Speech by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Heng Swee Keat at the Opening of Community Garden Festival 2019.
Mr Desmond Lee,
Minister for Social and Family Development and
Second Minister for National Development
Ms Grace Fu,
Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, and
Grassroots Adviser to Yuhua
Ms Low Yen Ling,
Mayor for South West District
Ms Foo Mee Har,
Grassroots Adviser to West Coast GRC
Mr Kenneth Er,
Prof Leo Tan,
Chairman, Garden City Fund
Ladies and Gentlemen
A very good morning to all of you.
I am happy to join you for this year’s Community Garden Festival. In this third edition of the Festival, I thank NParks for lining up an interesting variety of activities. I am excited to see the fruits of labour by our community gardeners in the “edibles” competition.
It is meaningful that NParks has brought this year’s Festival to the Jurong Lake Gardens. The Gardens is not only Singapore’s third national garden - it is also our first national gardens in the heartlands.
It also contains 300 garden plots for the community – the largest site for community gardening in Singapore!
Supporting Community Gardening
Community gardening has come a long way in Singapore. 14 years ago, the “Community in Bloom” programme started with only one small, experimental garden in Mayfair Park Estate, in the Bukit Timah area. The residents wanted to play an active part to spruce up their living environment, and approached NParks for tips on landscaping. Today, the community gardening movement has blossomed into a nation-wide movement – there are close to 36,000 gardening enthusiasts taking care of 1,500 community gardens all across the island.
The community garden I am most familiar with is the Eco-Community Garden at Our Tampines Hub (OTH). This Garden is run largely by volunteers, who grow spices, fruits and vegetables. We also have an Eco-Digester Centre, which turns the food waste generated daily at OTH into non-portable water, liquid plant nutrients and organic fertiliser. We use the organic fertiliser for the Garden, and distribute the rest to members of the community. Students visit the Garden to learn about community farming and environmental sustainability. The harvest from the Garden is used for cooking classes and shared with families with needs in Tampines. The passion and dedication of our community gardeners have pulled the Tampines community closer together. When we multiply this by the 1,500 community gardens across the island, it is a powerful way to bring our people closer together
Growing “Community in Bloom” Ambassadors
The ‘Community in Bloom’ programme is a part of our nation building effort. It is meaningful and fulfilling for a growing number of gardening enthusiast. I am happy that NParks is expanding this programme. For a start, NParks is recruiting and training more ambassadors. NParks has been running a “Community Garden Training Series” since 2017 to help gardeners deepen their horticultural knowledge, and to hone their gardening skills. These ambassadors create a multiplier effect – going on to impart their knowledge to other gardening enthusiasts, and growing our community gardening movement. So far, this programme has trained more than 1,000 gardeners, who have gone on to reach out to many more of their friends and neighbours.
Expanding variety of ornamental and edible plants
NParks is also exploring ways to expand the variety of ornamental and edible plants in community gardens across Singapore. Since the first Community Garden Festival in 2015, over 150 varieties have been made available to the community for planting. NParks officers have started trials at HortPark earlier this year to assess the suitability of new types of plants for our local gardening conditions. Since the start of their trials, 75 plant species and cultivars have been planted, including fragrant flowering ornamentals like the Gardenia, the Water Jasmine plant, and new varieties of edibles such as the edamame bean, red radish and the Japanese sweet potato.
I am particularly excited about the effort to cultivate new edible plants, because this supports our strategy to strengthen Singapore’s food resilience. We are enhancing food resilience because climate change can strain global food production, and disrupt our food supply. Earlier this year, the Minister of Environment and Water Resources, Mr Masagos Zulkifli, announced the “30 by 30” target – to produce 30% of Singapore’s nutritional needs by the year 2030.
To achieve this target, the Singapore Food Agency has been working with food producers to increase made-in-Singapore food products. Urban farming in Singapore has great potential. We need to innovate to develop high-yield agricultural solutions, and overcome the constraints of limited land and water. Not only will urban farming strengthen our food resilience, this can potentially be a new area of economic growth. Singaporeans have also taken to urban farming, and have started promising enterprises. such as Lee Yuan How, who started VegePonics, an up-and-coming indoor vegetable farm; Jack Ng, founder of Sky Greens, who developed a high-yield vertical farming solution; Veera Sekaran and Ankesh Shahra of VertiVegies, who integrated data analytics and remote monitoring with farming; and David Tan and his team of young urban farmers behind Netafresh, whom I met at a community event last week. Netafresh produces locally-grown pesticide-free vegetables.
Nurturing younger Singaporeans
So I am glad that NParks is stepping up its efforts to help younger Singaporeans cultivate a passion for the environment, and groom the next generation of urban farmers.
We are starting very young – My First Skool is working with NParks’ to introduce the “Community in Bloom” Programme to their centres. By 2021, preschool children at more than 140 of their centres will have the chance to learn about nature and gardening not just in the classroom, but also by tending gardens in or near their schools. When children move on to primary and secondary school, the “Greening Schools for Biodiversity” programme allows them to grow their own plants in dedicated green spaces within the school compound. These green spaces also attract more birds and butterflies to their school campus. In learning to care for the environment, our students also learn about teamwork and responsibility, and develop a deeper sense of ownership for our “City in a Garden”. This is in line with our Values-In-Action programme in our schools.
We will also enhance the formal education curriculum in our Institutes of Higher Learning to cultivate the next generation of professionals in the landscape, horticulture and ecology sector. Students in these courses can look forward to gaining hands-on experience through internships and Student-Run Parks – like the one we have in Bedok Town Park. Students from less privileged backgrounds will also get a boost in skills and employability across the horticulture, landscape design, ecology, veterinary and animal sectors, thanks to Mr Peter Lim’s generous donation of 10 million dollars to the NParks’ Garden City Fund. Mr Peter Lim’s donation is the single largest donation from an individual to the Fund. I thank Peter, for making such a meaningful contribution to Singapore’s greening movement, and to the next generation.
Outside of the classroom, NParks and its partners, including Outward Bound Singapore, will create more opportunities for younger Singaporeans to improve their understanding of greenery and biodiversity. This includes a new “Green Friends Forum” to engage young Singaporeans who are interested in greenery and horticulture. Together with the existing “Biodiversity Friends Forum”, these platforms will provide opportunities for young Singaporeans to undertake community projects relating to biodiversity conservation, animal management and greenery. They will also nurture their green fingers by learning more about gardening, landscape design, growing edibles and native plants. These initiatives will culminate in a “Youth Stewards for Nature” programme, where committed youths will have the opportunity to tackle challenges in landscape, horticulture and ecology.
Conclusion: Building Singapore Together
Through the community garden movement, we saw how Singaporeans have come together, and dedicated their time, passion and energy to planting and nurturing beautiful gardens. In applying their creativity and minds to their individual gardens, our gardening enthusiasts add diversity and vibrancy to our shared environment. As we care for the environment and develop an even more liveable city, we are also seeing the enterprising spirit of our people, to do this sustainably.
This is the spirit of our Singapore Together movement: where each of us contribute to nation building in our own way, planting the seeds for Singapore’s growth, improving our environment, and making our city more liveable and more beautiful for everyone.
On this note, please join me in thanking our NParks officers and participants for making this Festival possible.
I wish everyone a fruitful and enjoyable festival. Thank you.
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