THE Iskandar Puteri Low-Carbon grant initiated last year has been awarded to 14 community groups in Iskandar City, Johor.
Iskandar Puteri City Council (MBIP) launched the grant to sponsor the development of green projects in areas under its administration.
The programme is an effort to encourage the growth of community and urban farms in Iskandar City, MBIP town planning officer Safwan Shaari said.
He said the 14 groups were awarded a RM15,000 grant each to further develop or kick-start community farming projects.
“We launched the pilot project last year and it caught the attention of many communities who were interested in starting or expanding their community farms.
“This year, we plan to open applications for the grant in March and double the funding to empower more communities to carry out green projects,” he said.
He added that so far, there were 14 community farms and one urban farm under MBIP, with the first one initiated in 2015.
The Kangkar Pulai Kenari Flats community farm, which was shortlisted in the Town and Country Planning Department (PLANMalaysia) Green eighbourhood Award contest in 2020, is among the successful projects.
“Community farm projects are usually those initiated by the community itself, non-governmental organisations (NGO) or lecturers from Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM),” said Safwan.
“They do not generate much income and focus on producing a low-carbon community.
“Urban farms, on the other hand, are larger projects that can also generate income and have better production capacity,” he explained.
He said MBIP aimed to empower more communities to embark on green projects while encouraging existing green communities to keep their farms alive.
“We currently have about five community farms that are not very active.
“We hope to encourage them to be active again, this year, by introducing them to the Hugelkultur method, which is a more sustainable farming method compared to fertigation,” he elaborated.
MBIP observed that between 2015 and 2018, communities in Iskandar Puteri were using the fertigation method.
“The fertigation method requires more manpower and expertise.
“More than 90% of the community farms have become inactive after a year as it is difficult to keep up with the maintenance of the farms through the fertigation method,” said Safwan.
In 2018, MBIP collaborated with UTM to come out with the German Hugelkultur method which was more suitable for the environment and community, he said.
“This has allowed us to keep more community farms alive,” Safwan added.
The Iskandar Regional Development Authority (Irda), too, is expanding efforts to create more urban and community farms and kick-started the Iskandar Malaysia Urban Farming (Imufarm) in 2017.
Irda chief executive officer Datuk Dr Badrul Hisham Kassim said the project was established to help those in the B40 category participate in small to medium-scale food production activities for their own consumption or sale.
“To date, we have supported eight community farms under our Imufarm 1.0 project involving 140 participants from the B40 and M40 category.
“Under the Imufarm 2.0 project, we started two pilot urban farm projects using the indoor farming system for mushroom cultivation. Both these projects involve four youths,” he said.
Badrul Hisham said support from Irda consisted of agriculture equipment or system, infrastructures such as the installation of utilities, fences and low-carbon elements.
“We have expanded the scope for the project to also include support in the form of guidance and monitoring by a systems provider for a two-year period,” he said.
Irda, he said, had allocated a RM350,000 budget to develop another pilot project in Johor Baru under the Outdoor Integrated Farming System Model using aquaponic and fertigation systems.
“Such initiatives are important to Irda as they provide the people with an alternative source of income while also utilising land and space that have been left idle.
“It can also raise awareness of healthy living and encourage people to care for the environment, while increasing their quality of life.
“On top of that, it helps us create more young food and agro-entrepreneurs from the B40 and M40 groups to earn an income through modern agriculture practices,” he said.
Badrul Hisham said some 140 participants from the B40 category were able to earn an average of RM2,800 from each harvest through their involvement in the projects.