Muhammad Atif Ismail
MULTAN, May 15 (APP):The outbreak of coronavirus pandemic has restricted people to their abodes to protect themselves and their dear ones against the deadly virus where they can utilize their leisure time more productively in various healthy activities.
The preventive measure of lockdown against the spread of virus has created an opportunity for the community members to get engaged in kitchen gardening at their household level to grow more nutritious fruits and vegetables. The availability of healthy foods at the doorstep would help improve the immunity level of the people against many infectious diseases including the coronavirus.
Those people who include fruits and vegetables in their daily diet had reduced risk of chronic diseases. The importance of vegetables in human health necessitates promotion of vegetable eating for sustainable human health. Vegetables are source of many nutrients, including potassium, fiber, folate (folic acid) and vitamins A, E and C which play an important role in maintaining health.
It is observed that vegetables grown in the peri-urban areas are mostly irrigated by sewerage water.
Although sewerage water has a huge amount of nutrients needed for plant growth and farmers do not have to pay for fertilizer but it also contains heavy metals and other toxic compounds. Hence vegetables grown with this water contain residues of toxic compounds which may cause many diseases like diarrhea and hepatitis, even the deadly ones including cancer in humans.
Therefore, Kitchen gardening for growing vegetables needs to be promoted for producing healthy fruits and vegetables at household level, especially amid the COVID 19 lockdown when a large number of people are staying in their homes.
Talking to APP, Vice Chancellor, Muhammad Nawaz Sharif University of Agriculture (MNSUA) Dr Asif Ali said, “People should not sit idle rather they should indulge themselves in different hobbies and kitchen gardening is one of the best hobbies”. It will not only offer opportunity of availability of fresh vegetables to citizens but much needed physical activity also, he added.
He said, “Growing vegetables through seeds is a problem and is not very successful for kitchen gardening”, adding, the citizens must get nursery for raising vegetables. He said that the MNSUA started a project in 2017 funded by AIP (Agriculture Innovation Program) and USAID with the objectives to promote kitchen gardening by establishing a system for provision of healthy nursery for economical and clean (pesticide free) vegetables production for a healthy community.
Both male and female students were involved in various activities of the project to build their capacity regarding nursery media preparation, multipot tray filling, sowing and further nursery management.
During this period, vegetable nursery produced in this project was displayed on nine international conferences, two International horticulture expos, he added.
Dr Asif said, “A permanent vegetable nursery sale point is established at the university. Similarly, online vegetable nursery supply system has also been started which provides us the freedom to keep our vegetable supply system open 24/7”.
He suggested people to contact MNSUA for the facility on kitchen gardening. He said that the programs for awareness of society for healthy plant based foods and promotion of kitchen gardening for self-sufficiency in vegetables were conducted at 49 schools, colleges, universities, industry, housing colonies and villages.
MNSUA Teacher Nabeel Ahmed Ikram (Department of Agronomy) said, “Three Plant centric meal competitions have been organized at the University in which students from different schools, colleges and universities participated with different plant based food ideas which were appreciated by visitors”.
He said that state of the art vegetable nursery house has been constructed at MNSUA for raising season and off season vegetables. Different vertical vegetable production structures had been developed for promotion of innovative trends in kitchen, he added.
MNSUA students Mubashar Gull and Asim said, “So far 9300 nursery plants of tomato, 5000 plants of chilies, 3000 plants of sweet pepper, 2040 plants of brinjal, 2070 plants of cucumber and 1200 plants of bitter gourd 980 plants of Pumpkin, 1890 plants of vegetable marrow, 2300 plants of luffa, 1509 plants of melons have been raised in multi pot trays”.
Nabeel said that this project has the potential to change the preference of people from meat based foods to plant based foods to ensure a healthy life. The trainings to stakeholders and availability of nursery plants will also help the community to grow vegetables in their backyards and rooftops to harvest healthy vegetables free from toxic chemicals.