I’ve been growing my vegetable garden for six-months now and I’ve got Asian greens and cucumbers to show for it. Now that it’s the rainy season, the plants are really taking off. But, having seen urban farming being practiced in the US, I really am wondering if the urban farming movement can take root in Bangkok?
Traditionally, Thais have been a culture which maintained kitchen gardens and often raised small animals like ducks and chickens. However, things have changed as large numbers of Thais now live in Bangkok and its suburbs. With more people living in crowded dwellings like condos and apartments without any land for gardening, many of the traditional ways have been forgotten. I’m sure the retired grandmothers and grandfathers who live in the city have the knowledge and time to grow a vegetable garden, but what about the younger generation? Moreover, the rapid lifestyle of the average worker means that few have time to spend gardening, even if they have the time to do so. Many young Bangkokians spend their days pushing computer keyboards and nights working late before heading grabbing a bit to eat at the nearest food court or street vendor. They rarely have time for a home cooked meal, let alone grow their own vegetables.
While I am keen on urban farming in general and think that now is the time for people everywhere to embrace the concept. I truly wonder if the average Bangkokian teenager, twenty- or thirty-something would want to be part of the urban farming movement. Most Bangkokians are a bit on the lazy side, try to keep out of the sun and are not looking to get their hands dirty. Bangkokians are notorious for rushing to the malls and movie theaters on weekends to enjoy the shopping and air conditioning. Doesn’t exactly sound like the types who would have fun pulling weeds and turning compost.
So, again I ponder the question : Is urban farming sustainable in Bangkok?
An excellent example of a rooftop garden in Bangkok which is cared for by the District Office in Laksi, Bangkok, Thailand. The main purpose for growing rooftop gardens is to increase the productivity of the area, increase the green area, decrease global warming and increase the amount of healthy vegetables grown for household consumption. By using household organic waste in composting, it is also a way to decrease the amount of waste that needs to be managed by the municipality. As you can see in the video, rooftop gardening is done in raised beds which are placed on the concrete roof. The beds raise a variety of vegetables, including climbing vines and salad greens. The district office at Laksi is open to all Bangkokians who is interested in gardening, getting advice and they will even give you some seeds to get your garden started.
Language: Thai only
Based on this video, one of the most difficult issues with growing an urban garden is actually starting. For the sunny, hot climate in Thailand, providing enough water for the plants will be one of the trickier aspects of caring for the plants. The plants which are recommended are pak boong and basil as being hardy plants for beginners. If you have a concrete slab and no place to grow your vegetables, coconut husks can be used to provide a layer of insulation before putting some soil over. The coconut husks help to maintain the moisture in the soil and helps keeps the plants cooler throughout the day. Manure is added to fertilize the soil instead of using chemical fertilizers.
Seeing as buying organic vegetables can be expensive, this urban dweller in Thailand decided to grow his own fruits and vegetables. Buy using the small area around his house, including the car park, the formerly unused area has been turned into an area for producing food. Amazingly, he even grows mushrooms and composts in this small area. This is a very practical approach for urban Bangkokians and a good model for anyone looking to trying growing more than landscape or ornamental plants. It’s very encouraging to see that some people are producing their own food, even in an urban jungle like Bangkok. For me, I think it definitely proves that small, urban food gardens are possible in Thailand.
Starting this year, I’m trying to eat healthier by increasing my intake of vegetables. In Thailand, fresh local-grown fruits and vegetables are easily bought from the store year. However, with my recent working habits, I’ve been eating food more for the convenience than for taste, quality or nutrition. While food in Thailand is generally served in small, appropriate portions compared to Western countries, many of the restaurants near my work place serve larger portions. Additionally, Thai food can be carb-heavy because it is served with rice or noodles and many of the quick dishes are fried and oily.
One solution to my lunch time dilemma would be to pack my own lunch such as salads and lean meats. Most supermarkets offer a range of salad greens and fresh vegetables to choose from. However, purchasing vegetables regularly can be troublesome as making time for multiple trips to the supermarket during the week can be time-consuming. It can be difficult to gauge how much vegetables will be required for one week so I’m often either buying too many or too few vegetables. So, in order to make obtaining vegetables regularly a little bit less cumbersome and a bit more fun, I’ve decided to try and grow some vegetables in my yard.
Being fortunate enough to have a large enough property to have a vegetable garden in Bangkok, I’ve decided to start some seeds out in folded paper pots. The paper I used was already used on both sides and will be the temporary home for my seedlings before they will be put into the ground. Initially, I’ve started some cucumbers, tomatoes, bok choy, long green beans, pak boong, and Chinese broccoli (pak kana). Afterward, I plan to plant everything into the plot of land which has been prepared by mulching some manure and organic matter a few months before. Once this first lot of seedlings goes into the ground, I’ll be starting the next lot of seedlings which will include some pumpkin, watermelon and lettuce. If everything goes as planned, I’ll have various fresh vegetables that I can pick from my own garden and eat, without the hassle of going to the supermarket. At the very least, it can supplement whatever is store bought and reduce my expenses on vegetables that I can grown myself.
Old Vespas are commonly used in the Yaowarat (China Town) and Pahurat (Little India) areas of Bangkok. They are useful as delivery vehicles because they can carry large, bulky and heavy loads while zig-zagging through traffic. Unlike modern motorbikes that are more commonly used for transportation these days, Vespas have a low center of gravity which makes them ideal for hauling these heavy loads without losing balance. The space in front of the ride provides additional space for placing items between the rider’s legs. If you are in Yaowarat or Pahurat, keep your eyes out for Vespas as they are zooming around. You’ll be surprised the size of the loads that they carry around!
This holiday season, I’ll be buying some of the adorable Limited Edition Prints and 2011 Calendars for sale from S CAD (Soi Cat and Dog Foundation). The images of different real-life dogs at SCAD Center are humorous and cheerful. For any animal lover, these will surely be a delight. Order some prints, calendars, or cards today and the all the money will go towards the animals at SCAD.
SCAD helps the many homeless cats and dogs on Bangkok’s streets. These animals are called soi dogs and soi cats because “soi” is the Thai word for “street.” Since Thailand is a Buddhist country, the people do not believe in killing animals, but many times the soi dogs and cats can suffer from disease and injuries that can be worse than death. SCAD rescues some of these animals and tries to rehome as many as possible. In addition, they work to provide education about proper pet care and also run sterilization projects. Support the good work done by SCAD by purchasing some of the lovely artwork done by Tul or by giving a donation today!!
Illustrious illustrator and writer of Childrens books in both Thai and in English, Tul, has carried off awards presented for Best Children’s Picture Book at the last two annual Book Fairs. Educated in Thailand, Singapore and the USA, Tul is now a prolific and respected creator of educational children’s books based on animal characters. Tul credits his own SCAD Soi dog, Sesame (December) as the inspiration for his latest book “Ses and Me” which is hot off the press this month!
Filmed at a workshop at the Science Center in Bangkok, Thailand, this video is a presentation on “Our Common Future: Our Planet, Our Oasis” for science teachers in Thailand. The displays at the workshop are shown, along with the workshop participants and some scenes from around Bangkok. For the interviews of the Thai science teachers, English subtitles are provided, and overall it seems that they acquired new ideas and learnings that they will share with their students in the classroom.
Societies and communities will progress in a more just, equitable and sustainable direction if the cultural, ethical, and spiritual values of those societies are central determinants in shaping science and technology. Bioethics and environmental ethics have been core areas of action in the Social and Human Science Sector of UNESCO for the past decade. The video shows people participating and learning, through games, about how to attain the goals of bioethics and values education
This video follows John Berns, one of the co-founders of Barcamp Bangkok, on bike tour of the city. John discusses the rise of local tech communities and the founding of Barcamp in Thailand. The event starts with no agenda and is based on the premise that everyone is both a learner and teacher.
Then they travel to Open Dream to meet Thai developers building digital tools for civil society and business. Open Dream is a social enterprise working with PM Abhisit to create Government 2.0, which provides a platform for Thai citizens to ask the Prime Minister questions. They also work to provide mobile solutions that help in health and agricultural sectors.
This video captures a dialogue of several social entrepreneurs in Thailand. The images are of Bangkok and some of the problems we face in Thailand such as pollution, poverty, etc. It is a bit inspirational to those of us in Thailand that want to make a difference in a sustainable way. The video is in Thai without any subtitles.