Grow your own food

Planting your own vegetables could be the answer to the ever increasing cost of living, particularly in urban areas

pic by BERNAMA

CHEW on this. Malaysians consumed about 300,000 tonnes of chilli each year. Needless to say, chilli is indispensable to Malaysians. It’s like tomato or basil to Italians.

From the hearty nasi goreng to the more complicated but gratifying beef rendang, the flavour would not be right if chilli is omitted from the recipe.

Fresh or dried, chilli is in almost every Malaysian menu.

With such a staggering amount used annually, the absence or shortage of the vegetable could create panic especially among food business operators.

And surprise, surprise, while Malaysia seems to be fertile and suitable enough to plant chilli, a substantial amount of this precious ingredient has to be imported to supplement local production.

According to the Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Ministry secretary general Datuk Mohd Sallehhuddin Hassan, a total of 31,000 tonnes of chilli are imported from 57 registered importing countries between January and July last year.

Apparently, the local production of chilli is still insufficient as the crop is often hampered by inferior varieties and susceptibility to pests and diseases. Imported chillies are also cheaper than the homegrown variety.

It was reported that at one point, imported chilli cost about RM8 per kg compared to local chilli that cost between RM12 and RM13 per kg.

As such, the idea of growing your own chillies, or other vegetables and greens, sound very appealing. In fact, it can be done at home even if you are living in a small apartment with a tiny balcony.

It is also a fact, planting your own vegetables could be the answer to the ever increasing cost of living, particularly in urban areas.

City dwellers with limited living space could utilise the urban farming concept which promotes agricultural practices in the urban environment via vertical gardening and aquaponics.

This modern concept implies that farming is no longer only about having a wide-open agriculture land out in the countryside. With the right apparatus, you could transform your little space into a garden of edible greens.

In fact, most developed countries have established urban farming, as a solution for urban food insecurity.

A great example is the aquaponics business that is run by Urban Farm Tech Sdn Bhd, a company that encourages the urban communities to get closer to nature by growing food around their vicinity.

The company provides urban aquaponics facilities that combine all different farming concepts with a minimal use of space.

Location is definitely not an issue in this concept. Be it a balcony, front yard or backyard, almost every space is a potential plot for urban farming.

The new farming technique could see you growing organic vegetation that would satisfy the need of a whole family sufficiently.

Other than the rooftop or any horizontal vacant space, the company can develop a wall farming system that utilises the vertical surface of a building, even if you have a balcony of just 8ft wide and 10ft high. All you need is a surface and sunlight.

With the starter kit of between RM280 and RM480, one can opt for either a small grow bed type aquaponics or the more expensive vertical tower-type aquaponics system.

According to Urban Farm Tech founder Francis Chuah, the starter kit system is able to plant about 24 pots of vegetable, largely for beginners.

“The next level of urban growers, who aim to grow their own vegetables for self-consumption, can consider our UH140 vertical farm module that can grow up to 140 pots of leafy vegetables that cost between RM2,500 and RM3,500,” he told The Malaysian Reserve in an earlier report.

Best of all, urban farming initiatives could offer the populace a viable income, apart from supplementing all the basic needs.

“Based on our record, for space just about 30ft by 8ft, an urban farmer could generate a revenue of about RM600 per month by growing the right vegetables,” Chuah added.

Perhaps, the idea of growing our own food for self-sustenance has long been introduced in the country.

In 1974, Malaysia’s second Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak Hussein launched the Green Book Programme or “Rancangan Buku Hijau” as one of the measures to increase food production by encouraging people to plant and grow their own food crops.

However, the programme fizzled out as the country’s economy grew and people had more money.

With lingering concerns over urban food insecurity, scarcity and other related issues that eating into the livelihood of many, maybe it is time to revive the programme.

Rahman Daros is the supplement editor of The Malaysian Reserve.