Dubai: Coming from Kerala, Janis Parveez was always used to cultivating her own fruit and vegetables at home, but when she moved to Dubai there was little space or time to grow, and her kids began to think everything just came from the supermarket.
Now though, the 35-year-old sales manager has planted a little piece of ‘God’s Own Country’ on her balcony, where she grows her own shamam (melon musk), potatoes and tomatoes in a little reminder of what it was like growing up back home in southern India.
All this has been inspired by a project in her residential block in Muhaisnah organised by Wasl Properties and facilities management provider Emrill.
Alongside the Wasl Oasis 2 community, which has nearly 1,500 apartments and over 5,000 residents, a 2x100 metre stretch of otherwise vacant land has been transformed into an allotment, where residents can grow their own organic produce.
Over 100kg of carrots, cabbages and tomatoes were harvested on Tuesday in the second such harvest since the project began last summer. The first harvest three months ago saw a 250kg haul of radishes, eggplants and chillies collected.
We did this to change our way of thinking. We want to be green, sustainable and help the environment, but we also want to make our residents happy and healthy.
Okra and beetroot is also growing with plans to add watermelons in time for Ramadan.
No chemicals or pesticides are used in the cultivation of crops, instead the soil is fertilised using organic food waste, and water is recycled, making it fully sustainable.
“We did this to change our way of thinking,” said Ali Nassiri, senior operations manager of Wasl Properties. “We want to be green, sustainable and help the environment, but we also want to make our residents happy and healthy.
“They have got more involved and now take care of the plots. It’s been so successful that they are now even asking for their own designated areas to grow their own produce instead of it just being a communal patch.
“We are planning more such projects throughout Dubai and also have an organic nursery in our Samari Residence in Ras Al Khor. We hope other residential providers see this and follow our lead to help make Dubai greener.”
Sunil Kumar, the facilities manager at Emrill said: “In an urban area like Dubai it’s very difficult for the children to see where their food comes from, but now they are planting it and harvesting it themselves, and they are learning while having fun.
“Nowadays people are looking for fresh and organic produce and are more concerned about their health. This achieves that, but it also reduces our carbon footprint and global warming.”
What’s more is that the produce is free, and the project required minimal funding as the garden tapped into the community’s existing irrigation system. Manpower was initially provided by Emrill, but is now being supported by residents, and the seeds were donated by the community’s existing landscaping company Love Gardens.
While the yield and consistency may not be enough to put the local supermarket out of business, it is passing on an important message while helping to bind the community through a common cause.
One resident, Anita Jayaram, 37, a housewife originally from Kerala, India, said: “The community has really come together to see our produce grow. All the love that we have put into this project since the start is really paying off and we are happy.”
Janis Parveez, meanwhile credits the whole experience for helping her rediscover her youth by taking the project upstairs and into her own apartment to recreate the greenery of home.
“This has inspired us to start cultivating our own produce from our balconies,” she said.
“We all know this is more healthy and it’s a good initiative from Wasl and Emrill, I hope they do more such things as tenants will surely support it.”
As well as the allotments there is also a sustainable park on site, which is made from reclaimed materials, with the fountain and lights powered by solar panels, and the water coming from the air-conditioning run off.