The Dinner Garden Improving Food Security

Raised bed of lettuce, tomatoes, 6 different t...
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As I started reading more about vegetable gardens, especially urban gardens, I began to see the link between gardening, food security and poverty. Even in the US, many families struggle to eat healthy because packaged foods are more readily available in urban settings and often are more costly. But, the negative side effects of the lifestyle and eating habits which have resulted are plaguing the US population with health issues such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and so forth. We all know we should eat more fruits and vegetables, but the modern city lifestyle simple isn’t conducive to it.

As people are increasingly realizing this link, more and more people have begun to start urban gardens to increase their ability to easily integrate fresh produce into their diets. For urban apartment or condo dwellers, the garden may be a few plants in containers. For urban or suburban home owners or dwellers, they may have room for a small in-ground or raised bed garden. Some lucky urban residents may have access to a community garden where they usually have more area to work with in collaboration with a group of other urban gardeners.

The Dinner Garden is a non-profit focused on increasing the trend of people to grow their own fruits and vegetables, even in small areas. They distribute seeds for free to families and school children in an effort to encourage gardening and increase food security for families across the US. As any teacher or parent knows, eating fruits and vegetables is extremely important for children’s development and studies show that it can improve energy and brain function. By getting kids involved with gardening at a young age, it can help promote healthy habits that can last a lifetime.

The Dinner Garden has accomplished so much since their beginning in 2009 and the work they are doing is amazing. Check out their website or read some other blogs which feature this organization.

Other blogs on The Dinner Garden: http://foodfreedom.wordpress.com/2010/04/29/the-dinner-garden-free-seeds-tips-tools/

http://lifeonthebalcony.com/interview-with-holly-hirshberg-from-the-dinner-garden/

http://www.cityfarmer.info/2010/11/28/the-dinner-garden-has-provided-seeds-to-48000-families-since-2009/

High food prices in 2010 – Grow your own veggies!

In 2008, food prices soared,along with fuel prices, reaching their highest level in 30 years. This created the worst food crises in recent memory. In 2010, food prices grew again, amidst natural disasters and drought hitting countries around the globe. Of course, high food prices make farmers happy, as it encourages them to plant more crops. But, what is the typical consumer to do when food and fuel prices continue to rise.


Source: http://www.fao.org/worldfoodsituation/FoodPricesIndex/en/

One answer to this problem to grow some of our own food. This can be done, even on a small scale, if one can grow vegetables and herbs in containers or a small garden. All it takes is a little soil and a little care to grow your own food.

Luckily, in Thailand, we are blessed with great conditions for growing food all year round. It’s been said that you can throw seeds on the ground and things will just grow. However, to get a good production of vegetables, it’s best to do a little preparation to make sure you are improving the conditions for your plants, since it will all determine the quality of the products that you get out. You need to “feed” the plants for them to produce well.  It’s all going into your body, so we want to grow high quality vegetables.

Of course, when you grow our own vegetables you do not want to use pesticides. This is another benefit of growing your own vegetables. Many growers use pesticides to make sure their crops are unblemished since those are the beautiful fruits and vegetables we all look for when we got to the market. Some of the crops which use the most pesticides are watermelon and cabbage (at least in Thailand.

If more people grew their own food, it would help promote food security and development. As we saw with the recent flooding, there are times when food production areas are hit by disasters, thereby reducing the supply of food at those times. In think this idea is something that is well promoted by HRH King Bhumphipol’s Sufficient Economy (Por Peang) and goes in line with leading a sustainable lifestyle.

It won’t solve all of the problems resulting from high food prices, but spending a little less at the market each week will all add up.

Right to Play for Peace and Development

Right to Play is working toimprove the lives of children in some of the most disadvantaged areas of the world by using the power of sport and play for development, health and peace.
They use sports, physical activity and play to attain specific development and peace objectives, including the UN’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). They believe they cancreate a healthier and safer world through the power of sport and play.Currently, Right To Play has programs in the following countries:
Benin, Botswana, Burundi, China, Ethiopia, Ghana, Jordan, Kenya, Lebanon, Liberia, Mali, Mozambique, Pakistan, Palestinian Territories (West Bank and Gaza), Peru, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania, Thailand, Uganda and the United Arab Emirates.

They work towards inclusion and give children a chance to become constructive participants in society, regardless of gender, disability, ethnicity, social background or religion. A team of top athletes from more than 40 countries support Right to Play. As role models, these athletes inspire children and raise awareness about Right To Play internationally. Right To Play uses sport and play programs to promote opportunities for development, teach life skills and health education and build stronger, more peaceful communities. To do this, Right To Play trains local Coaches to run programs, thereby creating the foundation in a community for regular and long-term sport and play programming and for individual and community leadership. Right To Play also uses sport and play to mobilize and educate communities around key health issues to support national health objectives, in particular HIV and AIDS prevention and awareness and vaccination campaigns.

The Red Ball is the symbol and logo for Right to Play. Right To Play’s philosophy “LOOK AFTER YOURSELF, LOOK AFTER ONE ANOTHER” is written on the Red Ball. This philosophy embodies the ideas of looking after ones own bodies and well-being, as well as advocating teamwork and cooperation in looking after one another.

These videos feature a refugee camp on the border of Thai and Myanmar. Since more than half of the refugees are children, these sports programs become an important part of the children’s lives and uplifting their spirits.

PART 1

PART 2

Rooftop Gardening in Bangkok


An excellent example of a rooftop garden in Bangkok which is cared for by the District Office in Laksi, Bangkok, Thailand. The main purpose for growing rooftop gardens is to increase the productivity of the area, increase the green area, decrease global warming and increase the amount of healthy vegetables grown for household consumption. By using household organic waste in composting, it is also a way to decrease the amount of waste that needs to be managed by the municipality. As you can see in the video, rooftop gardening is done in raised beds which are placed on the concrete roof. The beds raise a variety of vegetables, including climbing vines and salad greens. The district office at Laksi is open to all Bangkokians who is interested in gardening, getting advice and they will even give you some seeds to get your garden started.
Language: Thai only

Agricultural Office of Phuket Promotes Growing Veggies

In Thailand’s warm, tropical climate plants are easily grown with a little care and water. The provincial office of Agriculture in Phuket demonstrates in this video how residents can plant their own herbal plants at homes, even with limited space or budget. The Agriculture Chief suggests hanging pots of herbal or kitchen vegetables that can easily be planted in reused or reclaimed materials such as plastic containers, paint buckets or even old motorcycle helmets. The plants that are recommended because they are easily grown and commonly used in Thai cuisine include lemongrass, sweet basil, basil, morning glories and chillies. He suggests that it not only helps cut costs in the household budget, but is also organic and healthy for family members. Some of the pungent plants also serve as natural insect repellent, such as lemongrass.

Global Buckets Promoting Edible Gardens

outh and entrepreneurship are two great elements for social change because young people really have the drive and creativity to push the limits and help people. These two brothers are a wonderful example of young people who are looking to help people in developing countries by spreading information about gardening systems.

They started by developing an idea similar to the Earthbox but used 5 gallon buckets. They filmed an intro and various how-tos for making their Global Buckets using 2 5-gallon plastic buckets, a plastic cup, PVC pip, drill/hole drill bits, black plastic, soil and vegetable plant (tomatoes, peppers, etc.) The video are narrated by the two brothers and are very easy to follow. The benefits of their system is that it reduces water loss, reduce time needed for weeding and can easily be used in small spaces, even urban rooftops.

Furthermore, these guys are great experimenters. After some feedback from users in Jamaica that told them that 5-gallon buckets in Jamaica are too valuable to put holes in, they decided to try to make similar system out of garbage and recycling various materials. So now, they have suggested other ideas such as growing bags and using dirt, instead of potting soil. They hope to lower the cost and make these systems more applicable to developing countries. I wish these two young social entrepreneurs the best and will try some of their ideas out in my own garden.

http://www.globalbuckets.org/

Bangkok Vegetable Garden Preparations

The last few weekends I have been working on the
preparations for my vegetable garden. During the last few months,
my father put some of the leftover pulp from composted pineapples
in the ground. Now, we added more layers of organic compost, this
time mostly from leaves and grass clippings, as well as cow manure.
We also put a fence with netting around the area. This is to make
sure the dogs don’t get into the garden, since they love to dig and
chew. Three weeks ago, we started some seeds in small folded-paper
pots filled with a mixture of soil, coconut coir and manure. Most
of the vegetables have sprouted and the seedlings are ready to go
into the ground. I’ve also started more seedlings last week. This
time I have some sage, Thai pumpkins, Baby Boo pumpkins, dipper
gourds, and butternut squash. The last three were from seed packets
that I bought at the Jim Thompson farm for 20 baht. Each packet
only had 4-6 seeds so I take extra special care of those ones. This
Bangkokian can wait to see it when everything is in the
garden!

Chia Tia Agricultural Fair 15-23, 2011 in Kanchanburi

Starting this Saturday, there will be the Chia Tai Agricultural Fair at their demonstration farm in Kanchanburi province of Thailand. The event will be held at Choncharoen Farm in Tambon Wangdong.

Chia Tia is the seed production company for CP which grows and distributes more than 400 varieties of vegetables and flowers for both local and domestic markets. In fact, a large portion of their business is seed exports to Southeast Asia and South Asia. One of the major parts of their business is to do research and development on strains and varietites of plants which are suited to this regions’ climate. 

“The Home Garden” and “5 Colours A Day” are themes for the fair, in an effort to promote more vegetable consumption in the Thai diet. Thais consume only 100 grammes per day on average, far lower than the global standard of 500 grammes. I think this event would be worth going to see the different varieties of plants, especially if they are adapted to growing in Thailand, and getting some of the interesting types to grow in your garden.

Source: http://www.bangkokpost.com/business/economics/216111/kanchanaburi-tries-eco-friendly-tactics

Gender Equality Calendar 2011

This year, the calender that sits on my desk is the UNESCO-UNGEI Asia-Pacific 2011 Gender Equality in Education calendar.

The calendar is filled with wonderful photos captured throughout the Asia-Pacific region as part of a photo contest. Over 250 entries were submitted from 14 countries in the Asia-Pacific region. The photos were taken by students, teachers, government workers, development workers and photographers. The 13 winning photos are featured for the cover and each month of the calendar. You can see the amazing cover photo of school children in Bhutan below.

Gender equality is more than treating women and men exactly the same. It means providing equal access and participation in decision-making processes, social responsibilities and so forth. UNESCO has the specific objective to ensuring that men and women or boys and girls, all have equal access to achieve in education to their highest potential, not on whether they are born male or female.

How to Start Growing an Urban Garden in Thailand

Based on this video, one of the most difficult issues with growing an urban garden is actually starting. For the sunny, hot climate in Thailand, providing enough water for the plants will be one of the trickier aspects of caring for the plants. The plants which are recommended are pak boong and basil as being hardy plants for beginners. If you have a concrete slab and no place to grow your vegetables, coconut husks can be used to provide a layer of insulation before putting some soil over. The coconut husks help to maintain the moisture in the soil and helps keeps the plants cooler throughout the day. Manure is added to fertilize the soil instead of using chemical fertilizers.