Urban farming: Promoting a healthy diet, preparing a self-sufficient future

Urban farming: Promoting a healthy diet, preparing a self-sufficient future

in News
Maria Serenade Sinurat
Maria Serenade Sinurat
Communication Coordinator

"This house had been empty for years, and people called it a ghost house. But it has a spacious front yard that we can use to grow vegetables. So, we use this vacant lot as a vegetable demonstration garden and we hold regular meetings here,” says Roesdiah (68), while entering a big, faded green-painted door. There is a block-letter paper notice taped to the front door. It reads, Vegetable Garden of Sumber Rezeki Waste Bank.

Roesdiah is a member of an urban farming group in Kemlayan Village of Solo. For the past one year, Roesdiah and her friends have transformed the so-called ghost house into a vibrant, green space where women in the neighbourhood come to learn how to grow and compost.

Harvest season is over, but in the yard we can see newly planted lettuces and chillies. At least 30 women are present to make a liquid fertiliser using fruits and vegetables waste.

“We create this space as a demonstration garden where public can learn about growing food in their home yard and turning kitchen waste into organic fertiliser."

Roesdiah Urban farmer

Urban farming is more than a favourite pastime, but rather one of the sustainable strategies to help low income-residents save money on food purchases by growing and harvesting fresh vegetables and fruits from their gardens.

Throughout 2018, the Solo City Government, Rikolto, and Gita Pertiwi have helped established ten demonstration plots in Solo, hence inspiring 50 households to start vegetable gardens, growing in total around 80 types of herbs, vegetables and fruits.

The stakeholders pay greater attention to urban farming at household level due to several challenges that Solo is still facing, such as food and nutrition insecurity.

Low vegetable consumption

Our recent survey –carried out by our partner the Indonesian Consumers Foundation/YLKI- in 2018 found that people in Solo spent around 60% of their expenditure on food. Around 11% of the population live below the poverty line, earning less than Rp 1 million per month, which means that low-income households only have around Rp 13,000 (less than 2 Euro) to buy food. As food security is dependent on household purchasing power, it is fair to say that low-income residents are food insecure and they struggle to meet basic food needs.

Food insecurity is also associated with undernutrition. Households with low food security are more likely to consume food with reduced quality, variety, and desirability of diets that can cause undernutrition. In the long term, undernutrition can lead to the development of non-communicable diseases (NCD) such as obesity, diabetes and heart diseases. Based on a report by World Health Organisation (2018), NCDs are estimated to account for 71% of total deaths in Indonesia.

Another key factor contributing to nutrition insecurity is food illiteracy. The survey by YLKI further discovered that Solo residents’ understanding of a balanced diet stood at below 60%. Consequently, people consumed food high in carbohydrates and sugar, yet low in protein and fibre. The majority of respondents opted for white rice and instant noodles for their main food, instead choosing an alternative healthier option such as red rice. Vegetable consumption was also reported low with less than 43% of observed households serving vegetables with their meals every day.

Indonesia's fruit and vegetable consumption is 180 gram per capita per day, below the WHO’s standard of 400 gram per capita per day. With the aforementioned figures and findings, urban farming can offer a sustainable solution to these pressing problems.

Self-sufficient household

“I only have 50 square metres of land, but it is enough to grow spinach, water spinach, and tomatoes. I have just started to grow fruits in pots. I enjoy harvesting from my garden and I never buy vegetables again ever since."
Putri Handayani Urban farmer

For city residents, urban farming helps them prepare for a self-sufficient future while promoting vegetable consumption. One of the residents is Putri Handayani (62) who has reaped the rewards of her vegetable garden harvest. She promotes daily vegetable consumption to her family. Putri also introduces urban farming to women in her neighbourhood through a WhatsApp group. She regularly shares photos of her vegetable garden, especially during harvest seasons. This method is proven to be successful in attracting more women to start growing their food.

Rini Pujiastuti (53), a member of Kerten Village urban farming group, started her vegetable garden because she is inspired by Putri.

"I grow mostly green vegetables for my family’s consumption. I like to cook using my vegetables that I grow, take a picture of the dish, and then share it to the WhatsApp group. I would say ‘this is my harvest, what is yours?’ Other people would then share their menu. It was fun.”

Rini Pujiastuti Urban farmer

Collaborative model

Widdi Srihanto, the Head of Community & Women Empowerment and Child Protection Agency in Solo, says that urban farming is a good example of a collaborative model between stakeholders to manage food sustainably at a city level.

“We focus on empowering local communities, as part of our strategies to alleviate poverty. Community-level food-management such as urban farming is a strategic programme to encourage the participation of communities, especially women. In Solo, local government, community, and NGOs collaborate to promote urban farming."

Widdi Srihanto Head of Community & Women Empowerment and Child Protection Agency in Solo

On many occasions, the Mayor of Solo FX Hadi Rudyatmo states that the city has a vision to ensure good health and wellbeing (waras), good education (wasis), food sufficiency (wareg), employment (mapan), and habitable homes (papan) for all people. The government agencies translate this vision to a set of programmes.

The Agency of Community & Women Empowerment and Child Protection, as an example, runs a food programme within the context of women and community empowerment. The agency is willing to integrate the Food Smart City initiative with its Gender Responsive Village Programme targeting women groups and women-headed households. These women will receive donated leftover food and food waste that they can use to make compost for their vegetable gardens.

While Wisnu Dwi Endro Utomo, the Food Diversity & Safety Head Department of Solo Agriculture Agency says that the main goal of the food programmes is “to protect consumers by ensuring a safe, healthy, undamaged, and halal food.” To contribute to the improvement of a food system in Solo, the department focuses on two main programmes.

“We raise people’s awareness of food quality and safety through outreach and monitoring activities. We also promote urban farming to women to help them produce fresh vegetables from their home yard while receiving additional income through the sales of vegetables.”

Wisnu Dwi Endro Utomo Food Diversity & Safety Head Department of Solo Agriculture Agency

If integrated well with the city programmes and policies, urban farming has the potential to create ample economic and environmental benefits. Hence, the city government is eyeing for more villages to be involved in the food smart city initiative. The initiative has to be linked with and complementary to government’s programmes, to ensure its sustainability and wide-scale adoption.

Read more stories on how cities gear up to create a sustainable food system.

City residents spearheading the efforts to tackle food waste


Purnama Adil Marata
Purnama Adil Marata
Food Smart City Curator
+62811 3854 465