The Straits Times: Planting the seeds for blooming ties

The Straits Times today published this article on how community gardens can bring people together. So far, 390 community gardenening groups have popped up in the last 5 years, which is great news to us!

Planting the seeds for blooming ties

Community gardening seen as a means of social integration

By Hoe Pei Shan

The Pasir Ris Zone 5 residents’ committee community garden. In just five years, 390 community gardening groups have emerged, increasing chances for social interaction. — PHOTO: NPARKS

 

COMMUNITY gardening can mean much more than merely planting trees in public places.

In multicultural, multiracial cities such as Singapore, it also helps to bring the community closer together.

The bonding effect of community gardening was highlighted to 230 participants at the Creating Liveable Cities Through Community Gardens seminar at Orchard Parade Hotel yesterday.

Part of the seminar series this year by the Centre for Urban Greenery and Ecology (CUGE), the event was the first of its kind on community gardening.

CUGE is jointly established by the National Parks Board (NParks) and the Workforce Development Agency.

With 390 local community gardening groups emerging in just five years, gardening has become a means of social integration, learning and community building.

‘In multiracial, multicultural Singapore, community gardening is a great way to get to know one’s neighbours and make friends,’ said Mr Wilson Wong, founder of Green Culture Singapore – the leading online gardening forum here – and one of the speakers yesterday. The 31-year-old started a community garden in Serangoon North in 2007, which was featured in BBC’s 2008 television series Around The World In 80 Gardens.

Someone who attests to the success of community gardens as avenues for social bonding is Mr Melvin Gamayot, a Filipino who came to Singapore in 1994.

Mr Gamayot, 42, who admitted he had ‘never planted a tree in his life’ before coming here, gamely decided to contribute to the Pasir Ris Zone 5 residents’ committee (RC) community garden after moving into the area in 2006.

Armed with two potted plants, he brought his Filipino wife and three children to the eco-garden to mingle with his neighbours.

‘I did not want to isolate myself and I knew it was up to me to make an effort,’ said the architect who decided to take up Singapore citizenship in 2007.

‘It is a great way to find playmates for the kids, too.’

Giving the keynote speech yesterday, Mr Nigel Colborn, former vice-chairman and current member of the Royal Horticultural Society’s Council in Britain, also stressed the significance of plant life to both the ecosystem and urban communities. He advocated gardening in public plots of land as a means of encouraging people to have a stake in the nation. Community gardening also safeguards the green areas through inspiring responsibility and commitment to these projects.

Comparing NParks’ Community In Bloom programme, which promotes and facilitates gardening efforts by the community, to the state of community gardening in Britain, Mr Colborn found Singapore to have ‘achieved more in a far shorter time’, making it a ‘shining example to other countries’.

As the local gardening groups are based in only 32 per cent of all RCs and 35 per cent of private housing estates, according to NParks director of streetscape Simon Longman, he pointed out that there is much more potential for the growth of these communities.

Taking up a suggestion from Mr Colborn, Mr Longman revealed that NParks is considering a nationwide, inter-constituency gardening competition that could be inaugurated as early as next year to coincide with the arrival of the 20th World Orchid Conference to Singapore.

hpeishan@sph.com.sg

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  1. […] Singaporeans might be closer to this reality than many believe.  A recent article on community gardening indicated that some 390 projects had grown around the island in the last five years, and that […]

  2. […] Singaporeans might be closer to this reality than many believe.  A recent article on community gardening indicated that some 390 projects had grown around the island in the last five years, and that […]



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