Urban farming has become a buzzword in the country.
Currently, there are around 11,000 urban farming communities in Malaysia, and the government aims to create 20,000 urban farming communities around the country by the year 2030.
Urban farming is a government initiative programme to ensure a complete food supply chain and beef up food security in the country.
During my visit to the UK in 2019, I had the opportunity to visit a professor’s home in a London suburb. During the brief visit, I was taken to a neighbourhood where there was an urban farming area that was used by its residents.
What impressed me the most was that the local government had provided land spaces for urbanites to till and grow food, which is vital for food security and nutrition.
Urban farming, if properly planned and executed, preserves green spaces in cities, providing places for neighbours to come together, strengthen bonds and build community cohesion.
Urban agriculture connects people with the earth and the source of their food, as well as with each other.
Urban farming protects the environment and reduces food inflation: there could be a reduction of the movement of vehicles to supply food and it could be a way to mitigate global food supply chain disruptions.
What is worrying is that urban farming could take the form of technological commercialisation that ultimately benefits big businesses more than the common people.
The urban farming process could become a tool of rich conglomerates where only the rich and the upper-middle class could afford the farm produce.
So how do we include the urban poor in urban farming, especially in unused or abandoned land? Could the homeless or those living in ‘squatter’ settlements be part of urban farming? Could they be provided land for such a purpose?
Pope Francis in his encyclical on the environment, using biblical understanding, states that human life is grounded in three fundamental and closely intertwined relationships: with God, with our neighbour and with the earth itself. When one of these relationships is broken, the others are broken too.
This is the essence of what Pope Francis calls integral ecology. It is why he says we need to hear “both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor”.
The term integral ecology could provide the best model for a local government vision that should intertwine the spiritual, the human and the ecology. It is time that city planners around the country integrate the poor into urban farming activities to ensure that equitable aspects of urban farming take root in the country.
On 2 April, the Association for Welfare, Community and Dialogue, partnered with Ipoh Barat MP M Kulasegaran, met local and state government authorities to explore how to integrate the urban poor into fields like urban farming.
Hopefully, a just model of urban farming could emerge in Perak and the rest of the country. Integral ecology could be a model for urban farming. – Malaysiakini