Grow your own garden
EATS, SHOOTS & ROOTS
Kuala Lumpur | Malaysia
Eats, Shoots & Roots is a social enterprise which empowers urban dwellers to grow their own food. They design gardens for individuals, organizations, communities, adjusting to their needs and conditions.
Eats, Shoots & Roots has been around for more than 4 years - says Shao-Lyn Low, founder -. When we started we wanted to run permaculture courses, so we could also learn. After that we decided we need a space on our own, it was important for us to experiment, so we found our actual place, with an office and the gardens around. We run workshops with experienced people, so meanwhile we could learn and build this space, a win-win situation. Since then we evolved and became in a line with social entrepreneurship. It wasn’t really the initial goal. After we run our courses we realized people are looking for gardening supplies and they couldn’t find them, so we decided to work on it. Then people asked us to build gardens for them, so we started to do landscaping as well. It evolved based on the people we came across, people interested in gardening and growing their own food. Good evolution.
Eats, Shoots & Roots is different from many other organizations working on permaculture for their strong focus on the city, while quite often alternative farming initiatives are located and focus on rural areas.
We try to encourage people to grow their food in any conditions, even in small containers, pots. That already makes a difference. It doesn’t have to be a farm all the time. A small garden would be more than enough.
Creating a garden is relatively easy. Caring about it is another story.
It's really difficult to get people to maintain gardens. It also requires some training, so we do train young people to work in this field.
Not only young people, even children!
One of our biggest successes is the garden we built for a children foundation called Dignity for Children. It’s a foundation that gives education to refugee kids or children from underprivileged homes which cannot afford to go to public schools, because they don’t have ID or for other reasons. The garden is commissioned by the foundation and they run the class to maintain the garden every week.
Every garden counts but to make a real difference we would need a more systematic approach.
We need a bigger network of gardeners, more and more people going on this journey with us. There is a lot of development going on and if we can convince developers to turn into real eco-friendly development, that would be a big step forward. Kuala Lumpur went through a lot of changes in the last 30-40 years, all happened very fast. I would like to see Kuala Lumpur taking a step back and think more what they are actually developing and try to integrate things. If we can influence those kinds of people, people who work in politics, have money to do all those projects, that would be a big thing.
One of the key factors in future plans as well as current achievements is good marketing and that's actually the field in which Shao-Lyn worked before.
Our team comes from an advertising background. I’m a graphic designer, other people worked in advertising, strategy planning, building campaigns... That helped us a lot. I worked in a corporation before, it wasn’t something I was really inspired by. The kind of campaigns we designed… I would look back at my portfolio and realize I was helping people to sell burgers… it’s not really exciting. In Eats, Shoots & Roots, even if we don’t earn as much money, we have more social value and impact, it’s the main thing which keeps me going. If I’m gonna fight for something, I want to fight for something which is useful.
Teaching people how to produce their own food is definitely useful. And really satisfying.
There is nothing more fulfilling than seeing the fruits of your own labor. Actually I believe it’s also a little bit of a luxury, I don’t think everybody can get involved in making impact. Maybe because I don’t have a school loan or a house loan to pay for, I don’t have children... it makes a big difference in the kind of career I can have. I'm blessed to be in this position where I can earn less. It’s a luxury.
Whether you have this kind of luxury or not, you can always try to grow your own garden. Literally and metaphorically.
Start small, grow a garden. With time the garden will grow to a forest. And then the forest will give you oxygen, save you.
More about Eats, Shoots & Roots: http://eatsshootsandroots.org/