Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Complex Issues Facing Urban Farmers Around the world

Sustainability, Preparedness, Micro-Farming, City Farmer, Self-Sufficiency; these are all words that many people from around the world relate to. We all have a common goal and that's to develop skills in the art and practice of being more self sufficient. Ultimately we want to live our lives in the joys and woes of being experimental when things are good, so that when and "IF" things get bad we are prepared.

 A few weeks ago I received an Email from an Urban Homesteader in India. I get real excited when I receive emails because it's like opening up a surprise every time. I never know what question is going to be thrown at me and I love challenging myself on research and providing a real answer. But this email was different. Shabeer as he refers to himself, asked me if I knew of a better way to deliver water to his 50 plus rabbits. Currently he is using watering dishes and the water gets quite messy. I thought this was an easy one. So I replied back to Shabeer with a link to Amazon showing him a Rabbit Water bottle for apprx $4 a piece. I thought, wow that was easy, I can do this all day.. Ok so whats next? Wellllllll, Shabeer Replied with a gracious thanks and said "Those water bottles would be nice but at $4 a piece that's really expensive because that's like over 200 rupees for each water bottle." I just literally stared at the screen and then suddenly the emotion of embarrassment slowly started to drape over me. Taking a deep sigh I thought to myself while reading his statement over and over how dumb and arrogant I must have sounded to suggest that a $4 water bottle would fit into any persons budget. And then it dawned on me. Yes a $4 water bottle is not expensive in my world and the way in which  I practice the art of becoming more Self Sufficient is achieved by what some might consider to be privileged. And for the first time there came to be true meaning in my quest for Self-Sufficiency.

Thinking of Shabeer and the question he posed to me I really started to think about what does it truly mean to be self-sufficient. figuring out Shabeers water issue became more than just a water issue. Every night and Day I have spent thinking of ways to make water delivery systems attainable and cheap for people who don't have the convenience to shop on Amazon and spend a boat load of money to support their Hobby and/or Lifestyle. When I started to think more about this issue, the world started to pan out and there I was standing on the Urban Self-Sufficientist Soap Box with a very small Megaphone. I have come to realize that people around the world need real solid solutions to complex problems that I don't personally have to deal with. But the Hell with that!! My background would never allow me to quit and persistence to find a solution is the goal. So I dug deep and I recruited the help of someone I work for in my secular life. His background consisted of spending 5 years teaching people how to survive on nothing and being able to survive in hostile areas. I knew that with his instinct and my practical application of the subject we would be able to brain storm and come up with a direction of where we want to start.

In order to understand what the needs of Shabeer would be we had to put ourselves in the mindset that even though we have items available to us, what can we develop that would be cost effective and at the same time easily replicated all over the world. After several discussions and failing numerous "What If" scenarios we finally came to the conclusion that for someone like Shabeer living in India with access to many different materials but not having the necessary funds to support his lifestyle the way that he really wants to as an Urban Farmer.. The best method for his water delivery system would have to include 1st.... a plastic bottle. The main reason... Water bottles are everywhere, They are thrown on the sides of roads in garbage heaps and you can recycle them from the stores. The Idea is to deliver water to rabbits in a safe and effective manner that can be controlled and easily maintained. This is just part of the solution, because the real problem is with delivering the water to the rabbits. Rabbits hate to be wet. So having a system that is spilling all over the place is not going to work. The Idea of the actual Small Animal water bottle makes so much sense with the metal spout. We thought of using bamboo... but there is the rabbits strong desire to chew on everything. So we thought about using car antennas because older vehicles have the hollowed out antennas... but there is the issue of finding a ball bearing small enough to fit in the cavity to not let water drip.. Finally we centered around the idea of using a nail with a wide flat head pushed through the top of the cap from the inside. The idea the rabbits would learn to push the nail to the side releasing a trickle of water.

We are still developing Ideas for Shabeer and a system that can easily be replicated in any part of the world. But thinking about this has really made me understand that average people around the world are really facing complex issues with regards to their urban farms. I want to help people like Shabeer everyday. One day I may start a non-profit to help urban farmers around the world purchase necessary items. The fact remains that even though I have a very small megaphone, I am fortunate enough to be standing on a soap box. And with any means possible I will continue to highlight the real struggles that many people face.


Rachelle said...

Yeah, I hear you. Here's something for Shabeer, maybe. When I was young my sister had 50 pet bunnies (yeah pets...not the same, anyway). She used one of the chicken water drinking things. It is a large glass gallon jar upside down that feeds into a lid with a circular cover/drinking trough. After it is upside down the water only flows out when the water level in the drinking part goes down. You could use some system of plastic or glass bottles/ latex or rubber sealant/ and tubing and wire it into the cage.

Robin said...

I love the introspection and thoughtfulness in this post. You also might contact the people at Heifer project (heifer.org), they help small farmers all around the world and one of the things they help with is small animal husbandry like rabbits. I bet they have a watering solution that works for people with little access to things we take for granted like $4 rabbit bottles.

Sue said...

Funny how we are in the mindset of just "buying" a solution to a problem. I never thought of that aspect either. Wow-really brings a reality check, doesn't it?

ATW said...

Rachelle- great suggestion!! That system is very practical to deliver water to several rabbits at time..I will explore options with my friend to see how that system can be replicated from materials that are commonly thrown away. The idea is to spend zero dollars or in shabeers case zero rupees. Thanks for the post.. it definetly adds more to our war chest of practical solutions.

Robin- thanks for your post!! And the lead with the ORG. I am definetly going to check them out. It's mind numbing trying to apply a process that I assume can easily be bought.. its a very humbling experience.

Sue- your so right... When forced with the option of not to buy... It pokes you in the chest of just how dependant we are and greatful we all should be.. it forces me to show empathy in a way that I'm not use to....

Anonymous said...

I made a system like the one Rachelle mentions, diy-style. I took a bottle, cut a few small oblonged holes around the base, and then filled it with water. Then you just have to put it on a plate whos circunsference is slightly bigger than the bottles base, giving enough space to drink from it. To keep it from getting to soiled to fast, put it on a platform so you keep it above grass, soil and dirt. To carry a great quantity of these bottles, just put the filled bottles upside down in a basket. Cheap and dirty, or well, cheap and clean :-)

I really like your aha-moment, the realizing that people have totally different standards and possiblitites around the world, and that you realize your privileged position and try to put it in service to help. I only have one advice, or rather two: include the enduser in the developing of whatever it is, he can contribute tons of experience and ideas. And also: try to avoid the trap of seeing yourself as a saviour, try to see yourself as a student, because that is what we are, wherever we are.

Anonymous said...

PS: the holes on the base of the bottle should not be to high, not higher than the edge of the plate!
The water will only keep on flowing up to the upper rim of the waterhole is covered in water...if the plate is to low, the upper rim of the waterhole will never be covered, and thus the water will keep on flow..
oh, it is difficult to explain, i hope you understand..