By Kuah Guan Oo
SERDANG, 6 March - If you have been pottering around your garden or home for some greens and useful pastime, you might want to consider joining the bandwagon for some big time farming in the form of urban agriculture.
And why not? Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak had disclosed that his rock melon patch at the official residence Seri Perdana has been netting him RM500, 000 a year and this is proof enough that urban farming is both feasible and profitable if you care to think out of the box.
With land getting scarce and the food bill escalating sky-high over the past decade, the scientists and researchers at Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) have designed and crafted different ways for the urbanites to start farming in a much bigger way, not only to put more food on the table but also some money in the bank.
“You can call it a sort of landless farming,” said Prof Dr Abdul Shukor Juraimi , the dean of the Agriculture Faculty of Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) who has led his team of lecturers and scientists to plan and design various methods of farming, using whatever limited space available in the urban areas.
To ignite the interest of the urban residents to grow much more than just a kilo or two, the faculty is training its students to serve as volunteers to go out to the people to teach and guide them in urban farming.
In a limited space like the front or backyard of a house, the residents can go for vertical, multi-tier or hanging garden to grow whatever greens or fruits that are suitable, like lettuce, cucumbers, brinjals, tomatoes, melons and gourds.
Or they can opt for an integrated system of aquaculture and vegetables known as “pisciponics”, as well as a smart greenhouse that uses high technology, sensors and solar energy.
“We can also teach them how to make compost from their organic and kitchen waste or how to harvest rainwater,” he said, after the launching of the national level iM4U Outreach programme for youth by Datuk Seri Najib at the UiTM Puncak Alam campus on 2nd March 2013. UPM had set up a booth to display its Urban Agriculture modules.
UPM is trying “to kill two birds with one stone” by initiating its urban agriculture drive where its students would be trained to serve as volunteers to generate and fan a nationwide movement for big scale farming in the towns and cities.
These students are to be the catalyst or agents of change, for more food production in the country for food security and safety.
The bottomline of this movement for urban farming is a noticeable if not drastic reduction in the nation’s food import bill that has balloned from RM1 bln in 1990 to RM14 bln in 2011.
While the rate of urbanisation in the country is estimated at 2.4 percent per year from 2010 to 2015, 72 percent of the Malaysian urban population resides in 20 major townships.
Prof Dr Shukur said, “There are so many advantages and benefits from this type of farming for the urban residents, community and country.” Among them is fresher and safer food that can be harvested and sold without having to be refrigerated and transported over long distances (or food mile reduction).
At the national level, there would be a higher level of self-sufficiency for food and more savings that could be channelled for other useful national development purposes.
Compost-making from urban organic waste would also go a long way to reduce environmental pollution.
The Agriculture Faculty of UPM has all the information and advisory services for those interested to start farming around their homes or locality. All they need to do is to contact:
Faculty of Agriculture
University Putra Malaysia
43400 UPM Serdang
Tel: +603-8947 4801
Fax: +603-8940 8319
43400 UPM Serdang
Selangor Darul Ehsan