Back in the day, before the convenience of supermarkets, there was the simple life of farming. The age-old necessity to sustain; the skill to grow your own living. Nowadays, such skills are deemed unneeded by most and thus, has been nearly forgotten. It is undeniable that supermarkets have provided many benefits to the community: it saves time, is easily accessible and offers a variety. While this is great, I personally feel, for multitudes of reasons, that the skill of farming should not be forgotten.
Those were some of the things running through my head while I was preparing my community brief for the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI). As an environmental consultant by trade, I have had the privilege of traveling far and wide across Sarawak, to the rural villages to talk to the local population about their trials and tribulations. From there, I learned a lot about local agricultural methods and how it helps sustain them. It really got me thinking about how city folk (like me) could also benefit from agriculture, while improving the livelihoods of those living in rural areas. I was also saddened to hear of how some youngsters in these areas have lost interest in traditional agriculture. As for my own project, I was finding ways to improve the local agricultural scene in my beloved hometown of Sarawak, Malaysia, a rapidly developing state, where new things quickly replace the old.
Fast forward, I was awarded the fellowship and was sent to Omaha, Nebraska where I was assigned to work with Omaha Permaculture (OP) with a nice Laotian fellow. OP is a non-profit organization that teaches the principal of Permaculture, and to foster communities through sustainable land stewardships. Permaculture, in short, is the principle of the developing agricultural ecosystems intended to be sustainable and self-sufficient, a.k.a. natural methods which are much better for the environment and is proven to be more sustainable in the long run. They do this by setting up Community Gardens all around the local communities to teach permaculture via urban farming, which was something I was involved in quite a lot while I was there. It was truly a fantastic time.
Post-fellowship and armed with this new knowledge, I was excited to bring some of those concepts back to Sarawak and to practice them here as a project. With the help of OP, my club, Sarawak Eco-Warriors, and I started off by opening some community gardens here in Kuching to teach basic urban farming to the public, with our first garden set up at the Dyslexia Association Sarawak (DASwk) where we also offered an opportunity for those with dyslexia to acquire a new skill set.
Our community gardens are intended to achieve the following goals:
As of right now for obvious pandemic reasons, our gardens remain in small scale and we can only facilitate a few people at one time. However, if you are interested and wish to learn a new skill together, feel free to reach out to us and we will gladly usher you in. Come and be a part of something new and old at the same time. All are welcome!