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Community Garden Fosters Harmony Among Flat Dwellers

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KUALA LUMPUR – Low-cost, high-rise flats have been getting bad press lately due to issues like the indiscriminate throwing of garbage, lack of parking space and prevalence of social ills.

With the help of Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL), the residents of some high-rise, low-cost residential schemes in the city, developed under the government’s People’s Housing Programme (PPR), have taken the initiative to implement community projects to redeem the image of their housing areas.

PPR Seri Semarak in Setapak, here, is one such scheme where 120 residents – mostly women –teamed up two years ago to embark on a community vegetable garden project on an 83.6 square metre plot within the compound of their housing area.

Called Laman Agro, more than 50 types of vegetables, herbs and “ulam” (certain plants that are eaten raw) can be found growing on the site.

Laman Agro is among the community garden projects initiated under DBKL’s Local Agenda 21 Kuala Lumpur (LA21KL), which the local authority implemented 10 years ago to bring the community, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and the private sector together to plan and execute sustainable development programmes to make the city more liveable.

For their project, the PPR Seri Semarak residents managed to get several NGOs to sponsor fertiliser, planter boxes and seeds. Since Laman Agro has limited space, the project participants have resorted to growing vegetables in planter boxes.

DAILY ACTIVITY

PPR Seri Semarak flat dwellers in charge of the vegetable plot take turns to tend to the garden every morning from 7.00 a.m. to noon and evening from 5.00 p.m. to 7.00 p.m.

An air of camaraderie prevails as they water the plants and pull out weeds; for these city dwellers, working on their vegetable plot is a welcome change and it reminds them of their kampung.

PPR Seri Semarak resident and Laman Agro supervisor Latifah Mokhtar said before they embarked on the vegetable garden, the flat residents hardly spoke to one another.

“Once we got involved in the project, we have all become very friendly,” she told Bernama.

“There’s always something to do in the garden, like watering the plants, digging the soil, making compost or sowing new seeds.”

They also share whatever knowledge they have picked up at the gardening workshops they had attended and try out new recipes with the produce from their plot.

The “fruits” of their labour are shared among the project participants, with some of the produce sold to the local community.

“By planting our own vegetables, we have all managed to cut down our household expenses. Furthermore, gardening has made us healthier as it is good exercise,” said Latifah.

She and her team have also visited the model community garden operated by the residents of PPR Raya Permai in Sungai Besi, here, to pick up some useful tips from them.

SPIRIT OF COOPERATION

PPR Seri Semarak Residents Association Chairman Mohd Hafizrullah Nakibullah said Laman Agro has helped to strengthen ties among the residents living in the scheme’s five blocks.

“Each block has not less than 20 residents involved in Laman Agro. This project has helped to inculcate in the residents the spirit of cooperation and teamwork. Before Laman Agro came about, the residents here were not so friendly with each other,” he said.

Although only five per cent of PPR Seri Semarak’s 8,000 residents were involved in Laman Agro, they have managed to turn a part of the idle land on their compound into a thriving vegetable garden.

Just next to the garden is a small field, complete with a simple gazebo where residents can gather.

The Laman Agro participants’ efforts have not gone unnoticed as their garden received an award from the Ministry of Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government in conjunction with the World Town Planning Day celebrations in 2017.

EMULATE COMMUNITY GARDEN CONCEPT

DBKL embarked on its community garden initiative five years ago, starting with PPR Raya Permai which, to date, is the most successful community project implemented by high-rise, low-cost flat dwellers.

DBKL Town Planning Officer Norazmin Adibah Othman said the efforts taken by flat residents to turn idle land in their compounds into vegetable gardens should be emulated by not only other flat dwellers but also residents of other housing schemes.

Norazmin Adibah, who is also head of LA21KL unit, said the success of PPR Raya Permai and Seri Semarak’s community gardens has inspired other PPR schemes to follow suit.

Currently, various residents’ groups, including four in PPR schemes, in Kuala Lumpur have identified 23 plots for the implementation of community garden projects.

“They have submitted their plans to us and we’re looking into it. It’s good that PPR residents are also keen to change their landscapes and add more greenery to their surroundings,” said Norazmin Adibah.

Between 2013 and 2017, four PPR schemes have implemented community garden projects. Besides PPR Raya Permai and Seri Semarak, the other two are PPR Intan Baiduri in Kepong and PPR Muhibah in Bukit Jalil, she said.

“Such projects help to change the attitude of the people and in time to come, PPR schemes will shed their negative image,” she said, adding that DBKL planned to present an award to the best community garden starting this year in recognition of the efforts put in by the local communities. – BERNAMA

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