30X30:Our Hunger for Food Security

The story of food security in Singapore

Beyond Singapore: reflections on global food security

Hi everyone, welcome back. Last week, I was part of the World Organisation of the Scouting Movement (WOSM) team that took part in the takeover of the UN Youth Envoy’s social media accounts.

WOSM’s takeover of the UN Envoy on Youth, retrieved from https://www.instagram.com/p/CG4_0JjDrQn

I chose to talk about food security amidst global warming, and this comprised Instagram Stories as well as a written opinion piece.


I was quite apprehensive at the start  – after all, I am just a year one BES student with seemingly no experience. However, I was encouraged to look at personal stories. I soon realised that many small decisions I made many years ago, and all the “random” activities I took part in have shaped my world view now. Some may call this lived experience. Personally, choosing to continue with the “germinating taugeh” experiment in primary school and repotting it blossomed into a love of gardening and nature.


This was probably reinforced by all the hiking in nature parks my family did in Hong Kong when I was a child and my experience as a scout. All these ties in pretty closely to the chart we will see in this week’s notes (slide 60) about building environmentally literacy.


In my op-ed, I espoused community gardens as a means to increase awareness of food security – a more personal touch of sorts. To an extent, gardening may already be quite popular here. All of the plots in older allotment gardens are fully subscribed, so people are willing to pay to garden. In fact, community gardening is the raison d’être of the social enterprise Ground Up Initiative. While I acknowledged that there are people who use these gardens to supplement their diets and increase their food security, I may have missed a much larger impact of urban farming. According to this article, urban farming could also improve relations between stakeholders, increase cities’ livability and even provide job opportunities. While the “Gardening with Edibles” programme proclaims its support for the “30by30” goal, the unrequited love on SFA’s part is puzzling. Surely this is a good opportunity for outreach?


When researching for the op-ed, I also came across measures such as growing on rewetted peatlands that our neighbouring countries could take that may be carbon neutral while ensuring food security. Given the more inward-looking aspect of “30by30”, I wonder if this may translate to reduced support for sustainable solutions overseas. The “diversify imports” strategy also means that breadth is valued over sustainability. When it comes to national security, sustainability may have to take a back seat. Given climate change’s varied effect on global food production, importing food from beyond our region hedges our bets but ironically becomes a positive feedback loop. Environmental justice would also be a greater concern if global food shortages see even more food imported out of already impoverished regions. This is not a new concept and nobody wants a repeat of the 1943 Bengal Famine.

Taking part in this social media outreach highlighted the global nature of some local problems. After all, even if “30by30” is a resounding success we would still need to account for the remaining 70%. Collective action needs to be taken on what is essentially a collective responsibility. Every member of society can do their part.


Ee Kin


  1. Hi STEK haha I love how you relate your ideas to your own personal journey and also what we have learnt in 1101! You mentioned that “sustainability may have to take a back seat”, but what are the things and trade-offs that should be considered for the issue of sustainability to be on par with other goals?


    • See Toh Ee Kin

      November 10, 2020 at 3:47 PM

      Hi Sher, that’s a good question. Perhaps the government could take the GHG emissions incurred for these national security “must haves” into account and try to balance that out with other national initiatives. One such programme that comes to mind is the One Million Trees movement spearheaded by NParks to see a net gain of a million trees. Of course, how many trees we can plant is limited, but the government can set a level of net emissions so anything incurred by national security reasons would have to be offset in other areas. Current goals aims to hit zero net emissins by the second half of the century (https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/commentary/singapore-low-carbon-emissions-climate-change-energy-growth-goal-12491386), but I hope the timeline can be shortened.
      If Singapore cannot hit this goal in this half of the century, we could support efforts abroad. I personally feel that Singapore can play a bigger role in the region and ASEAN. Some may see this as a form of carbon offsetting ( and Dr Coleman mentioned some of the pitfalls in the comments of Chloe’s blog https://blog.nus.edu.sg/chloequek/2020/10/22/why-people-may-not-choose-to-travel-green/#comments).
      I hope this answered your question – or at least the spirit of it.


  2. Hello Ee Kin!

    I agree with Sherry and liked that you shined light on the potential issues of environmental justice arising from food security issues! Could you elaborate on what collective action you’re referring to and who’s involved? Do you mean countries working together to stabilise global food supplies via more sustainable ways of farming? Also, what do you mean when you mentioned that each of us can do our part?

    Thanks in advance for the clarification and I’m looking forward to your reply!

    – Yee Qi

    • See Toh Ee Kin

      November 11, 2020 at 5:08 PM

      Hi Yee Qi,

      Thanks! When I mentioned collective action, I had cooperation between the various levels of society in mind. In Singapore, we are quite used to things being done on the national level. “30by30” seems to be one such example where SFA is the nucleus of the whole programme. It is great to hear that at the corporate level, the various companies are starting to connect with each other to see how by-products from one farm can be used in another, thereby reducing waste. Gardening with Edibles attempts to connect the government directly with the citizens. But moving beyond the narrow scope of 30by30, there are many Voluntary Welfare Organisations tackling food insecurity in Singapore, such as Food Bank Singapore and Food From the Heart which look more into the food distribution side of things – how can NGOs and VWOs be involved in increasing our food security as a whole?
      During the social media campaign, there seemed to be some emphasis on community-driven solutions. As a global NGO with members from most communities across the globe, scouting is of course well positioned to focus on this aspect which may have been more neglected in the past. But I feel that we shouldn’t forget about multilateral regional cooperation, corporate- community cooperation and among all other stakeholders. In our different roles as individuals, members of a certain segment of society, in working life or at the volunteer level we have different levels of decision making that may nudge our organisations closer to our ideal situation. Throughout this blog I also haven’t really talked about the demand side of things. Beyond not wasting food, our choice of food (such as tropical fish vs cold-water fish like salmon and tuna) also affects whether they can be grown locally.

      As for global food supplies which will be affected by climate change, it will be very hard to convince countries to not take steps that will improve their own food security. This can be seen now in the potential COVID-19 vaccine distribution. While many countries have agreed to work together under the COVAX scheme (https://www.vox.com/21448719/covid-19-vaccine-covax-who-gavi-cepi), many countries will still try to improve their lot by signing deals directly with manufacturers. In such an open world, it can be argued that Covid thriving in one country is a threat to all globally. Perhaps the same can be argued about food security and climate refugees. Countries in the same region as food insecure countries may likely be the most willing to prevent this situation.

      (To be honest though the phrasing of the last paragraph also took into account ending the last content blog post on an optimistic “we can do it” note and is not exactly a fully fleshed out blueprint on how I think the global food security question can be solved haha.)

      ~Ee Kin

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