Kebun-Kebun Bangsar is a community garden in Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur. It is on a small, linear piece of land flanked by houses on both sides. The community garden was initiated by Ng Seksan, a landscape architect, back in 2013. It took the founding team several years to get permission from authorities to use the land. As the team built the garden, it received funds from nearby residents and Think City, a Malaysia-based organisation that aims to make cities more people-friendly, resilient and liveable.
Kebun-Kebun Bangsar is managed and maintained by volunteers. It is open daily to the public, and no admission fee is charged. The garden is planted with vegetables, fruits and herbs that are given to underprivileged groups including refugees, orphanages and homeless people. It is equipped with walkways, chairs and tables to allow visitors to enjoy the garden comfortably. There are also farm animals such as geese, ducks, chickens, sheep and cows, and visitors can buy feed for them.
Since the garden is a non-profit initiative, it was sustained solely by the donations at first. After the animals were introduced, the garden tried to generate additional income by selling animal feed to visitors. This soon has become an important financial resource.
Success Factors of a Community Garden
As it approaches its third year, Kebun-Kebun Bangsar is gaining popularity among the public. Not only has it become a tourist hotspot, it also inspires other urban communities to create such spaces in their residential areas.
Here are some of the success factors that keep the garden moving forward.
The garden serves as a great place for learning and sharing information. Because of its strategic location, urban dwellers can reach Kebun-Kebun Bangsar easily and meet others who share an interest in farming. There are also experts and organisations that can provide guidance and support in planting crops.
Volunteering at Kebun-Kebun Bangsar is a fulfilling and meaningful experience. The garden grows food for needy people. All produce is given free to soup kitchens or welfare agencies so that underprivileged communities can have the chance to eat fresh, nutritious fruits and vegetables.
The garden is friendly to visitors of all ages. Children love to play with the animals. They also enjoy exploring different parts of the garden. Adults are charmed by pretty flowers, the tranquil atmosphere and picturesque scenery.
Challenges and Solutions
Managing a community garden is not without its trials, and the garden has its share of technical and operational challenges. As Kebun-Kebun Bangsar is community-based, it relies largely on volunteers to operate and function. Getting sufficient hands is challenging as volunteers tend to come and go. Therefore, finding new and dedicated volunteers is an ongoing issue for sustaining the garden.
Then, while the farm animals were generally popular, at one point, there were complaints from neighbouring residents who were bothered by the noise and smells produced by the animals. Kebun-Kebun Bangsar was ordered to remove them, and the farm animals were then relocated to a different section of the garden.
Finally, Kebun-Kebun Bangsar practices organic farming, so volunteers have to put extra care into cultivating plants. They need to think of alternative solutions to chemicals when the plants are attacked by pests or diseases. This requires technical advice and support to ensure successful gardening.
Making a Community Garden Sustainable
Sustaining a community garden is not easy. It is important to have a core group of volunteers that are willing to help and complement one another. Each volunteer has his or her own strength. Some are good at planting, some help to attract new visitors, and others contribute money, time and/or energy to maintain the garden. Then there are the people who manage and coordinate volunteering works.
Events and activities help secure financial resources and attract potential volunteers. Before Movement Control Orders (MCO), Kebun-Kebun Bangsar held fundraising concerts and workshops that taught composting, planting and organic farming. People who attended the events would get a chance to know the garden and eventually become regular visitors, volunteers or funders. The garden also serves as an event space to organise gatherings, potlucks and meetings.
The garden is ever-evolving. There are always new projects coming up. For example, the herb garden and pizza oven are some of the recent works contributed by volunteers. Such dynamic is a key factor that keeps people visiting the garden again and again for new experiences.
A garden like Kebun-Kebun Bangsar demonstrates creative use of green spaces in cities. It is a place where urban dwellers can form communities and connect with the environment.