Urban agriculture projects gaining traction in M’sia

PETALING JAYA: Home gardens and urban farming projects have sprouted up recently, with the movement control order (MCO) giving Malaysians the extra incentive to test out their green fingers.

Dr Tey Yeong Sheng, a researcher at the Institute of Agricultural and Food Policy Studies at Universiti Putra Malaysia, said he noted that farming and gardening activities in urban areas peaked during the MCO.

He believes urban agriculture has gained traction in recent times, not just as a source of food but also as a way to hedge against the negative effects of rapid urbanisation.

“It helps to optimise land use and it reduces the cost of living, malnourishment and food insecurity of urban population. It also helps to ‘green’ the environment.

“There are also many community-based urban farming projects and some are relatively noteworthy. Such community projects also enhance social integration as they involve local residents, NGOs, local government and the Department of Agriculture,” he said, citing the Urban Farming Project in Taman Desa Damai, Penang as an example.

Dr Tey believed that there will be growth in consumer awareness for practices that are rooted in agricultural sustainability.

“As much as farmers desire sustainable development, only a fraction of consumers are willing to reward good farmers with a price premium.

“In this regard, urban agriculture offers some hope. Urban farming projects induce community members to pay up a little more as they have confidence in the source of origin of the vegetables and the local production practices,” he said.

Khazanah Research Institute senior research associate Dr Sarena Che Omar explained that urban farming can include rooftop, glasshouse, vertical farms, or community-based farms, as well as, small patches of edible plants grown in one’s homes.

“Since we lack formal data statistics, relying on observations alone, we see an increasing trend over the last few years involving interest in all three types of urban farming.

“The MCO has further amplified both the interest and motivation of the urban population to take up urban farming,” she said.

Even so, she noted that in reality, urban farming is unlikely to be able to replace all the vegetables and fruits that are currently being produced in the country or imported.

“This is due to the limited space that is needed to achieve the economies of scale, and the large quantity of food that is needed by the nation,” she said.

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