As people across the country are forced to stay inside their homes to flatten Indonesia’s COVID-19 curve, many seek solace in urban farming amid the waves of bad news of increasing deaths and infections by the disease.
One of them is Asmara Wreksono, a Jakarta-based media professional who has recently started indulging in urban farming. Since she started to go on self-isolation due to COVID-19, she has grown a number of vegetables, such as water spinach, red spinach, and Chinese cabbage, in her house.
Asmara explained that she initially started her own small vegetable garden for self-sustaining purposes, as consuming home-grown vegetables had always been her interest.
The garden has served an additional purpose in the past few weeks of diverting Asmara’s attention from news and information regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I treated hydroponics as a fun hobby. It keeps me sane amid the stay-at-home period in this time of crisis,” Asmara told The Jakarta Post recently.
“It was also a delight for me to find that there are a lot of people doing this in Jakarta.”
Urban farming is popular in other cities as well. Yogyakarta resident Arsih echoed Asmara, saying she started her own vegetable garden to fulfill her personal consumption as well as for stress healing.
“A number of villages in Yogyakarta have already closed down access to their area, hindering vegetable seller from stopping at my place. Therefore, I started to grow my own vegetables,” said Arsih.
Venda Pratama, a graduate student also residing in Yogyakarta, went the extra mile as urban farming had become his additional source of income. Venda, who has been practicing urban farming since 2017, has not only fed his family with home-grown vegetables but is also selling them to his neighbors.
Urban farming and community gardens have been praised as an effort to reduce negative the environmental impacts caused by conventional farming and as a form of therapy.
Landscape architect Kotchakorn Voraakhom, who designed Asia’s largest urban rooftop farm in Bangkok, said urban farming helped improve food security and nutrition while reducing the impacts of climate change and lowering stress levels, as reported by Reuters.
A 2018 study published in scientific journal Earth’s Future highlighted that urban agriculture would play a crucial role in feeding two-thirds of the world’s population living in cities by 2050, as urban farming practices could produce as much as 180 million tons of food annually.
This comes in handy amid the COVID-19 outbreak, as cities started closing off their borders to restrict people’s movements in preventing the disease’s spread. Concerns have risen that the transportation of supplies and staple foods will be disrupted by the policy.
Singapore has been tapping into the potential of urban farming amid concerns that the pandemic would disrupt global supply chains. Reuters reported that the city-state announced on Wednesday several new measures to support local food production, including a plan to turn car park rooftops into urban farms.
The government will provide an S$30 million (US$21 million) grant to assist the production of eggs, leafy vegetables, and fish, as well as to identify alternative farming spaces.
Similar initiatives of support for urban farming from authorities, however, have yet been observed in Indonesia — even though the trend had been blooming in the country since the early 2010s.
Farming and gardening might not be many urbanites’ forte, but that does not mean it’s impossible to be done.
“To avoid frustration, research and choose some of the easiest and most prolific vegetables to grow in your area,” wrote New York-based Recyclebank on its website.
The company also suggested new gardeners possessing limited space in their home or community to consider planting in plastic containers or raised beds, as they would allow gardeners to control the soil quality.
Tifa Asrianti, a resident of Bekasi, West Java, who started her own community garden in 2011, said urban farming also depended on someone’s beliefs on the practice: “We have to put our faith in your vegetables if we want them to grow nicely.”