Urban agriculture: Plant fruit trees to revive public parks
Urban farming in collaboration with local administration is an idea taking off in many Western cities where communal orchards are built, nurtured and harvested by locals for shared benefits. As public parks in Karachi continue to rank low on government’s development agenda, environmental activists say these spaces can be revived by planting fruits trees with the help of area residents.
Horticulturist and tree activist Tofiq Pasha Mooraj says residents planting and nurturing fruit trees in public parks will have great benefits for both the local administration as well as the community. “The government will have someone sharing their responsibility to take care of trees and the public can enjoy seasonal fruits free of charge,” he says.
Mooraj says residents can take permission from their local municipal authorities and plant fruit trees in public parks nearby. “There’s a high chance the officials of local bodies will facilitate you in this effort because it will give them good press. In some cases, they will even offer to take care of the plants themselves but sometimes they won’t because of their limitations,” he says.
On how residents can take care of the fruit trees they plant, Mooraj says trees don’t require much attention and the planter just needs to make sure the trees are watered regularly and manured twice every year.
Amber Alibhai, General Secretary of Shehri-Citizens for a Better Environment, says since water is such a scarce resource, it should be spent on trees that can also provide food in addition to other benefits. “We cannot have ornamental trees all the time and should propagate the idea of planting fruit trees,” she stresses.
Alibahi says it is also important to grow indigenous fruits such as jungle jalebi, imli, java plum, guava and koo fruit in order to conserve them. She strongly believes the residents of Karachi can play a big role in starting this trend. “The few trees we have in Karachi are because of the endeavours of the citizens, not the government and they should surely get together to plant fruit trees in their neighbourhood parks,” the Shehri official says.
Horticulturist Mooraj says parks in Karachi in the 60s and the 70s had many fruit bearing trees such as jujubes, java plums and mangoes. “KMC would issue contracts annually to picks fruits from these parks and use the income generated from this activity for maintenance,” he recalls.
With scores of people living below the poverty line in the city, Mooraj says fruit trees can provide food to the needy. “People should keep the greater good in mind. The trees will continue to give fruit and shade to many even after they are long gone,” he stresses.
On another communal aspect of having fruit trees nearby, Alibhai says such trees attract children and provide them with a playful activity. “I grew up among fruit trees and because of them, I was the best climber. I believe there should be at least one fruit tree for four children in an area,” she says.
Ecologist and founder of Coastal Restoration Alliance for Biodiversity Rafiul Haq has his doubts about planting fruit trees in a society as divided as ours and fears sharing of fruits might become a source of conflict among people. He, however, says strong community control can make such efforts successful.