Searching for Delhi’s invisible farms

By Ellen Carseldine:

Along the banks of Delhi’s Yamuna River live thousands of urban farmers, intensively cultivating small blocks of land that many have occupied for generations.

Despite being a largely unacknowledged population in the nation’s capital, according to Dr. Jessica Cook, a behavioural scientist from the University of Denver, these farming communities play a crucial role in urban food security.

“Although the farmers along the Yamuna floodplain produce only a percentage of the city’s produce needs, they do produce a significant volume of produce for local markets,” Dr. Cook said, with farmers growing high cash crops and harvesting – therefore selling – every day.

However, staring towards the river from a nearby metro station one struggles to find evidence of their existence, and with good reason. For although Delhi’s river farmers highlight the opportunity for urban agriculture in one of the world’s most populous cities, their crops are grown on government owned land intended for development, meaning the whole operation is technically illegal.

On learning it is common for local authorities to bulldoze farmers’ homes to discourage farming along the floodplains, reasons for the community’s invisibility become apparent: they need to remain hidden.

Wandering towards the Yamuna bank along a wide dirt road, only glimpses can be made into the world of Delhi’s urban farmers.

The occasional bike passes by on a long dirt road to the bank of the Yamuna.


Men load their cargo into a truck at a makeshift market blocking the road.


A group of young men take a break from the heat under the shade of some eucalyptus trees.

A woman pauses from collecting bundles of sticks off the forest floor.


Thatched huts mark the entrance to a small farm hidden from the main road.


Chillies are laid on the ground to dry after being harvested.


Handmade chulhas (traditional cooking stoves) are dotted around the camp.


A woman kneels to wash pots and pans outside her hut.

A child picks at some food as a family member rests behind her.

A child picks at some food as a family member rests behind her.


The edge of the farmers’ camp opens out to a field of small vegetable crops.


The farm grows cabbage, palak, eggplant and chilli among other vegetables and pulses.


Farmers working in the field are wary of outside attention.


Children play in an adjoining field.


One thought on “Searching for Delhi’s invisible farms

  1. Pingback: Meeting the invisible farmers at Yamuna Bank | UQ in India

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