Gardens of opportunities


  • Metro News
  • Friday, 15 Nov 2019

The Agrobox is part of the Kebun Kita programme implemented in Taman Medan. It enables organic farming in urban areas by combining hydroponic and aquaculture techniques. — Photos: RAJA FAISAL HISHAN/The Star

THE “Kebun Kita” initiative under Petaling Jaya City Council’s (MBPJ) Landscape Department is one of the council’s most popular community programmes since the project was launched two years ago.

“We receive between 10 and 15 applications per month to start a Kebun Kita (Our Farm) programme in various neighbourhoods, ” said MBPJ Landscape Department director Zuraidah Sainan.

“We will only approve the applications after thorough vetting, which includes looking into whether there is an active residents group in that area and the project’s sustainability.”

The pioneer gardens are located in Section 10 Kota Damansara, Kampung Lindungan, PJS 6 and Taman Medan. It will soon be expanded to Desa Mentari.

There are 18 “active” gardens in Petaling Jaya, with five more expected to be added this year.

The size of each garden varies, with the present ones ranging from 120sq m to 2,000sq m.

“Unused or vacant land, such as utility or government land (subject to certain conditions), are turned into these community gardens, ” said Zuraidah.

“A community keen on participating has to first get an approval letter from the site’s landowner. For example, if the proposed site is on Tenaga Nasional Bhd (TNB) reserve land, the community has to get approval from TNB.

“After receiving the landowner’s approval, the community has to submit an application to MBPJ, via their registered residents association, stating the proposed location and agricultural activities.

“Officers from the Landscape Department will then conduct a site visit to check on the site’s suitability and soil conditions.

Eijau Millennium Explorer founder Mohd Fikri Mohd Bakri (second from right) explaining to Ganabatirau (in blue shirt) and Bukit Lanjan assemblyman Elizabeth Wong (right) how his team’s composting project works.Eijau Millennium Explorer founder Mohd Fikri Mohd Bakri (second from right) explaining to Ganabatirau (in blue shirt) and Bukit Lanjan assemblyman Elizabeth Wong (right) how his team’s composting project works.

“If found to be suitable, the community has to fill in the official form and get their MBPJ councillor to endorse it.”

Zuraidah said the community had to use their own funds for their Kebun Kita project, such as preparing the site or buying gardening tools, seeds, soil and fertilisers. The Landscape Department’s role is only to give technical advice and basic training whenever needed.

Funding can be acquired through either their respective residents association, corporate social responsibility contributions or MBPJ’s PJ SEED (Social, Environment, Economy Development) community grant.

Zuraidah said the community had the freedom to plant vegetables, fruits or herbs, or even rear fish such as keli, puyu and pink tilapia using aquaponic tanks.

They are also free to decide how to distribute the produce --- whether for personal consumption or to sell.

According to Zuraidah, the Section 8 PPR Flats community allocates some produce for a soup kitchen project to feed poor families in their neighbourhood.

“The Taman Medan community’s vegetable crops and fish are used for residents’ consumption, while the balance is sold.”

She added that the Kebun Kita communities were required to submit monthly reports on their activities, harvest inventories and sales (if any) for the Landscape Department to monitor the programme’s development through data collection and annual assessment.

Kebun Kita is a rebranding of an earlier programme and run with the assistance of related government agencies as well as non-governmental organisations (NGO).

“The contributions from NGOs vary. They include monetary, in-kind (tools or seedlings) and community engagement (gotong-royong activities), ” said Zuraidah, adding that Kebun Kita had won awards such as Malaysia Landscape Architecture Awards 2018 and 2019, Selangor Research and Development and Innovation Expo 2019, and World Town Planning Day 2018 and 2019.

The local council presented the Kebun Kita at a Basic Urban Farming Programme for Urban B40 Group organised by Selangor

socioeconomic empowerment, development and caring government committee chairman V. Ganabatirau’s team in collaboration with MBPJ.

The one-day event was aimed at educating the more than 100 participants on the basics of urban farming and agriculture, and offering them an opportunity to earn an income to support their families.

At its launch, Ganabatirau said it offered one of the best platforms in guiding and offering knowledge to the urban B40 community, particularly in developing their potential as small-scale agricultural entrepreneurs.

“The Basic Urban Farming Programme encourages them to use farming as a way to reduce their cost of living by planting their own crops for food.

“It also helps to improve their household economy through small-scale agricultural entrepreneurship by offering a source of income through the sale of surplus produce, ” he said, adding that the programme was ideal for housewives, single mothers, retirees and senior citizens.

The event held in Damansara Damai featured demonstrations on natural farming, composting methods, gardening without soil, and generating economy through urban farming.

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