From a landfill site to an urban farm: The transition that kept a Thai city fed during COVID-19

Date: 2021.02.03

An urban farm developed on a former landfill site in northern Thailand boosted the food security and livelihoods of poor families during the coronavirus pandemic, and can be a model for unused spaces in other cities, urban experts said on Thursday.

The farm in Chiang Mai, about 700 km (435 miles) from the capital Bangkok, took shape during a nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus last year, when many of the city's residents lost their tourism-dependent jobs.

Supawut Boonmahathanakorn, a community architect who works on housing solutions for Chiang Mai's homeless and informal settlers, approached authorities with a plan to convert the unused landfill into an urban farm to support the poor.

Coronavirus lockdowns worldwide have pushed more city dwellers to grow fruit and vegetables in the backyards and terraces of their homes, and forced authorities to consider urban farming as a means to boost food security.

In Chiang Mai, after authorities approved the farm plan, an appeal on social media resulted in donations of plants, seedlings and manure from residents, Supawut said.

With diggers loaned by the city, Supawut and his team cleared some 5,700 tonnes of rubbish on the 4,800 square-metre (0.48 hectare) plot that lies next to a canal and a cemetery.

The land was levelled, and a rich topsoil added to offset the degraded soil. The farm opened to the community in June.

About half a dozen homeless families, students from a public school and members of the public grow eggplant, corn, bananas, cassava, chilli, tomatoes, kale and herbs, Supawut said.

Read more here.

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