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Growing my own food is a luxury – for many around the world it is essential

For me growing food is a pleasure, but for millions of people it is a necessity.

Vegetables from my allotment. Photo: Francesca Fryer/2015

It’s National Allotment Week. All across the country allotment sites are vulnerable to pressures from building developments. The week aims to highlight the need to value remaining plots and preserve them for future generations to enjoy growing their own food.

My partner and I got an allotment a year ago and it has become my pride and joy. We were lucky getting ours only a month after registering. We’re also lucky because the vegatables we grow in our small holding supplement our diet. We don’t face the hardship of hunger people confront in the countries Concern Worldwide works in.

Our plot a year ago (left)  when we were fencing and building the raised beds, and today (right) with the shed, greenhouse and many other assets helping us grow organic veg. Photo: Francesca Fryer/2015

As we started quite late in the season last year, there was a limit to what we could grow. We grew radishes, turnips, lettuce, spinach, beans (which were gobbled by something before we got a chance to enjoy them) and Japanese daikon. The satisfaction of pulling up the beautiful red radishes for the first time was so exciting! Preparing meals with something I’ve grown from seed is such a joy.

Some of our crops from last year. Photo: Francesca Fryer/2015

Not everything has been successful. For example, I have learnt that you have to net seedling beans and broccoli to protect them from pigeons. There is no shortage of advice from veteran neighouring allotment gardeners who are happy to share their knowledge. We’re growing tomatoes, cucumbers, herbs, lettuce, rocket, bell pepper and chilli pepper plants from seed in the greenhouse. Outside we have lettuce, peas, beans, turnips, curly kale, cabbage, leeks, courgettes, broccoli, spinach, lettuce, carrots, onions, garlic, potatoes, pumpkin, butternut squash, sweet potatoes and parsnips.

Seid Muhie harvests potato in his field in the Village of Gelsha in Ethiopia. Photo: Jiro Ose/Concern/Ethiopia/2013

Working in the allotment, I often think of my time in Ethiopia a little over a year ago where I met some of the farmers we work with in the remote villages of the Amhara region. Seid and his family who, with support and training from Concern, have started growing potatoes. Spuds bring them a much higher income than their previous crop, barley. Unlike barley, potatoes are drought resilient and nutritous, and they help keep subsistant farmers in this part of Ethiopia from falling into crisis. Seid told us:

I was dependent on barley, which is highly vulnerable to the shortage of rain, and my income was very, very minimal. I was ready to sell my land, settle in a nearby town and become a day labourer. But after growing potatoes, I changed my plans.

Monica Malundu, a small model farmer in Concern's RAIN programme, sits with her 3 year old daughter Deli in their home in Zambia. Photo: Gareth Bentley/Concern/Zambia/2014

In Zambia, Monica, a smallholder farmer tells us a similar story. She used to face long periods of hunger and sometimes could only provide one meal a day for her family. Now she grows plenty of nutritious crops and has livestock. She said:

I’ve learnt a lot about the nutrition of foods - like the vitamins in carrots being good for your eyes. My favourite foods are the soya beans and peanuts. The children really like the sweet potato and goat’s milk.

For me growing food is a pleasure, but for millions of people in poor countries, it is a necessity.

Explore our Resilient Village which shows how Concern works with communities to ensure they have access to nutritious food all year round.