“AGROECOLOGY FOR ALL: Initiatives in Malaysia” – URBAN GARDEN

Soon Choon Leng with the amra tree in her garden.

Gardening Radiates Happiness

Septuagenarian Soon Choon Leng is an adept multitasker. She is a language tutor for the children in the surrounding neighbourhood. She cooks well and does catering on a small scale. Above all, she is an avid gardener who is reasonably well-versed in plants. The urban garden she set up in front of her house in Air Itam, Penang blossoms with a variety of herbs, vegetables and trees.

Her interest in gardening can be traced to her visit to Japan. She received an invaluable lesson from the Japanese religious movement, Mahikari, that gardening is an intrinsic part of human life and leads to enlightenment for those who practise it truthfully and wholeheartedly. Ever since, it has been a guiding principle in her life.

“Spreading light through gardening is my lifelong mission. There is endless learning and sharing that enriches our lives,” says Soon.

“There is not much difference between tending soil and moulding people. When we treat the soil and plants with love, they bloom, just as a human being reciprocates when we treat them with respect. From my experience, consuming even a small amount of vegetables cultivated on our own gives a lot of energy,” said Soon.

Soon attended CAP’s training session on urban gardening and said the session increased her knowledge of tending plants.

Despite space constraints, Soon currently grows 40 types of plants in her garden. Essential plants such as chilli, chives, curry leaves, moringa, turkey berries and bottle gourd adorn her garden. Not to mention papaya, amra, and guava trees that fulfil the daily needs of fruits for her family.

These chives first came to Soon’s garden in 1999. Soon has been harvesting it since then. Nourished with compost and rice-wash water, the chives keep growing after every harvest. It may sound small and insignificant. However, in the long run, one could save a lot and enjoy the benefits of consuming organically grown vegetables.

She grows bananas for their leaves to be used as a base for steaming dumplings. During her free time, she also loves to make nyonya kuih.

“People continuously lament the price hike of essential food items, but they hardly, in their own small way, do anything to ease the situation.

“Three to four decades ago, this variety of guava was widely found in our country. Many households grew this variety. However, it is rare now. We need to revive the traditional variety to ensure it doesn’t go extinct,” says Soon.

“As an urban gardener, I realise I cannot grow everything. However, I try to grow what is within my capability. That way, I could cut expenses at least on some basic needs like vegetables and fruit. If there is a will, there is a way.” stressed Soon.

Soon continuously shared her experiences with friends and acquaintances, which she interpreted as a means of spreading light to save people. She gets immense satisfaction from seeing some of her friends take up gardening and do well after much persuasion and guidance from her.

Agroecology Fund