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Could city farming be a solution for Bangkok’s urban poor?

A group of nutritional experts say the trend could be harnessed to improve access to food for Thailand’s growing numbers of urban poor.

By Flora Bagenal, Correspondent

Bangkok, Thailand

At first glance there’s nothing remarkable about the Laksi District Office building on the outskirts of Bangkok. The concrete building is like any other government office in the city, on a busy road surrounded by skyscrapers and a car park. But hiding behind its white brick walls on the seventh floor is a luscious rooftop farm, housing more than a hundred varieties of vegetables that could help the country’s urban poor.

The garden was set up in 2003 by a group of janitors who decided to use empty space on the building’s roof to grow food to take home to their families. In the 10 years since, it has blossomed into a fully functioning urban horticulture center, complete with trellises crisscrossed with vines and rows of potted herbs and spices. It covers an area roughly 4,000 square meters (about 4,300 sq. feet), that otherwise would be an expanse of unused concrete.

The guerrilla garden is one of several small city farms dotted around Bangkok. And now, a group of nutritional experts say the trend could be harnessed to improve access to food for Thailand’s growing numbers of urban poor.

“Historically, community gardens have served many functions in Europe. Bangkok could benefit in the same way,” says Robert Holmer, a German agriculture expert who is regional director of the World Vegetable Center.

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About Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.
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