During times of global crisis, citizens across countries have often turned to urban farming to sustain themselves and be more self-sufficient.

Vegetable gardens were greatly encouraged during the First and Second World Wars to prevent food shortages. In fact, in the period after the Second World War, 40% of the vegetables consumed in the United States came from city and town gardens. These gardens were set up in schools, backyards and unused plots. Even the front lawns of the White House were used to grow vegetables.

The latest crisis is the COVID pandemic, and with millions of Covid-19 cases exploding worldwide, most countries are restricting the movement of their citizens to curb the pandemic. One of the most populous countries in the world, Indonesia is no different.

Forced to spend more time at home, physically cut off from markets and suppliers, many Indonesians are taking up urban farming.

Java, Indonesia’s most densely populated island, is home to more than half of the country’s total population. However, the country’s urban farming boom is showing that scarcity of space isn’t an insurmountable hurdle.

More and more urban Indonesians are growing food as a community-driven measure to promote food security. It is also therapeutic for individuals and the environment, and reduces the negative impacts of conventional farming

Urban farmers in Jakarta and Yogyakarta have shared how urban farming has helped during the Pandemic.

While having to remain in self-quarantine, residents have either started hydroponic farms for growing vegetables or makeshift fishponds (even in buckets) placing plastic cups housing plants around the ponds.

Not only do these farms provide for self-sustenance, caring for the farms has become a hobby that diverts attention from worrisome Covid-19 news and helps reduce pandemic-induced stresses. In some cases, it has even led to income generation from produce being sold to neighbours.

Tahlim Sudaryanto, R&D chairman of the Ministry of Agriculture, noted how urban neighbourhoods and communities are converting small plots into vegetable gardens. He attributes this shift to citizens realising the importance of food security in the wake of the pandemic.

Endang Tri Margawati, a biotech researcher with the Indonesian Institute of Sciences does point out that while the concept of urban farming has existed for years and numerous methods can be incorporated in the practice, the number of urban farms will have to grow exponentially for it to become a viable food security solution.

The hope is that even after the pandemic recedes, more people continue with urban farming, thus becoming less reliant on commercial farmers for their daily needs. Other countries would do well to promote similar practices among urban dwellers.