Urban farming becoming key to food security

Urban farming becoming key to food security

It's a growing trend, no mere passing fancy

"Now, urban farming has become a trend, with many people sharing their experiences with one another," said Nakorn Limpacuptathavon, aka the Veggie Prince.

Urban farming should be promoted as a means to improve food security, according to a recent forum organised by Chulalongkorn University's Research and Development Centre for Sustainable Development.

The forum was hosted by Athapol Anunthavorasakul, an academic who led the discussion on urban farming and food security.

Most Thais have heard the saying, "There's rice in the fields, and fish in the water", since they were children. The phrase was inscribed on a stone tablet dating back to the Sukhothai period to describe the abundance of natural bounty in the kingdom.

Some 700 years later, the picture of abundance has been shattered, with many people questioning whether it is possible to maintain a high quality of life with all the change that is happening to Thailand's natural environment.

Over the past 10 years, a number of people have been attempting to bring nature back into cities through urban farming initiatives.

Nakorn Limpacuptathavon, also known as the Veggie Prince, opened Ban Jaochai Phak ("The Veggie Prince's House") on Lat Phrao Soi 71 to inspire city-dwellers to grow their own organic vegetables.

He also founded an online community called Heart Core Organic which promotes organic and chemical-free products to the public.

"I started out by transforming some corners around the garden into vegetable plots, which I would fertilise with compostable kitchen waste and the water from washing rice," he said at the online forum.

"Now, urban farming has become a trend, with many people sharing their experiences with one another."

Armed with his decade-long experience of studying farms in the provinces, Mr Nakorn said his home has become an important hub for resources and know-how around urban farming.

He urged more people to take up the practice, saying it is the simplest way to ensure food security in cities, where space is limited and often not owned outright. For instance, he said, less than 10% of the land in Bangkok is arable (capable of being farmed).

As such, he asked landowners to do their part in promoting urban farming by opening up their undeveloped plots in the city to increase land utilisation and productivity.

At the forum, Sayamol Charoenratana, a researcher with CU's Social Research Institute, warned about Thailand's food security, saying a concerted effort is needed to guarantee there is enough food to properly feed the population.

She said the availability of food in Thailand between 2019-2020 was notably less when compared to countries in Europe.

"Some 7-Eleven stores have even been found to suffer from varying degrees of supply disruptions," she said of the popular convenience-store chain.

Ms Sayamol said Thailand's food security has been riddled with difficulties since the calamitous and widespread flooding of 2011, with those difficulties later compounded by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The academic said the average Bangkok resident spends around 40% of their monthly income on food, most of which is nutrient-poor.

Vulnerable people, such as the sick and elderly, will be affected if the country faces food shortages, Ms Sayamol said.

With middlemen controlling the price of agricultural produce in the market, an increasing number of farmers are hanging up their hats, opting to pursue other jobs to earn a stable income.

When there are no farmers to grow our food, prices will undoubtedly spike further, she said.

As Thailand imports roughly 13% of its wheat, the war in Ukraine has also driven up prices, the forum found.

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