Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Magnum Opus

Since I last blogged in 2012, many things have happened. I changed job for one. But surely, the proudest (and most cathartic) moment was when I finally submitted my Master dissertation, got relatively good comments from the examiners, passed with minor amendments and GRADUATED!

My mentor and supervisor, Victor R Savage, patiently prodded me for 5 years and finally, the proud moment!
You can read my magnum opus on NUS' scholarbank as well. (Remember your citations!) I am also open to any collaborations and publications on food related issues in Singapore-Malaysia, on sustainable agriculture, consumption and food policies. Drop me an email.

Synopsis of the thesis after the jump.

Tan P T (2012) "From Hinterland to Ecological Footprint: The Singapore-Cameron Highlands' Vegetable Trade" Dissertation, National University of Singapore.

Metropolitan areas have a growing ecological footprint while urban consumption and environmental degradation are quoted as some of the most pressing global issues today. Singapore, as a resource-scarce city-state that imports 98 per cent of its vegetable consumption is a perfect case study in studying ecological footprint. The city-state imported 28,872 tonnes of tomatoes (94%), 22,756 tonnes (95%) of cucumbers and 3,424 tonnes of lettuce (81%) from Cameron Highlands, Malaysia in 2010. Cameron Highlands is a major vegetable cultivation area in Malaysia, producing 40 per cent of total vegetable production in Malaysia. The colonial hill station, situated 1,070 to 1,830m above sea level, has a climate suited for cultivating temperate vegetables and has been supplying vegetables to Malaysia and Singapore since 1933. However, when Singapore gained independence from Malaysia in 1965, it was also separated from this traditional hinterland. 

Through historical analysis and interviews with producers and actors along the commodity chain, this study finds that Singapore's consumption and ecological footprint impacts the landscape on its transnational hinterlands in Cameron Highlands through 1) pesticides regulations, 2) fuelling farm expansions and 3) levelling hills for creating platform terraces to maximise yield and accommodate high-tech farms for luxury crops for export. Singapore's regulations had helped to raise the production standards, both in quality and food safety, in Malaysia. However, the city-state faces the dilemma of safeguarding food security by diversifying food sources and diluting its ecological footprint while diminishing its ability to influence production practices in Cameron Highlands. Instead, the State is no longer the most important actor in governing environmental externalities and must now rely on forms of private governance.

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