Stealing Nature in Singapore City


15 February 2015


Not 40 years ago, the word “Singapore” didn’t mean very much to many people. Oft asked questions went something like, “Is it a part of China or Japan?” or “Do I need my shots before I visit?” or “Do they speak English over there?”

Today, Singapore is that little red dot in Southeast Asia where there still are jobs to be had and where multi-national companies set up their regional offices. It’s also one of the most expensive, if not THE most expensive, cities in the world. Its towering skyscrapers, high-density residential estates and über modern lifestyle habits make Singapore a sought-after holiday destination and global career pitstop.

But, rapid development has taken its toll on this once sleepy British colonial trading centre. Pig farms, kampungs (Malay for village) and even hillocks have been sacrificed for explosive population growth, competitive university rankings and F1 night racing.


Which is why events like the once-a-quarter Kranji Farmers’ Market are so important. They remind Singapore’s residents that one need not drown in total despair over the island’s shrinking green acreage. Compared to farmers’ markets in other parts of the world, the Kranji Farmers’ Market might seem underwhelming, but it wouldn’t be a fair comparison to begin with.

Singapore has no agricultural land to speak of and its traditional farmers of yore have been retired to concrete residential blocks. However, and as if in defiance of the “from Third World to First” manifesto that is repeatedly lauded, a new breed of farmer has evolved. Some are more well-endowed than others – having managed to score some land to till – yet all have resilience and creativity in common.


Overpriced bananas, artisanal jams or goat’s milk might not be on the average grocery list; the limited range of locally grown produce doesn’t even constitute food security. But, it’s palpable what a trek out to the north of Singapore (just a stride away from Malaysia) does for the soul. It’s a firm reminder of what soil actually smells like.

More important, it tells us that not everything is “instant”.