Schemes to help youth cultivate green fingers

NParks' slew of efforts and billionaire's $10m gift will create more opportunities for them

Children from My First Skool touring the exhibits at the Community Garden Festival 2019. ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY GOH

Younger Singaporeans will get more opportunities to cultivate their green fingers, thanks to a slew of efforts by the National Parks Board (NParks) and a $10 million donation from billionaire Peter Lim.

For a start, NParks and its partners, including Outward Bound Singapore, will create more opportunities for them to improve their understanding of greenery and biodiversity. This includes a new Green Friends Forum for those interested in greenery and horticulture.

Combined with the existing Biodiversity Friends Forum, NParks and its partners will provide opportunities for young people to undertake community projects relating to biodiversity conservation, animal management and greenery, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said yesterday at the opening of the Community Garden Festival 2019 at Jurong Lake Gardens.

Minister for Social and Family Development and Second Minister for National Development Desmond Lee; Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu and Mayor for South West District Low Yen Ling were also at the event.

Another initiative targeted at young people involves the tackling of challenges related to the landscape, horticulture and ecology.

Under the Youth Stewards for Nature programme, NParks staff and partners will guide and develop them in planning and implementing various initiatives.

For instance, young people could initiate projects to raise awareness on the importance of bees in the ecosystem, deepen social outreach efforts or discourage the feeding of pigeons.

Gift is largest by an individual to NParks' fund

Separately, billionaire Peter Lim's gift to the NParks' Garden City Fund will support students from less privileged backgrounds to participate in the programmes. The money from the Peter Lim Horticulture and Animal Science Scholarship is the single largest donation by an individual to the fund.

Mr Heng noted that those taking part in the programmes would get a boost in their skills and employability across the horticulture, landscape design, ecology, veterinary and animal sectors.

  • $10m

    Donation by Singapore billionaire Peter Lim to the NParks' Garden City Fund will support students from less privileged backgrounds to participate in the programmes.

He said that NParks has also been working with pre-school operator My First Skool to introduce the Community in Bloom programme at its centres. It is a nationwide gardening movement that aims to foster a community spirit and bring together all residents - young and old - to enhance Singapore's greenery.

By March 2021, pre-schoolers at over 140 My First Skool centres will have the chance to tend to gardens in or near their schools, as well as learn about nature and gardening in the classroom, he said. "The Community in Bloom programme is a part of our nation-building effort. It is meaningful and fulfilling for a growing number of gardening enthusiasts."

Primary and secondary school children will also get to grow their own plants in dedicated green spaces within school compounds under a separate Greening Schools for Biodiversity programme.

He added that formal education curriculum in institutes of higher learning would be enhanced, allowing students in certain courses to get hands-on experience through internships and student-run parks.

Mr Heng said NParks has also been exploring ways to expand the variety of ornamental and edible plants in community gardens here. Since the start of this year, its officers have planted over 75 plant species and cultivars at HortPark, including the edamame bean, red radish and the Japanese sweet potato.

"I am particularly excited about the effort to cultivate new edible plants, because this supports our strategy to strengthen Singapore's food resilience," he said, adding there is "great potential" for urban farming, not only in strengthening food resilience, but also as a potential new area of economic growth.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 02, 2019, with the headline Schemes to help youth cultivate green fingers. Subscribe