JAKARTA: Young Indonesians are breathing new life into their polluted concrete capital city with little more than buckets of soil and seeds.

A group of mostly young professionals, known as Gardening Indonesia, has joined the global urban farming movement, converting vacant patches of land between Jakarta's skyscrapers into lush green vegetable gardens.

“There's concrete, concrete, everywhere. But if we look hard enough, there is vacant land we can farm,” said Sigit Kusumawijaya, 30, watering freshly planted tomato seeds.

On a one-hectare (2.5-acre) lot between luxury homes in a north Jakarta suburb, Kusumawijaya and his fellow gardeners grow tomatoes, cucumbers, corn and chillies where an eyesore dumping ground once stood.

The group's goals are to encourage a healthy population and a green city while saving money on grocery bills.

Jakarta residents have for years criticised the government for allowing giant malls and towering apartment buildings to replace green spaces, which are now few and far between.

Traipsing the muddy earth of the vegetable garden in her leopard-print boots, 26-year-old architect Syahnaz said that urban farming was one way young Indonesians could take matters into their own hands.

“The government isn't doing very much for us, so we have to take the initiative to look after the city,” she said.

Syahnaz — who like many Indonesians uses only one name — has traded her life as a mall-rat for urban farming.

“The massive use of air conditioning in malls is destroying our planet — it's an evil,” she said.

Kusumawijaya and some friends formed the Gardening Indonesia group earlier this year, recruiting thousands of followers on social networking sites Facebook and Twitter.

Members discuss online the latest urban farming trends and projects and share information about organic farming, while hundreds turn out on weekends to work in group gardens in 14 cities around the country.—AFP



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