Friday, May 16, 2008

Historical reference to Singapore's lack of food sufficiency

Voyagers (Wang Dayuan) in the 15th century have observed that the island did not have much cultivar or padi (Wheatley, 1966)
Wheatley P (1966) “The Golden Khersonese: studies in the historical geography of the Malay Peninsula before A.D. 1500” Kuala Lumpur: University of Malaya Press, pp. 82

Dutch officer, Colonel Nahuijs, in a letter to his superior in Holland, wrote:
"The cost of living is very high as the island produces little or nothing"
Eze Nathan (1986) "The history of Jews in Singapore (1830-1945)" Herbilu Editorial: Singapore, p. vi

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Independent Study Module (ISM)

The concept of an ISM is to have flexible coursework / studies / research usually culminating in an essay.

My ISM was the most unstructured module ever but in the end, I produced a paper. It wasn't too bad but prof wanted a comparison with the Von Thunen theory as well as other criticism of the space-bound theory while I am introducing similar case study under transnational conditions. Amongst other things. Hope I at least passed.

City-States and Transnational Agricultural Hinterlands:

A case study of the Singapore-Cameron Highlands Fresh Vegetable Trade


"Cities are unnatural…[they require a] concentration of food, water, energy, and materials that nature cannot provide"
- Lester Brown (2001: 188)

If cities are unnatural, then city-states are the oddities amongst the odd. Even as cities require food, water, and other resources from imported beyond its own metropolitan boundary, city-states likewise require these resources but from across transnational boundaries. There are only 3 modern city-states in the world now – Singapore being one of them. However, there is a growing movement to view metropolitan regions as “citistates” which are characterized by social, economic and environmental interdependence (Peirce et al, 1993). With globalization and an increased ecological footprint of metropolitan urban cities (Wackernagel and Rees, 1996), urban consumption and environmental degradation are quoted as some of the “most pressing global issues” today (Jorgenson, 2003: 374). Thus, there is much that can be learnt from city-states, such as Singapore, that juggle the urban issues of food dependency and inter-state resource politics across transnational boundaries and hinterlands. Most literature contends with case studies of intra-national rural-urban issues (Tacoli, 1998) or inferred global impacts through agricultural expansion (Southgate et al, 2007). The different scale and definition of hinterland have since expanded with increased connectivity across the globe.

This essay will examine these different definitions of the hinterland concept in relation to agrarian landscapes with specific case study to the city-state of Singapore and its transnational agricultural hinterland in Cameron Highlands, Malaysia. The question that this essay hopes to answer is if the existence of transnational hinterlands is the unavoidable precondition of a city-state or is it the result of an encroaching ecological footprint from the growth of an urban area and its growing consumption.

Volunteer Field Assistants Briefing

Yesterday I met with 4 of my volunteer field assistants and the first thing Vyna said to me was, all girls ah? Ah well, girl power it is.

My briefing notes are as follows:

Cameron Highlands has 3000 farm families. We are surveying primarily the farms that export to Singapore. Most of the farmers are Chinese, speaks Chinese dialects, Mandarin, Malay and minimal English. There are some farmers who are Indian. Cameron Highlands is located in the state of Pahang, at the boundary of Kelantan and Perak. The farm workers are mostly Indian foreign workers. (I wonder what language they speak.)

There are several towns in Cameron Highlands. The one we will be staying in is Tanah Rata. But we will be surveying farms from all the towns.


From Singapore, you can get a Konsortium bus direct to Cameron Highlands daily.
Depart: 10.30pm from Goldenmile Plaza
Arrive: 7-8am at Tanah Rata, Cameron Highlands

There is a bus from Cameron Highlands to Singapore which departs at 10am everyday from Tanah Rata. It stops at KL along the way but there is no need to change buses.

You can buy a round trip or one-way ticket from Singapore.
June (school holidays) - S$55 (one way) and S$99 (round trip)
July weekday – S$45 (one way) $79 (round trip)
July weekend – S$50 (one way) $80 (round trip)
It may be cheaper to buy return ticket from Cameron Highlands*

The temperature at Cameron Highlands is High 26C and low 20C. The midday sun can be very hot but the nights are cold. In order to prevent heat stroke, you need to drink lots of water. Because the weather is cool, you may not realize the intensity of the sun till it’s too late. Rain can be expected so be prepared.


Please purchase your own travel insurance!

In June, We will be staying at a 3-bedroom 2-bathroom vacation apartment that is owned by the director of the state department of agriculture in Cameron Highlands. There is a kitchen, laundry services* and satellite TV. It is located at Tanah Rata. Each person will get a room to themselves but there are additional mattresses, blankets and pillows.

Accommodation in July is not confirmed yet but will be similar.

*will confirm

Packing List

1. Sweater or jacket is a must
2. Hat
3. Umbrella or poncho
4. Sports shoes or Hiking Boots
5. Washing powders*
6. Mosquito repellent
7. Long Pants
8. Medication (motion sickness pills)
9. Clothes
10. Laptop
11. Camera
12. Stationery

Travel logistics update

May trip
- bus ticket, round trip
- accommodation
- local transport
- insurance
- gift for host (NUS)
- itinerary
- rechargeable battery
- plug adapters
- change money
- claim from department
- pack

Philippines trip

- comment on workshop participants
- air ticket
- insurance
- claim from Philippines
- claim from department
- registration fee
- Andie's letters
- Contact Andie
- hotel at Los Banos
- change money
- pack
- SEAGA presentation

June to July trip
- volunteers
- accommodation
- insurance
- bus ticket
- local transport
- pack
- washing powder
- batteries
- claim from department
- change money
- gift for driver (Chivas)
- itinerary

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Transport in Cameron Highlands

I must be the biggest chicken on earth. At least in Singapore.

A few weeks ago, Mr Chua sent me an email asking me to call Mr K to ask him to recommend a transport driver. I thought, omg this is so scary and how am I to communicate effectively, etc.

In the end, I waited till 1 week before I arrive to call.

I was on 96, going to school and decided to call. Phone rang. Oh crap, somebody picked up. Silence. Hello hello hello? silence. Then somebody spoke, "Hello" and monkey went hello is this Mr K? Silence. Hello hello hello?

Sigh, Monkey decided to hang up. I started smsing which I should have done long ago (why didn't I think of it!)

Then suddenly my SMS got interrupted by phone ringing. Eek! Mr K called back!

Ok anyways, the next 5 minutes was the shortest and most delirious moment of my week.

Mr K doesn't speak great English but I said I need a driver and he said when? next week? ok.

Poor monkey still struggling to catch up and essentially, he is going to recommend me a driver. Who? himself!

ahaha I should have called long ago. It was that easy. Will negotiate price when I'm in Cameron so I better bring lots of money. *sigh*

Speaking with a senior who worked in Thailand, S$50/day for car and driver seem to be my best budget for local transport. Oh god, I need funding! I think I will simply have to be subsidized by my stipend. 3 month's stipend will be $4500 and including my $3400 from the faculty and department, I should be able to survive with $7900. But that just means I will not be able to save a single penny for the holidays. I just hope that I can maintain my current savings without going lower than the current. Guess I will wait to change money for my trips after 18 May when I get paid. Hopefully NHB job money will eventually come in. That way it will contribute to my savings. Also, my RA job should give me some pittance of an allowance to work with. Thank goodness my conference funding will cover my philippines trip. Still there is a certain element of payment upfront which makes me uncomfortable.

Managing a research project does allow one to acquire budget management skills.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Cameron May Pilot Survey update

Let's start with the bad news.

1. Mr Chua will not be around in the first 2 days of my arrival in CH. Him and his wife are going for a work trip to China from May 6 to May 22.

2. I have not gotten any transport detail yet.

The good news is that Mr Chua is a saint. He has been helping me so much I feel so bad for not following up.

1. He has contacted the farms owners as well as Mr. C, Secretary Cameron Veg Growers association asking them to give their full cooperation to you when you want to visit their farms. Everybody contacted says no problem. The list of their names and contact numbers I am leaving it with Mr. Karupanan who will be checking you into my apartment. To facilitate logistic he has sketched the farm locations for me and leave then with Mr K.

2. Mr K will check me in at Tanah Rata and he is also the person I am suppose to contact for leads on transport

3. Mary Wong (travel agent) also gave another contact, Mr Chandran

4. Another contact Mr Ravi at CAMERON TRAVEL & TOURS SDN BHD. Emailed him, no reply.

5. The June accommodation has been settled. Thank the lord.

Do I have enough money for all of this?! No news from the funding request. Woe.

Volunteers Recruitment Successful

A few weeks ago I put out word that I needed volunteers via Wilson of ECO and Heather of Food for All. Heather also helped me spread the word to Geogsoc members. I also put it up on Midnight Monkey Monitor and WildSingapore picked it up. I also asked Dawa to send to Honors student and Matthew to send to 3rd year geog students. Ria also asked me to contact Vyna directly and I am so glad I did. (yay!)

Initial stages saw lots of geogsoc juniors signing up. It was very smooth flowing as one of the juniors volunteered to come for a whole month.

Then he withdrew.

That drew the whole thing into chaos and then to make matters worse, some juniors asked if they could come for 2 days! To make things worse, they asked why others were allowed to come for 4 days only. Alright, that made me become very stringent with the volunteer recruitment process from that point on.

Regardless, the recruitment has more or less been completed. Schedule can be seen at the calendar above.

1. Melissa and Heather (geogsoc)
2. Vyna (NHC)
3. Hannah (ECO)
4. Shanjun and Matthew (geogsoc)

I am still awaiting reply from
1. Michelle Ooi (heard from ECO)
2. Peihao (NHC)

Interestingly, I had 1 Indonesian and 2 Malaysians who asked if they could help out. International collaborators! I wish I could bring them on but no reply from the Indonesian when I asked where in Indo he is from as I need to do some work in Brastagi. I would love to have him help out in the Indon leg of the project but it's unfortunate that he did not reply.

A few Malaysians from the USM Environment Club read my blog and asked if they can help but schedules are just not suitable. The President and Vice President of the USM Env Club are my friends so I guess their members have been regularly reading my blog. How nice! :) If I ever am required to have Malaysian collaborators, I know who to find. Hurray!

Actually there are still spaces available for my May recce trip but I would not be able to subsidize the accommodations. Anybody interested?

Meanwhile, the survey volunteers recruitment has been slow. I did manage to get a few:
1. Janelle
2. Le Vu
3. Angeline
4. Perry

Sigh, I really need more people for this. Help! I have emailed Liyan at NJC and she said she's sent it to the classes who need CIP but no news so far. How sad.

I wonder if I can afford to give a small token of $10 kino book voucher to people who help me conduct the survey.