It is said you will truly know how to appreciate life when you get your hands dirty. Tan Siew Luang, the Organic Farming Project Coordinator for the Centre of Environment, Technology and Development Malaysia (CETDEM), cannot agree more.
Holding up a handful of freshly-picked pegaga or fondly known as the ‘Miracle Hero of the Rainforest’, Siew Luang smiled and said: “I just picked them from the garden. Take some home.”
Unable to resist her offer, I plucked one of the clover-like leaves and started chewing. It was surprisingly tasty, with a distinct taste of pegaga which is lacking in commercially-grown pegaga today.
Siew Luang explains it in a single word: organic farming. The plot of land at CETDEM’s Organic Farming Community Centre (OFCC) at Section 19, Petaling Jaya (PJ) speaks volumes of her hard work.
The crowded vegetables patch of the corner-lot linked house is in full bloom, with local vegetables and fruits such as eggplants, papayas, bananas, wild ginseng plants, corianders and curry leaves. CETDEM’s operation centre belongs to husband and wife, Charles Tan and Pook Li Yoon, CETDEM members who generously offered their double-storey house for use in the last few years.
HOW IT ALL STARTED
Organic farming has been the key focus of CETDEM since1986 when they were based in Subang New Village. After 8 months of operations, they moved to a bigger plot of land at Sungai Buloh.
For the next 10 years, the one acre organic farm flourished, even providing supplies directly to two supermarkets in Kuala Lumpur, before it ceased operation.
In the early years, Tan started everything from scratch –farming, packaging and travelling to to the city by bus to sell their fresh produce.
With limited resources, CETDEM redirected their attention to promotional work – providing and sharing organic farming practices and philosophies with local communities. Over the years, various programmes such as exhibitions,talks, seminars, composting and baking classes have been organised to help establish the connection between consumers and farmers, gardeners, wholesalers and manufacturers.
Although the programmes have reasonable success, the lack of resources and manpower are hampering their effort to grow on a bigger scale.
“The impacts is not sufficient to create public awareness,” says Tan. “Plus, the activities that we organised are like ‘Touch and Go’.”
She harbours hope that their community organic garden will continue to attract more people simply because seeing is believing. To encourage greater understanding on the importance of sustainable lifestyles and the importance of organically farmed food, CETDEM has been organising Organic Day activities since 2009, supported by MBPJ.
The recently concluded 9th Organic Day showcased an array of activities, ranging from talks on how to dye your hair organically, where to seek alternative treatment, tips on composting and Eco Enzyme D.I.Y.
“Organic Day is our annual events is a good platform for the business sector to connect to farmers, consumers and the cook,” explains Tan. “It also shows visitors that you can grow organic veggies even in urban areas because everything you use in your kitchen can be recycled.”
The event which usually takes place at Jalan SS2/63, Petaling Jaya offers more than 45 booths showcasing all kinds of products ranging from vegetables and fruits to reusable sanitary napkins.
Apart from conducting courses and providing consultancy to potential farmers and manufacturers, CETDEM is contemplating plans to create awareness amongst the Malaysian public and farmers regarding Good Agriculture Practices (GAP).
“We hope that with the support of the Dept of Agriculture, we can help farmers realise the importance of their proactive roles in minimizing food safety hazards if we start promoting GAPs,” shares Tan.
Each year, CETDEM tries to incorporate new programmes, with the most recent being the monthly Farmer’s Morning Market beginning 15 April to help small-scale organic farmers to penetrate the market.
“When they are new, it’s hard for them to reach out to their consumers,” she says. “But most importantly, we want to help these farmers to change their mindset to just produce and sell.”
CETDEM Events 2012
Farmers Morning Market
Dates: 15 April, 20 May, 17 June, 15 July, 16 Sept, 21 Oct, 18 Nov, 9 Dec
Time: 7.30am ~ 11.00am
Venue: CETDEM Organic Farming Community Centre, 29, Jln 19/15 / Section 19 Padang, Petaling Jaya.
Hari GAP / Good Agriculture Practices
Dates: 8 Apr, 8 July, 7 Oct
Time: 8.30am ~ 2.00pm
Venue: Jalan SS 2/63 Padang. Petaling Jaya
Baking Class (Basic) (max 12 paxs)
Learn how to make bread & oat bar from organic ingredients.
Dates: 26 Feb, 6 May, 7 Oct
Time: 10.00am ~ 12.00noon
Fees: RM 40 member, RM 50 non-member
Venue: CETDEM Organic Farming Community Centre, PJ
Bin Composting Class (20 paxs)
Turn your kitchen & garden waste into compost
Dates: 26 Feb, 6 May , 7 Oct
Time: 2.00pm ~ 4.00pm
Fees: RM 40 member, RM 50 nonmember
Venue: CETDEM Organic Farming Community Centre PJ (OFCC)
Hari Organik 2012 [Saturday]
Dates: 23 June, 22 Sept
Time: 8.30am ~ 2.00pm
Venue: Jalan SS 2/63. Petaling Jaya
CETDEM is a NGO operating through public funds. For details or to offer assistance, please contact:
Tan Siew Luang (016-219 5826)