If there’s one thing we’ve learned from the COVID-19 outbreak, it’s that everything we take for granted can be gone in seconds… Including easy access to food.
Though we will not reach a stage where we will have to worry about where our next meal will come from, the fleeting moment of doubt we all got on the 24th of March, as well as the impact of the price increase of fruits and vegetables at the supermarket, is something which many of us can avoid.
Because, the truth is, that for many of us, being partially self sufficient when it comes to food is possible.
So when this crisis ends - and it will end - I believe that it is important that we start looking into alternative ways for us to get the food that we need to lead healthy lives.
To help you get started on your journey towards self sufficiency, I’m chatting with Aurore Rouzzi, founder of SensiBio on the basics of what it takes to run your own vegetable patch (and you’ll see, it’s much easier than you think).
SensiBio is an organisation focused on educating Mauritians on the importance, as well as the methods of organic farming. They also teach ordinary people like you and me on how to grow our own vegetable patch at home so that we may be self sufficient.
1. Hi Aurore, can you tell us a little bit about your background and how you came to create SensiBio?
The first course I completed involved the management of our natural resources and environmental protection. I took a specialisation in organic vegetable farming so that I could help protect the environment by tackling one of the most important reasons that it’s vulnerable… food production.
I created SensiBio to share this information with Mauritians in the hope that they can start sustainable organic farming practices.
2. That’s great so who do you teach exactly?
Anyone who is interested! I regularly work with professional farmers and corporates, but I also teach kids and families who want to start their own vegetable patch.
3. So in other words, anyone can grow their own plants at home?
Of course! Anyone can do this, in fact, I even showed people with disabilities, and the elderly, the pleasures of growing their own food. All you need is a space which gets regular sun for six hours a day and water… as from there, everything is possible.
4. COVID-19 has made it harder for many of us to have easy and affordable access to food. Do you see this as a strong argument for self-sufficiency?
I think that one of the main changes that this crisis will bring is an increased awareness that depending exclusively on others for our food is a risky strategy. So yes, I believe families should be able to grow some portion of their own food but I insist that all food grown this way should be organic. Otherwise, we put our health at risk and I don’t think I need to mention the terrible effects on the environment. For more information, I have an article on growing organic food in Mauritius, which you can find right here.
5. Ok, so how do we get started? What are the easiest types of plants to grow at home?
I recommend that beginners start with leafy vegetables of all kinds especially Tom Pouce (Bok Choy) and lettuce.
These are relatively fast to grow so you’ll get a reward soon after starting, which should encourage you to keep going. Aromatic herbs suit most sizes of vegetable gardens and are good to start planting once you’re gotten some experience.
You can then move on to root vegetables (I recommend radishes to start) then fruit vegetables of which eggplants, ladyfingers (lalo), and chilli are the easiest.
Photo sourced from Pixabay
6. How much time do I need to spend every week for a good amount of vegetables? Is this something I can do in my spare time or does it require commitment?
The amount of time you have to spend tending to your plants depends on the type of cultivation technique you wish to use and the type of vegetables you want to grow. So, let’s say that for a 50m2 garden it would require about 5 hours of work per week… When you think of that as quality time spent with your family, that’s really nothing at all.
7. What about people who don’t have much space at home? Is it still easy for them to plant a vegetable garden?
There are many types of vegetable gardens you can have at home. Not all of them need to be a traditional vegetable patch. For example, you can set up containers on a balcony and plant nearly every type of vegetable you want in it as long as it’s deep enough… all in all, it depends on the person and what you want to plant.
8. Where can I get the seeds to plant these vegetables and fruits?
You can find the seeds you need to plant your own veggie patch in supermarkets, and agricultural supply stores but also from friends or neighbours… in fact, getting seeds from your neighbours’ garden is even better as it means that these vegetables grow easily in your region.
9. Where can we learn more about home-grown vegetables and fruits?
At SenSiBio we offer training in organic farming and consulting services to help individuals and families improve their vegetable garden. You can get in touch with me, or book a training session through the contact page on the SensiBio website.
I strongly encourage anyone who can, to start their own vegetable garden.
Not only do you get to have your own fresh and organic food right in your backyard and balcony, but you’ll also have a great way to unwind and spend quality time with your family over a shared activity.
If anything, I hope that this short interview is enough to make you realise that anyone can plant their own vegetables at home, and that it’s possible whether you live in an apartment or in a house with a garden.
And, if ever you need help to get started, Aurore is one of the most knowledgeable people on the island to get your started.