Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 13 July 2020

CORONAVIRUS

Coronavirus: Dubai family is growing strong after turning home into thriving farm amid pandemic

Praveen Kottavathil and his wife and two children grow fruit and vegetables and make their own honey to cut down on essential shopping trips

An enterprising Dubai family is reaping the rewards of self sufficiency during the coronavirus pandemic after building a thriving farm at their own home.

Praveen Kottavathil, who lives with his wife and two children, has transformed their Al Quoz villa and its grounds into a 3,000-square-foot ecosystem where fruits and vegetables are grown, beehives provide a plentiful supply of honey and rabbits, hens, parrots and fish are among the habitat.

The agricultural expertise of Mr Kottavathil, an administrator by day, and his family has greatly cut down on supermarket trips and helped them to limit the risks of potential exposure to Covid-19.

The family harvests brinjal (aubergine), tindly (ivy gourd), tomatoes, cabbage, cauliflower, coriander leaves, spinach, beans, curry leaves, chillies, watermelons, tapioca and sugarcane.

“The vegetables are fresh, healthy and pesticide-free," said Mr Kottavathil.

“In the last few months of the pandemic, we have only purchased onions, garlic and ginger from the supermarket. Every other vegetable and fruit we ate grew in our home.

"We don’t have to step out of our house and go to crowded places to buy groceries. We stay at home and avoid any exposure to the virus.”

The farming family man hails from the southern state of Kerala in India where he grew up amidst lush green farms owned by his father and grandfather.

He wanted to recreate the same experience for his children in Dubai and that’s what inspired him to build the farm. When the pandemic started, the family put all hands on deck to harvest home-grown vegetables.

Most of the produce was harvested from December until April. In the month of May, they got watermelons, sweet melons, three varieties of spinach, chillies, curry leaves and beans.

“My kids actively participate in farming. They help in watering the plants, digging the soil, making the compost and feeding the animals. The compost is made from our kitchen waste," he said.

"The benefit of having rabbits and other animals is that their dung can be added to the compost as fertilisers. The animals are not for our consumption, they are our pets. We only consume the hens' eggs.”

The farm also includes a pond adorned with lotus flowers where they breed three types of fish – tilapia, guppy and koi carps.

Mr Kottavathil said he hoped more people would take inspiration from their home-grown success, especially during the pandemic.

“Even in a balcony, we can easily grow spinach, curry leaves, coriander leaves, mint and a few other vegetables. Almost all kinds of seeds are now available in the UAE’s nurseries. We should all do farming at home, especially for our kitchen.”

Updated: May 25, 2020 10:59 AM

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