Sowing seeds for a greener Bahrain
Manama, November 23, 2008
Families in Bahrain are being offered help to grow their own vegetables, to ensure a healthy diet and cut shopping bills.
The campaign is being waged by the Agriculture Affairs office in Budaiya, which operates under the wing of the Municipalities and Agriculture Ministry.
It is even sending experts to people's homes, to show them how to create vegetable patches and to reap their benefit.
'We are guiding people and even sending consultants to help them and teach them what to plant and how,' said media and consultancy services head Mohammed Al Hindi.
He said the benefits were huge both in terms of cost and health, since people who grow their own food know exactly what has gone into it and that it is genuinely organic.
'When you plant your own vegetables you know what kind of fertilisers you used. When you buy you are not sure if it's 100 per cent organic and that no insecticides have been used,' said Al Hindi.
He said each resident who has space should use it to grow plants, since it will help feed the family and also 'green up' the environment.
'You can teach your children how to grow plants and take care of them. It is a good lesson for them, as well as providing them with a hobby,' said Al Hindi.
Families who grow their own can produce enough vegetables in each season for consumption for at least three months to come, he said.
'For example, it takes three and a half months to produce tomatoes, but the produce is enough for two to three months of consumption, meaning each day you pick your meals' needs of tomatoes fresh,' said Al Hindi.
Bahraini farms cover only 25 per cent of the market's need, while the rest is imported, he said.
'If people took it upon themselves to plant their own vegetables, they would become more self-sufficient and not depend on the market for their food supply,' said Al Hindi.
Vegetables such as lettuce and tomatoes, leaf plants like coriander and other produce such as cucumber and cabbage grow well in Bahrain.
Fruits such as watermelon, cantaloupe, strawberries, papaya, mango, lemon, oranges and dates can also be grown, depending on the season.
All it takes is an effort to create the right conditions, plus fertiliser and seeds, at minimal cost, explained Al Hindi.
'It depends on the vegetable or fruit you're trying to plant and the area you've got and if the soil is fit to plant, or needs fertilisers, but usually it won't cost more than BD20 (to set up),' he added.
'If you live in a flat, you can use the balcony and plant vegetables that don't need much space, or even flowers to make the area look and smell amazing,' said Al Hindi.
The Gulf Daily News, our sister newspaper, conducted a comparison between the cost of growing vegetables at home and buying them from the supermarkets.
For tomatoes, a 10 sqm area planted with 24 seedlings can cost around BD11.5 for seeds, watering and fertilisers.
In the market (the GDN spoke to Lulu Hypermarket) 1kg of tomatoes (a box) costs 665 fils.
'When you plant, you have to remember that you are not planting a carton of tomatoes, you are planting a two or three months' supply of them instead, a real money saver,' said Al Hindi.
For lettuce, the same area will cost around BD10 for seeds watering and fertilisers.
In the market 1kg of lettuce costs 545 fils.
The Agriculture Affairs office also gives guidance and support to Bahrain's farms and provides them with subsidised equipment and supplies.
'We give a 40 per cent discount on watering systems for farmers, as well as a 40 per cent discount on the plastic covers for green houses,' said Al Hindi.
He said there was a proposal to establish a farmers' insurance fund, to ensure a regular income whe