Ladies and Gentlemen,
the home garden is traditionally a very important piece of land for rural households. But as our country developed and became more urbanised these backyard or kitchen gardens took a back seat, forgetting its potential for improving household food security and supply of nutrition.
Home nutrition gardening can enhance food security in several ways. Families would have direct access to a diversity of fresh nutritionally-rich foods, save on food bills, earn extra income from sales of excess garden products and have contingency provision such as chillies and tomatoes during seasonal lean periods.
We need to revolutionise food production with families and communities becoming more involved in growing their own food. One of the easiest ways of ensuring access to a healthy diet is to produce many different kinds of foods in the home garden. A well-developed garden will be able to supply most of the non-staple foods that a family needs.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) studies show that a micro-garden of one square metre can produce anyone of the following: around 200 tomatoes (30kg) a year; 30 heads of lettuce every 60 days; 10 cabbages every 90 days; 100 onions every 120 days.
Home gardens can help poor families diversify their diet and reduce family food bills. Because poor urban households spend a high proportion of their income on food, they are highly vulnerable when there is an increase in food prices or their income reduces. Thus, having a home garden that can be fertilized with compost produced from household organic waste provides fresh food for the family.
From home gardens we need to scale up to community plots and small organic farms. These various scales of production are important to reduce the carbon footprint associated with industrial agriculture and to increase our food security and safety. In addition, local food production is vital in creating healthy and sustainable communities.
When we grow our own food, we can ensure that it is free from chemical fertilisers and pesticides. Composting reduces the volume of discarded materials such as kitchen waste, grass clippings, garden trimmings, wood, and food scraps that might otherwise be disposed in landfills.
The Penang Island Municipal Council reported that food waste made up about 45% of the 288,377 tonnes of solid waste collected from domestic and commercial areas on Penang Island in 2012. If each household segregates, composts and recycles, the amount of waste will be greatly reduced.
We need to start a home nutrition garden to enjoy safe, flavourful and nutritious home-grown food. While we have been growing vegetables and herbs in backyard plots in the past, we can now make use of containers such as wooden crates, old tyres or gunny sacks. Thus people living in high-rise buildings too can start growing vegetables. There are examples of people growing vertically, in small spaces, balconies, patios and rooftops.
Tips for successful home nutrition gardening are contained in CAP’s guidebook. This guide is specially designed to take account of our local conditions. CAP also provides training for those who are interested in learning more about gardening, composting and preparation of herbal growth promoters and natural pest repellents.
We have conducted training at several schools and institutions where some have started garden and composting projects. School children are enthusiastically getting their hands dirty and learning how to grow vegetables or herbs, harvest and prepare juices and jams from their garden products such as in SM Sungai Nibong, Penang.
The fundamental philosophy behind this activity in schools is to set good examples and engage children to grow their own food to help form the basis of positive lifelong eating habits.
With the launching of this CAP guidebook, we hope that the grassroots movement of home nutrition gardening will be bolstered to improve our food and nutrition security.
The new CAP guidebook is now on sale in English, Bahasa Malaysia, Mandarin and Tamil.
Order the English version here.