Groups welcome timely Urban Agriculture Directive
URBAN agriculture is growing in popularity, especially now during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Many people spend more time at home and engage in farming as a resourceful hobby, while some also earn income by selling the produce.
While authorities are encouraging activity, some farms are being cultivated in areas that are not intended for such projects, thus disrupting the surroundings.
To regulate the activity, the Department of Housing and Local Government launched the Urban Community Agriculture Policy (UCFP) on August 3 as a guide for individuals or groups interested in pursuing such projects.
The National Department of Landscape, an agency under the ministry, is the executor of the policy.
Its chief executive, Rotina Mohd Daik, said that despite a high number of urban gardens, the communities that run them lack knowledge about proper management, cultivation methods, maintenance and sustainable practices, among others.
She said the department’s involvement in a previous ministry initiative called Rakan Taman which was closely linked to urban community agriculture, showed these communities faced problems and challenges from the start.
“Many started gardens on illegal sites, grew unsuitable plants and had poor knowledge of gardening tools and their uses.
“That’s when the idea for UCFP was born,” she said.
Rotina said the main goal of the policy was to develop urban community farms in an organized, systematic and sustainable manner in urban areas.
“In this community garden policy, guidelines are also provided for the community to conduct urban gardening activities.
“The policy addresses suitable agricultural areas, the processes of obtaining permission from the landowner and local authority, and includes advice on essential elements of an urban farm such as the boundaries between crops, the composting site, crop rotation practices, watering methods and maintenance. .
“People who want to grow vegetables or fruit in their homes do not need to seek permission from the authorities.
“However, individuals or groups wishing to start a garden in a common space or any available space owned by others, must seek the appropriate approvals.
“This is to prevent people from occupying spaces in restricted areas such as recreation sites and children’s playgrounds.
“The policy also addresses the type of crops suitable for urban gardens, which include eggplant, lemongrass, carrot, cucumber and kale,” she explained.
Rotina said the Department of Housing and Local Government hopes the policy will increase gardening activities in urban areas in a more systematic and orderly manner, which in turn will increase social integration within the urban community.
She said the department would work closely with local councils to ensure the policy serves local communities as well as a guideline for those who wish to start their own urban farms.
“Residents’ associations, organizations for the joint management of strata properties and non-governmental organizations are encouraged to register their urban farm initiatives with local authorities.
“Registered organizations will be able to receive support and advice from the authorities.
“Some may even get financial assistance for start-up capital from local authorities and relevant agencies to start community garden projects,” she added.
The right time for the guide
Persatuan Lestari Alam Malaysia President Rashdan Rashid said the launch of UCFP was a step in the right direction as there was growing interest in such projects.
Rashdan, who is also president of Kuala Lumpur Urban Agriculture under the Local Agenda 21 (LA 21) program run by Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL), said there were more than 100 requests for farms urban areas awaiting approval since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. .
He said the approval process was delayed because there were not enough officers in the working group to oversee the establishment and operations of these farms.
“Establishing a sustainable urban farm requires proper planning, otherwise it will fail.
“As part of the LA 21 program, we help them choose the site, provide them with capacity building training, teach them how to operate as a social enterprise and evaluate their projects twice a year,” he said. he explains.
Rashdan said attendees will also learn about the circular economy.
“Many are waiting for grants to start a farm, but we encourage them to raise funds by selling recyclable items.
“After the farm is finished, we educate them on harvesting rainwater for watering crops, making compost as fertilizer, and organic farming for health and environmental benefits.
“In addition to just selling the products in the markets, we also teach them how to make products from fresh produce,” he added.
Some groups, Rashdan revealed, have recorded sales of up to RM300 per month.
“Part of the sales can be fed back into the farm,” he advised.
However, of the 84 registered urban farms, he noted that only about 20% met sustainability standards.
He stressed that regulations were also important in controlling agricultural activities in the city.
“Some farms are cultivated in children’s playgrounds and recreation areas, which is not fair to others.
“Another example of poor urban agricultural practice is the location of the project under high voltage cables.
“Although allowed, many do not seek approval from the landowner and plant the wrong type of crops.
“With a policy in place, such practices could be avoided,” he said.
Thriving community farms
Taman Tun Dr Ismail Community Edible Garden President Margaret Lee agreed that with regulations, problems could be nipped in the bud.
When residents launched the project on vacant land along Lorong Burhanuddin Helmi 11 in 2017, the launch went smoothly, guided by the LA 21 program.
“As a result, we have a thriving vegetable garden and have planted a variety of fruit trees.
“We use organic methods and our products are quickly picked up by the community.
“We also make and sell compost.
“Before that, there were groups that started smaller gardens but failed to maintain them,” she said.
Latiff Abu Hassan, who heads the neighborhood garden project at Seri Perlis 2 Flats in Kampung Datuk Keramat, Kuala Lumpur, also believes communities will benefit from the policy.
He said the apartment residents’ garden project was started in 2015 as part of a program of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Industry.
This was to encourage the community to grow their own crops in order to reduce living costs.
However, it was only through an LA 21 program that residents of Seri Perlis 2 Apartments learned how to grow crops using sustainable methods, Latiff said.
“Our cultures are flourishing.
“We have groups that plant different types of vegetables.
“We sell the products to the market and the profits are reinvested in the housing company for the benefit of the residents.
“The project also keeps residents, especially the older generation, active and healthy. “
He said cash incentives have been given to groups that have reached their goal for the month.
“I hope more communities will embrace urban agriculture because there is a lot to be gained.
“It brings people together and promotes good neighborliness,” added Latiff.