Sustainable Urban Farming: Ongoing Efforts in Greater Kuala Lumpur

24 July 2023

In recent years, many social enterprises have emerged as powerful catalysts for sustainable farming in Greater Kuala Lumpur (GKL). As non-traditional business entities blending profitability with purpose, they play a pivotal role in developing and implementing farming practices for environmental health and community impact and wellbeing.

In GKL, these entities are making waves, innovating, and inspiring with every seed sown and crop harvested. Before we discover the creams of the crop, let’s dive into why sustainable farming is increasingly the norm in this green-thinking region.

Key Drivers of Sustainable Farming in Greater Kuala Lumpur

Governmental initiatives

Malaysia's transition to a service-dominant economy underlines the increasing importance of sustainable farming practices, particularly for the younger generation. The government, recognising this, has made strides in championing sustainable agriculture in various ways:

  • The Twelfth Malaysia Plan (12MP) introduced initiatives like the Young Agropreneur Programme and smart farming strategies in September 2021. These resulted in a projected 3.8% growth in the local agriculture sector.

  • The Social Entrepreneurship Action Framework 2030 (SEMy2030) aims to stimulate the growth of social enterprises that focus on tackling social and environmental challenges, including sustainable farming practices. The framework provides guidance and support for such enterprises, offering avenues for collaboration, resources, and capacity-building initiatives to ensure their success.

  • The National Entrepreneurship Policy 2030 (NEP2030) stands as a pillar of empowerment for social entrepreneurship, driving sustainable growth, promoting equality, and fostering environmental preservation in line with the ideals of the Shared Prosperity Vision 2030 (SPV2030). This robust policy framework aligns sustainable farming objectives and practices with broader societal benefits, especially for marginalised communities.

  • Launched in 2021, the National Agrofood Policy 2.0 (DANA 2.0) advocates for a competitive, resilient, and sustainable agro-food sector. It highlights the importance of climate-smart agriculture, efficient resource utilisation, and green technology innovation, further strengthening Malaysia’s commitment to sustainable farming.

In short, these efforts support social enterprises instrumental in Malaysia’s transformation into a high-income nation with sustainable agriculture infrastructure, practices and values.

Food security

Global food insecurity, escalated by supply chain disruptions due to the pandemic, political conflict, and climate change, prompts experts to advocate for a shift towards local food production. These localised systems counter unsustainable farming practices and provide resilience during nationwide crises and food sovereignty to sustain local communities.

According to researchers from Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) and Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM), the distribution of locally produced and imported food was disrupted in various urban communities in Malaysia. As GKL – the epicentre of Malaysia – leans into this trend, we see a burgeoning space emerge for social enterprises to innovate and lead the way in sustainable farming.

Technological innovation

Thanks to technological empowerment, the food and agriculture technology sector has emerged as a top-performing industry. From January to November 2022, the industry received an impressive US$1.33 billion in funding, marking a 68% increase from the previous year. With this development, Malaysia can access cutting-edge technologies such as vertical farming, hydroponics, and blockchain-enabled supply chains. These technologies are likely to accelerate sustainable farming efforts.

Direct zakat funding

Zakat, Islam’s mandatory alms-giving, is increasingly utilised by social enterprises for sustainable farming projects and for achieving sustainable development goals (SDGs). In 2022 alone, zakat contributions reached RM 1.07 billion, most of which were directed towards environmentally beneficial initiatives, including sustainable farming. This unique funding source helps to integrate sustainable farming with a religious tradition, fostering environmental stewardship within a faith-based framework – and advancing Malaysia’s reputation as a champion of sustainable farming practices.

Pioneers of Sustainable Farming Practices in Greater Kuala Lumpur

Pushed by some or all of the mentioned drivers, many social enterprises have arisen in GKL, each bringing unique solutions to the forefront of the sustainable farming movement. Below are the region’s top five driving environmental and socio-economic changes at scale.

Sime Darby Property

Sime Darby’s property division wanted to achieve carbon negativity – and it did so by installing urban farms in their major township developments throughout GKL, the City of Elmina (in Shah Alam) and Bukit Subang. Then, in October 2022, the company partnered with a tech farming company, BoomGrow, to develop the first urban farm with a research centre in Sepang’s Serenia City. This forward-thinking move is one of Sime Darby’s many ideas to leverage precision farming technology for safe, sustainable produce. Through fostering healthier communities, environmental sustainability and local economies, the company is well on its way to achieving its biggest goal yet: To have at least one running farm for every development under its belt by 2030.

Kebun-Kebun Bangsar

As its name suggests, Kebun-Kebun Bangsar is a community garden in Bangsar that has taken the idea of local farming to heart. A testament to the power of community, this grassroots initiative has transformed an abandoned piece of land into a thriving farm. Volunteers and practices manage the space for chemical-free farming and distribution of locally-sourced food. Through its efforts, the initiative created a model for urban farming that fosters social cohesion, reinforces food security and protects local ecosystems. No wonder this community farm is among the most buzzed-about names in GKL’s sustainable farming scene. 

Majlis Agama Islam Wilayah Persekutuan (MAIWP)

MAIWP has turned to zakat, an Islamic practice of almsgiving, to fund sustainable farming initiatives. The organisation’s 'Laman Cendawan Asnaf' programme provides opportunities for 15 zakat recipients (asnaf) from the Desa Tun Razak People's Housing Project (PPR) to cultivate oyster mushrooms. Each participant received a mushroom house that houses five thousand blocks. Not only does this novel programme support sustainable farming practices and strengthen the national goal of food security, but it also accurately represents the multifaceted approach to sustainable farming required in Malaysia.

Urban Hijau

Sungai Penchala’s Urban Hijau is a pioneering commercial urban farm that intertwines community development with sustainable agriculture. Embracing the holistic principles of permaculture, it actively nurtures a variety of organic produce. However, Urban Hijau extends beyond mere cultivation and sales; it's an educational hub hosting workshops and programs that propagate the ethos of sustainable living. By engaging diverse groups – local communities, schools, and businesses – Urban Hijau ignites an understanding and appreciation for organic farming and environmental stewardship in GKL and Malaysia.

Dusun TTDI

Located in Taman Tun Dr Ismail (TTDI)’s lush neighbourhood, the outstanding grassroots social enterprise Dusun fosters sustainable farming practices in GKL through education – specifically via its long-term composting program. Hosted on weekends, the program patiently guides participants through the rituals of turning organic waste into nutrient-rich compost to increase soil health and reduce landfill waste. At heart, Dusun’s efforts prove that community is the bedrock of sustainable farming progress.

Greater Kuala Lumpur’s Greenest Growth Yet

These social enterprises in GKL are revolutionising sustainable farming, boosting green growth and setting the stage for a sustainable future in Malaysia.

As technological and policy advancements intersect with investor support, sustainable farming is poised to harness unprecedented opportunities. The revolution in GKL’s sustainable farming scene uncovered in this article is just beginning.

Want to learn more about what other global companies in Greater Kuala Lumpur are doing in sustainable space here? Explore our resources.

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