Garden-lovers united

Putera Hasudungan in Jakarta/The Jakarta Post
Asia News Network15 April 2012

Jakarta (The Jakarta Post/ANN) - Using social media like Twitter, they have expanded from Jakarta to dozens of cities across Indonesia.

"It's a community based on a social movement. The purpose is to use unproductive vacant lands in cities, and make them productive through cultivation," said the movement's strategist, Shafiq Pontoh.

The movement started when M. Ridwan Kamil, an architect who received the International Young Design Entrepreneur Award 2006 from the British Council, talked about developing urban farming on his Twitter account. Shafiq then gave his own time to forming teams and strategies, turning them into a movement.

According to Shafiq, the beginning Indonesia berkebun consisted of only a few people. He said the movement aimed to encourage others to see that anyone could garden.

Everything in terms of cultivating plants is based on enthusiasm, said Shafiq.

Community members who agreed to plant crops on nearby land could jointly hire gardeners if they could not watch the garden all the time, especially if the garden needed extra attention. Usually the crops such as spinach and water spinach were easy to grow.

Some of the harvest is given to people around the vacant land, with some being sold for activists using an auction method. The money from the auction will be used for buying new seeds and fertilizers for future plantation. Sometimes the seeds and fertilizers were donations from members.

Since the horticulture enthusiasts started to plant crops in February 2011, the movement has spread to more than 23 cities in Indonesia with the help of Twitter, and gained more than 1,600 registered users on the website, which is one of the websites in the network.

In Jakarta, Indonesia berkebun has planted crops and harvested them in five areas. One of the areas is in Spring Hills, Kemayoran, where they borrowed land from a developer until June 2012 because the developer decided to build on it.

Lusi Saleh, one of the registered users, said that the movement was progressive and on target. She said that it could be seen as such by its growth, from a small scale to expanding to other cities in a single year. The movement is helped by the awareness shared in relation to social media.

Lusi said that people around the vacant land usually were involved in planting and harvesting the crops. From the results, they built upon knowledge of the benefits of gardening.

"The plantation will not create a direct impact on people around the vacant land when planting the seeds. The impact will be perceived when the seeds are harvested," said Lusi.

On the website, visitors can read articles about horticulture divided into six topics: Seeds, land, fertilizers, gardening techniques, gardening academies and harvesting.

Meanwhile, registered users can share their plant knowledge, tips and photos.