This post is part of a series that I started as “Urban farming: Self sustenance and growing your own food“.
Lately, I have come across some websites that offer a lot of tips on resilient living. Well, the term is loosely used for “learning to cope with life’s hardships and creating healthier self sufficient lifestyles”. This mode basically works on the idea of “if things get worse, how to sustain yourself and your family in the best possible manner”. Lets not go into a future where there will be a shortage of food that makes it is imperative for scientists and agriculturists to come up with better, sustainable, environmentally and economically viable solutions. For us, as individuals and communities, we can certainly come up with certain new ideas or make best use of the resources that are available to us, sustainably of course!
I will take an example of seasonal fruits. These fruits contain vital nutrients that are beneficial for us based on the particular time of the year or the climate. In cities, due to the lack of space and rapid influx of populations, the only way of getting these necessary fruits (or vegetable) is the local market or the supermarkets.
Producers usually pack unripe fruits like apples or bananas with an industrial compound called calcium carbide that reacts with the moisture of the air and creates acetylene (C2H2), a compound similar to ethylene(C2H4), a plant hormone, that causes premature or specific ripening. This is the exact same phenomenon where oranges packed with bananas causes the latter’s premature ripening as it releases ethylene. Or like how the gas leaking from street lamps of 19th century caused stunted growth and early senescence of the leaves of the trees lining the streets (Salisbury and Ross, 1992).
Now coming back to carbides; the industrial grade of carbide contains arsenic and phosphorus and may cause adverse effects to the vital organs. It has been banned in a lot of countries. But there are countries where there is a widespread use of such chemicals due to the general lack of awareness of the producers and the consumers about their ill-effects.
People are generally drawn to luscious juicy bright yellow and spotless mangoes and uniformly ripen bananas among others. These are the ones that have been artificially ripened.
I guess the only way the only way to deal with such a problem (lets just deal with adulterants in fruits for the time being) is to have fruit trees in your own backyard (many households despite their small spaces have them) or growing them in the community and looking after them.
I was lucky enough to have a couple of mango trees along with some other fruit trees in our old home in the city. Here are a few pictures..
(These are the mangoes a few days ago. My sister and I spent some time picking mangoes one Saturday afternoon. Now, this is not a usual city experience.)
Unripe mangoes have a lot of nutrients and do not have a high sucrose content and can be made into preserves and coolants in the summer heat.
Sometimes, sharing and sustainable living helps a community ecosystem (not just restricted to humans but other organisms that are an integral part and the support system of a living system) is much better than looking for profits and depriving the system of wholesomeness and health.
There is a similar concept that I used in Earthbound, where the protagonist leaves her university and goes to a farm to volunteer and learns about the tribal communities living in the Himalayan foothills. Here are a couple of excerpts:
The cabin, one of many, was in the form of a clay and wood hut. The girl was immediately struck by its simplicity. She followed Baya onto the small verandah with bamboo pillars supporting the thatched structure on the roof. There were two wooden chairs with interwoven jute seats near the door. There were two stained glass windows on the opposite sides of the door. Tribal art adorned the hand plastered clay walls. Everything was made out of locally found materials. It was very intriguing for her.
Ilka had lit the lights and the room looked warm and welcoming in the soft golden glow of the artfully chosen earthly lamps. All the furniture was hand made with clay. There was a thick cotton mattress and a hand woven coverlet on the bed. On the wall behind it, from two pegs, hung the edges of a net for protection against tropical insects. There was a low writing table with a chair similar to the ones placed outside. Apart from these, there were a narrow wardrobe and a cane stool.
The windows had thin cane rods as curtain holders. The curtains were themselves light coloured, coarse cotton. A few golden brown mats were placed on the ochre floor. The arrangements were simple and sparse.
There was no kitchen, only a sink and an electric heater beside a small storage cupboard. Maitrayee learned from Ilka that meals were served at the community-dining hall, which was just along the walkway. She was half-listening to Ilka’s introductory speech outlining the estate. He seemed to be saying something about swimming in the pond with the ducks. She later learned he was a sort of a manager. — Chapter 6, Earthbound.
“I see, well, I am a student. I am working on a project that involves first-hand account of tribal villages; focus being mainly the agriculture and sustenance. These villages are quite poor in spite of the soil being good. This fellow,” she said pointing to the young man who had followed her down “is my interpreter. His name is Pupe. Only person I could find here who can speak the tribal tongue as well as ours. Komal knows a little too, but it’s no use asking for her help.”
She had been explaining to the young man the questions he was to ask the villagers. She had a field notebook in her hand and a bundle of copying paper peering out of a colourful cotton bag that was slung by her shoulder.
“You get along with your work then. Baya here is showing me around his village,” said Maitrayee.
“His village? This? Then I am going to ask him a few questions.”
Pupe explained to Baya what the young woman was demanding and Baya agreed to volunteer.
Maitrayee went into the village alone. After a while, she returned. She had a jute basket in her hand. In it, there were a couple of small papayas, and a clump of tubers and roots tied with a coconut-fibre rope. Rita was still struggling with Pupe. He was more trouble to her than Baya.
“What are these?” Rita asked surprised, when she saw Maitrayee coming towards them. “How did you manage to get those?”
“I paid for the basket and the rest were gifts. They would not take money. They like to talk about themselves. They are simple and expressive. Don’t go in there with your log book; they’ll think you represent the government or something. They won’t be of any help then! I met the old healer. He gave me these and said they were medicines against common illnesses,” she said, pointing to her basket.
Rita took a deep breath. She gave Pupe a long hard gaze and spoke to him irritably.
There was another young farmer standing in the vicinity. His build was similar to Baya’s and he had a mat of thick coarse brown hair. He was Baya’s brother. — Chapter 7, Earthbound
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Have a great Sunday!
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