30X30:Our Hunger for Food Security

The story of food security in Singapore

Category: gardening

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


I love eating – who doesn’t? Growing up in Singapore, we often feel quite removed from food production. I remember having a lot of fun visiting places like the Yakult factory, Oh Chin Huat farm, and Sunshine bakeries during school field trips. Everything felt so foreign and we may even get a free sample to bring home!

Author aged seven at the Jurong frog farm

Aged seven at the Jurong Frog Farm. I wasn’t too interested in the free samples here apparently.

Our supermarkets have always been well-stocked. This all changed when Malaysia announced its Movement Control Order due to the COVID 19 pandemic. Panic buying ensued, and shelves went empty. Of course, public fears did not come to pass – despite the MCO there remained a steady supply of food. However, the very sight of empty shelves opened the eyes of many to the importance of food security. That was the first time I heard of measures like a national stockpile of food and diversification of food source.

The first time I heard about the 30 by 30 plan was when I joined a Facebook group about farming in apartments during the Circuit Breaker period. Someone posted the news of the impending closure of Oh Chin Huat Hydroponic Farm, which drew many comments. Some lamented that it was ironic for such a well-established farm to close despite our increased awareness about food security, while others wondered if we could afford to be so nostalgic in our march towards progress.

So what exactly is this 30 by 30 goal? Well, 30×30 calls for us to grow 30% of our nutritional needs by 2030, with no increase to land allocated to agriculture. While this goal was announced in 2019, disruptions caused by the COVID 19 pandemic highlighted the relevance of food security. However, the long-term threat of climate change to our food security remains. Taking the environment as a whole into account, is the 30 by 30 plan the best way forward?

I don’t have the answers now, but that made me think about how our food production may change in the next decade and beyond. There is more to this than just our immediate food security at all costs after all.

I hope to hear your views as we explore different environmental issues together this semester. We all have our blind spots and different perspectives would help to enrich the conversation.

See you next week. In the meantime, I need to figure out what to do with my tomato seedlings!


See Toh Ee Kin



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