20 September 2009

Food Security

Excerpt from the Adelaide Review, 26 August 2009

'Recently returned from a one-month stay in Singapore, Elise Harris reports on her research into increasing food security through local food production there and highlights the dangers of complacency as South Australia plans to develop housing on land currently used for farming:

Singapore is a highly urbanised island state and farmland is scarce. Only 10 percent of Singapore’s food is produced in the country, the rest being imported from around the world. Yet while Singapore is very built-up, there is vacant land around buildings that could be put to use as community gardens. Community gardens are an efficient way to produce food because they are small-scale and can use any unusual shaped pieces of land (as opposed to commercial farms), they provide spaces for recreational and social activity and produce free food for the gardeners. They are cheap to build and are thus a more attractive option than retrofitting buildings to create rooftop gardens, although food could be produced on balcony planter boxes, which should be incorporated into the design of all new apartment blocks.

Food could be produced on green roofs, which become economically feasible if the buildings are initially designed for that purpose. At present there are no buildings in the world that have been specifically designed to produce food, so it is not known what these buildings would look like or how much food a “vertical farm” could produce.

Food can be produced in public spaces simply by planting fruit trees in parks and along roadsides. Local governments in Singapore do not want to pay for harvesting the fruit so they do not plant them. The high number of maintenance workers in Singapore who maintain the high standards of orderliness expected in parks and landscaped areas could potentially enter an agreement with local government to harvest fruit from public areas for free in exchange for keeping the fruit. The fruit could then be eaten by the workers or sold. Alternatively, edible plants in public places could be maintained by community garden groups.

It is interesting that the Government of Singapore has a keen interest in increasing its food security, whether by increasing local food production, maintaining friendly relations with exporting nations or through the purchase of farmland in other countries, while the Government of South Australia appears to be happy to undermine South Australian food security by building new housing developments over our most productive land. Singapore is aware of the vulnerability of its food supply, while in South Australia we believe we will always be able to import more food and it is not necessary to protect our farmland.

The 30-year plan for Adelaide significantly reduces Adelaide’s food security by planning for 30 percent of all new dwellings to be built on the urban fringe. A lot of land in these areas is currently used for food production, so the implementation of the plan will reduce the amount of food grown close to Adelaide, reducing our food security and making us more dependent on long-distance transport and imports. An immediate stop to urban development on the fringes of Adelaide, and all new dwellings limited to apartment blocks within the current urban boundaries will help preserve our farmland and secure our food supply. More discussion and interest in urban agriculture in Adelaide in the form of community gardens, backyard production and edible plants in public areas would also be helpful. Planter boxes and green roofs should be a feature of high-density developments...'

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please leave your comment here. Please note these stories are posted for information rather than for debate; if you wish to disagree with something posted, no problem, but since I post both things that I do and don't support, it would be appreciated if the criticism was about the issue.