From the seed of an idea floated on Twitter in November, a new social movement that encourages urban farming in the capital has finally bloomed with its official launch on Sunday.

Ridwan Kamil, a prominent architect who started the group with the hashtag #jakartaberkebun, spoke at the launch at Springhill Golf Residence in Kemayoran, Central Jakarta. He said the Jakarta Berkebun (Jakarta Gardening) movement aimed to turn thousands of hectares of abandoned and vacant land across the city into useful green space.

“Jakarta’s green open space continues to decrease, but there are some places that can be harnessed and used as green space, preventing it from becoming garbage dumps and the source of diseases,” he said.

Ridwan said Jakarta would be a pilot project for a wider Indonesia Berkebun, which plans to launch similar initiatives in cities including Bandung, Yogyakarta, Surabaya and Medan.

In response to the project, which encourages people to plant anything from vegetables to flowers wherever they can find space, the Springhill housing complex has granted Jakarta Berkebun a three-year lease on 10,800 square meters of land on which to plant.

Ridwan said Jakarta Berkebun also had land in Cengkareng and Grogol, West Jakarta, and Bintaro and Kemang, South Jakarta, at which people could learn about gardening.

The group has experts who examine the special characteristics of the local soil to find out which plants are suitable for planting in which areas.

In Kemayoran, for example, the land was found to be suitable for kangkung (water spinach), chilies and tomatoes.

“It is expected that the result of the crops can also be sold to meet the needs of the people of Jakarta,” Ridwan added, saying that cultivating the gardens would help Jakarta become more resistant to food shortages and price hikes.

Sigit Kusumawijaya, another member of Jakarta Berkebun, said the group was slowly building a strong following on Twitter and had big plans for land, such as that leased at Springhill.

“We can plant a lot of things and reap the results in three years,” he said. “Water spinach is favored because it has a short harvest period of three weeks.”

Aside from helping to create more green space, Sigit said urban farming and gardening could also become an alternative weekend activity for Jakartans to break away from spending hours cooped up inside malls.

Written by: Dofa Fasila & Ulma Haryanto

Published by The Jakarta Globe on February 21st, 2011