8 UAE residents win Dh10,000 for food garden

In a bid to plant the seed for a sustainable living, Dubai Municipality had launched the ‘Grow Your Food’ campaign, which saw residents from all walks of life step in to create unique organic gardens within their homes.
 

(Supplied)


Of the 100 individual entries that the civic body received since its launch in October, eight families were rewarded on Tuesday.

Each winner walked away with grocery vouchers worth Dh10,000, and a certificate of appreciation.The winners were categorised under school and educational institution, villa, apartment and labour camp categories.

The contestants were given variety of seeds and were guided towards setting up organic gardens in their premises - school campuses, balconies and rooftops of residential apartments, courtyards of villas and even spaces in car parking lots. 
 


Based on the pictures of their gardens on the campaign’s facebook page, the jury identified the best 100 images.

The list was further narrowed down after the jury visited the sites and evaluated their organic farms. Marks were based on creative utilisation of space, healthy way of growing (without fertilisers), sustainability, water saving mechanisms, and the varieties produced.
 


Talking to Emirates24|7, Yusuf Gadiwala expressed his joy at winning the campaign.

His son Ibrahim elaborated how they used the hydroponics method to cultivate a variety of vegetables, with minimal use of water on the balcony of their apartment in Al Nahda. “We grew tomatoes, bitter gourd, strawberry, lettuce, coriander leaves in our gallery. We have used timer so that we use only 20% of the water normally used for cultivation.”

Hailing from Ahmadabad, Ibrahim claimed the basics of farming were ingrained in him since his early days in India. “Although we have had flower plants before, this is the first time we’ve attempted a vegetable garden.”



Ashi Shabu and her husband devised interesting ways of cultivation like grafting different varieties, and using innovative methods to reduce water wastage, and maximise use of space. “We attempted over 30 varieties initially, and figured out that almost everything grows here. We even recycled plastic bottles to grow most of our crop.” The balcony of their two-bed apartment on Damascus Street is a lush green vegetable farm now.

Both Ibrahim and Ashi revealed that they feel immensely content when they see their children relish their produce.

Yana Abdel Khalik, an avid blogger and gardening enthusiast, said the first two years after she moved into a villa didn’t prove productive for her food garden. “It’s just last year that I figured out how to go about it. After conducting intense research online and reading many books, I found techniques that worked for me. Like square foot gardening, where each crop is planted together and, companion planting, where different varieties are planted together and one plant protects the other.”

She has a garden full of tomatoes, salad greens, beans, radishes, and squashes. Married to an UAE national, this half-Russian and half-Lebanese is optimistic that the next year her garden will grow bigger and bear more fruit.

Kerala-born Susamma Thomas has been living in the UAE for 26 years, and stated that she has been gardening for the last 15 years. “Whenever I move houses, I ensure I set up my food garden there. It’s in my blood. I come from a family of farmers, so this is what I am meant to do.”

After finishing work at the Latifa Hospital, Susamma tended to her garden in her Rashidiya villa. “I even get crops from India,” she said, adding that she shares the abundant produce with her friends and family. “For the last couple of months we haven’t bought any veggies from the market.” Susamma added that gardening brings about positivity and peace.



“We start getting our yield from October, and it lasts till June. It’s only during the hotter months of July, August and early September that we don’t get anything.”

Abu Dhabi’s Nadeera Abdul Jabbar said it was after she shifted to a villa two years ago that she started organic farming. “My role model is my mother-in-law, and I am hoping to set a good example for my son. I gift my friends what we grow, and often give them seeds and help them with gardening tips.”

Jasmin Shabeer has been gardening for three years, ever since she moved into a villa in Al Twar. “My father is a farmer in Kerala, so I guess I’ve learnt it from him. I’ve got 25 varieties of vegetables, and I get by without buying any vegetables from the shop.”

In the labour camp category, Aati Contracting and Forecast Abu Dhabi were adjudged winners.

Schools and students were also rewarded for participating in this unique green initiative. In the intra-school category, the campaign enrolled about 4,000 students from 20 different schools across the UAE, while 25 schools registered in the inter-school category.

Eleven-year-old Kevin Richard of Our Own High School came second for his efforts at growing a tomato plant. “I just wanted to grow a tomato garden to see how it comes out,” he casually said.

Another student Rifa Banu from Central School got the second prize too. “I have grown a watermelon plant. The flower has come, but not the fruit.”

The campaign, which was conceptualised in line with the World Food Day theme, was held in association with Jaleel Holdings and Eastern Condiments. A total of Dh150,000 worth of shopping vouchers were given away at the ceremony.

Khalid Mohammed Sharif Al Awadhi, director of Food Control Department at DM, said, “Our aim is to have kitchen garden at all households in the emirate over the next few years. The kitchen garden concept attains greater significance, especially at a time when several studies have recommended daily consumption of good amount of fresh vegetables would help lead a healthy life.”

Sameer K Mohamed, managing director of Jaleel Holdings,  was genuinely overwhelmed with the response, and are hopeful of initiating the second round next year. “We are extremely proud to associate with Dubai Municipality to run this Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiative.”

Winners list

Catergory

Name

Villa

YANA SAMIR ABEL

Villa

SUSAMMA VARGHESE

Villa

JASMIN SABEER

Villa

NADEERA ABDUL JABBAR

Villa

AISHA ALSUWAIDI

Apartment

YUSUF GADIWALA

Apartment

ASHI SHABU

Apartment

SAM ABRAHAM GEORGE

Labour Camp

AATI CONTRACTING

Labour Camp

PRECAST ABHUDHABI

 

 

InterSChool ( Local)

JUMEIRA MODEL SCHOOL

InterSChool ( Local)

AL RIFA'A HIGH SCHOOL

InterSChool ( Local)

IBN HASSAM

InterSChool ( Local)

NAHWA SCHOOL

InterSChool ( Local)

NOUF HIGH SCHOOL

InterSChool ( Local)

OMAR BIN KHETAB SCHOOL

InterSChool ( Local)

MARIYA AL QUBTIYAH SCHOOL

InterSChool ( Private)

HABITAT PRIVATE SCHOOL

 

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