Bangsar’s little farm of hope

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Volunteers helping out at the farm

Benedict Lopez discovers a green haven in an urban setting that brings together people of various ethnic groups in a noble common cause.

In a secluded area off the road from Lucky Gardens, Bangsar, to Jalan Pantai Bharu lies a small piece of land, flanked by houses on both sides – a green lung in an urban environment.

Visitors to this place have described it as an out-of-the-ordinary zone for a farm, as this vicinity is mainly noted for the homes of the rich and super-rich in Kuala Lumpur.

A green haven nestled in the midst of modernity

Despite its location just outside the heartland of Kuala Lumpur, this little farm of hope is attracting a steady stream of visitors, especially on Sundays.

The brainchild of this community group project is local architect Ng Sek San, who developed this farm on an eight-acre linear strip of land reserved for Tenaga Nasional’s electricity posts as they trail through Bangsar.

My friends and I visited this little farm on a Sunday morning and observed enthusiastic volunteers with their gardening equipment working on the garden terraces brimming with home-grown ordinary herbal plants, flowers, fruits and vegetables. Chickens, ducks, geese and small sheds add to the charm of the surroundings.

Visitors to the farm are made to feel welcome by Sek San and his volunteers. These dedicated helpers take their jobs seriously and devote their spare time towards the development of this farm.

Parents should encourage their children to spend their time taking part in such wholesome activities instead of wasting their recreational breaks on computer games and other unproductive ways.

Aidah, a volunteer, taps into her area of specialisation by tending the herbal plot, making full use of her knowledge and experience. She is keen to share what she knows with visitors to the farm.

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Aidah hard at work tending to the farm

During my conversation with Aidah, I learnt that some of these herbal plants could be used as alternative medicines for various ailments. It is an ongoing work-in-progress for her, but seeing her commitment, I know she is definitely relishing the time spent on this farm.

The volunteers work with zest and zeal as they slog, carrying heavy planks and timber to erect beds on the terraced areas. One particular section of the terrace is dedicated to the planting of vegetables that will be given to soup kitchens that feed the less fortunate.

Water cascading from the adjacent hills is channelled through a system of canals and drains for use in the farm. An artificial pond has been converted into a water lily pond, and careful attention has been given by the team to ensure excess water in the pond is drained out through a system of concrete pipes.

Fertilisers are made in the farm using compost, and fertile earth is available for sale to the public. It would be good if the amount of fertilisers sold is increased to cater to the demand from visitors. Perhaps more attention could be given towards selling plants and saplings to visitors for their home needs. Poultry on the farm could be increased for the sale of eggs and table birds.

Greening the environment through the planting of trees, shrubs, flowers and other different species of vegetation can enhance the quality of our environment and improve our urban living conditions. Moving towards a green landscape can transform our urban ambience.

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Principles of the farm

An expanse of flora and fauna in any area can generate cleaner air, prevent air pollution, contain climate change and enhance soil structure and ecology. A green eco-system ultimately enhances the quality of life for the people.

Being a Bangsarian for more than 40 years, I am proud that folks here have undertaken such a noble initiative. Their efforts not only help to green the environment but also bond residents of various ethnic groups in a common self-sacrificing cause.

It is a far cry from what some of our politicians are doing these days: espousing inflammatory rhetoric and dividing our people along racial and religious lines.

All photographs by Benedict Lopez

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Benedict Lopez
Benedict Lopez was director of the Malaysian Investment Development Authority in Stockholm and economics counsellor at the Malaysian embassy there in 2010-2014. During the course of his work, he covered all five Nordic countries. An eternal optimist and now an Aliran member, he believes Malaysia can provide its citizens with the same benefits and privileges found in the Nordic countries - not a far-fetched dream but one that he hopes will be realised in his lifetime.

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HafizR
HafizR

Haaiii, comel si Kevin. Akitek Singapura ini tak siap siap buat komen negatif. Yang lucu, dia tak pernah masuk taman kami. Yang membingungkan, dia suka taktik mengunakan cerita yang menakutkan orang. Mana janjinya yang di buat akibat taman kecil ini menghasilkan tanah runtuh, banjir kilat, pencuri masuk rumah, orang maut akibat elektrik, kanser barah? Kelakar. Takde kes. Yang saya lihat adalah ketawa kanak kanak, pertukaran ilmu yang sihat antara jiran, semangat rakyat negara kita yang cintai alam and kediaman. Kalau tak berminat, janganlah masuk kutuk kutuk buat hal. Kepada orang yang membaca komen komen, janganlah sebab nila setitik, rosak susu sebelanga. Semacam kita kuat menghasilkan tanaman, berat sama dipikul, ringan sama dijinjing.

Kevin Low
Kevin Low

The comments of uncritical and unquestioning support for this badly sited project reminds one of blind support once received for a sixty year old now deposed regime. It does prove the point that one can change a government multiple times, but nothing changes if the people themselves stay the same.

Chong
Chong

First of all, I’m a neighbor and I attend to the farm often enough on the weekends. I find Kevin’s claims to be far fetched, vindictive and borderline fake with citation of so called claims without much real fact backing. My family loves this farm and we will continue to participate. I hope naysayers back off and let people enjoy their positive community. There’s just too many of these ‘keyboard warriors’ in today’s society that contribute nothing but disturbance for a moment in the spotlight.

Kevin Low
Kevin Low

Chong, I have no doubt you enjoy your moments there, but it would have been considerably more relevant for as small a group of hobbyists as you are to have had it sited for greater participate by walking, on a slot of reserve with roads rather than residential lots on either side for safer parking, and flatter land so as to avoid the need for slope mitigation, and most vitally, within a community the majority of which asked for it. All these factors would have created the sort of kebun that would have seen actual participation by members in tending to it as a real community rather than merely starting or finishing off the real work that paid gardeners do. It would have brought much more people together as a greater positive community.

Kevin Low
Kevin Low

Sorry there ‘….participation…’

Proud
Proud

KKB is a little pocket of paradise. Hidden behind the brick stone wall is in essence a mini farm in a built up area. I have been able to meet new people from the local area and provide my children the opportunity to embrace and learn about the flora and fauna. As a teacher, KKB have enabled the learners from my school to volunteer in the gardens to help dig and build a community vegetable patch. Once the plants have produced vegetables these will be donated to be used in a local soup kitchen for the urban poor and homeless.

KKB truly is a model community garden. It has been built up by the community, for the community and also gives back to the community. It is a garden that brings people together.

Kevin Low
Kevin Low

‘Proud’, now imagine had the kebun been located in a neighbourhood with greater safe access without the need for even proximal residents to drive to. Such does exist already, on Jalan Kanan 1 in kampung Pandan, started and tended to by the very people you speak of already living there, self-sustaining from day one, easily accessed off neighbourhood streets and unfunded by corporate donors and thinkcity sovereign wealth. Such a site that the privileged drove to instead of carting the underprivileged from, (since one has to drive to kebun bangsar anyway), would have found greater benefit for all. Unless, of course, it was more for convenience and show that the kebun bangsar was sited. ‘Community’ cannot be merely defined by common interest.

Kevin Low
Kevin Low

Peter Ray, the very lack of safe walkable access denies icommunity any opportunity for access. A parking lot has been built for the occasional car whose hobbyist occupants wish to glamour farm. Sixteen cars spill out to line that narrow sloping access road whenever an event is organised there, since everyone drives. Benedict Lopez, a three month long research study tells a different story from what your two visits say. It is by a student based in Australia conducting research on projects like the kebun bangsar and similar others around the world. They all begin with hip social cause and use sites as stages for display rather than for the communities they pretend to serve. And none give regard to either context or appropriate siting.

Kit
Kit

Initiatives like this are taken by people who want to change what they can within their sphere of control. Big studies averages out the context and the appropriate siting. And according to most big studies, none of these small initiatives have any meaning because they impact so few and often portrayed as self serving (which may be true as people want change for themselves).

If everyone thinks like you, the world is a sad place full of armchair critics who rely on big studies and approved/proven approaches. Give me a world where everyone takes the initiatives to do good for whatever little return or even failures than a world full of studies and waiting for someone else to make the change.. Not a perfect world but at least everyone tries

Kevin Low
Kevin Low

Kit, those very vague big studies and ambiguous proven approaches you refer to is exactly what the siting of the kebun bangsar is guilty of – how interesting that criticism of the very systemic problem I raised about the project has been twisted to suit your defense of it 🙁 – and the kebun bangsar is not a ‘small’ initiative by a very long shot. Making change in a community starts by first involving the very constituents of that community – something that did not happen with this project. Experimentation on community means nothing without prior comprehensive study and collusion.

Peter Ray
Peter Ray

Very strange for Kevin to make the accusation that the author visited a staged set up. I visit the ‘farm’ off and on and I meet a lot friendly people who come there doing all sorts of volunteer work, a very healthy pass time. Some bring their children to expose them to the poultry and the plants of all sorts that are grown there so that they get to see what is missing living in high rise apartments.It is very educational for them and I in my opinion it is a welcome change in scenery for the city dwellers. If the ‘proximal community was never involved’, I would think it is their loss and least of all not because they were denied access. As for all your other comments, Kevin, it makes me wonder if you had visited the place yourself.

Kevin Low
Kevin Low

That little visit you paid was staged just for you Mr. Lopez, to create impression of a bustling ‘community’ project – the truth is that proximal community was never involved. And, the reason why it is in a so-called ‘rich’ neighbourhood is because the very people that visit intermittently or over organised hobbyist meets all drive cars there to reap the benefits of actual farming that paid hands are employed to do through each week. This project is Bangsar little secret of social branding, reputation ahead of responsibility, and shame, paraded as success and (allegedly) paid for in good part by sovereign funding – a spade should be called a spade and not by any other name. Creative entitlement has never seen better example.

Kevin Low
Kevin Low

Benedict, you did not have to be announced – the kebun bangsar had already announced itself with a gotong-royong the very Sunday you visited. You must surely have been aware of that – I’m am sorry about the sarcasm, but what better way to write about a busy successful garden of hope.