyond since Dubai Municipality started its Grow Your Food campaign in 2015.
Large numbers of kitchen gardens and school gardens have cropped up across this desert city known for arid lands and high dependence on imported food.
One of the major objectives of the campaign is to increase the participation of the residents in cultivating food in Dubai, which depends on imported food for over 90 per cent of its food requirements, and contribute to its food security.
The campaign which runs a contest for residents, educational institutions, government and private companies, and centres for ‘people of determination,’ has seen the number of participants increase this year, said Eman Ali Al Bastaki, Director, Food Safety Department, Dubai Municipality.
“The numbers [of participants] increased from 150 to 1,600; private schools from 20 to 55, government schools from two to 10. In addition, 15 corporate companies and 12 government institutes also participated this year,” she said.
Creative utilisation of space, healthy ways of growing produce, sustainability, water utilisation, varieties grown, teamwork, planning and cleanliness are the criteria for choosing the winners of the contest.
Shugufta M. Zubair, a senior food safety awareness support officer, said a major achievement of the campaign was a reduction in food wastage in school canteens.
“This was achieved by installing ‘bokashi bin’ systems. This system converted food waste into natural fertilisers used for growing crops, thus reducing food wastage by 30–40 per cent in schools.”
As many as 114 varieties of crops, including rare varieties like white chillies, were grown by schools and residents. More than three tonnes of fruits and vegetables were grown by schools, she said.
Schools initiated GYF markets and over 200kgs of vegetables and fruits were sold by each participating school.
Around 3.5 acres of land were cultivated by schools while the size of balcony gardens and villa gardens were 1.5 metres by 1.2 metres, and 1,500 square feet respectively.
“The participants also used various sustainable techniques and recycling methods. There was an increase of 45 per cent in the rate of hydroponics used by participating schools and residents while many used drip irrigation techniques.”
“Some schools set up green houses and vertical gardens. Some schools made best use of water by recycling water used for ablution and from air conditioners,” said Zubai, who was also the coordinator of the campaign.
Natural pesticides made from neem and other natural ingredients, as well as egg shells as nutrients, were used for organic farming in homes and schools, she added.
Kurt Seifarth, regional agricultural counselor with the Office of Agricultural Affairs, the US Consulate General in Dubai who was one of the judges for the contest, said the campaign helped children understand that they can play a part in food security and that even a garden in a small space can help you make at least one trip less to the grocery.
“These Dubai residents have proved that there is no excuse of space and water constraints that can stop anyone from gardening. This is really inspirational and a model for others,” he pointed out.