Cultivating greener mindsets

    Case studies | July 2017

    From left: Conference at Pan Pacific Singapore; social events at Gardens by the Bay's Flower Field Hall

    From left: Conference at Pan Pacific Singapore; social events at Gardens by the Bay’s Flower Field Hall

    How does one hold an agarian event in a concrete jungle and without government support? By believing in the cause and thinking creatively, writes Pamela Chow

    Event brief

    Held biennially since 1963 by the Royal Agricultural Society of the Commonwealth (RASC), the 27th Commonwealth Agriculture Conference gathers agrarian organisations and groups globally in a discussion of nascent issues in agriculture. The latest edition dove into the modern challenges arising from the rural-urban divide, such as climate change, urban migration and disconnection from traditional food sources.

    Pitching for the event in 2012, the Kranji Countryside Association (KCA) clinched the deal to hold the conference on Singapore soil by positioning the nation as a thought leader in urban agricultural technology and advances.


    Built on urban economy more than the toil of the soil, Singapore has small pockets of farming plots left in the rural outskirts of the city.

    Overcoming this “stereotype of Singapore as a concrete jungle and expensive city with nothing much to see” initially posed a challenge, said KCA president Kenny Eng. He added that this was on top of the association’s small size, limited resources, an absence of government support, all of which proved to be a challenge in pulling off the event which demanded a world-class venue with good facilities and versatile space, and high security for the RASC’s president, HRH Princess Anne.


    Interestingly, it was this “concrete jungle” image of Singapore that served as fertile ground for innovative ideas to flourish.

    Eng shared: “We worked hard to challenge that mindset and to show the side of Singapore that others rarely see… and to prove that Singapore’s small agricultural sector could become a future industry.”

    This ultimately bloomed into an standout conference – KCA brought delegates on farm excursions, decorated the event with local produce and native plants, and engaged the Singapore Culinary Olympic Team to whip up a gala dinner.

    The key to making magic happen, reflected Eng, was having “a committed and influential local committee” that was dedicated to pulling in “good speakers and sponsors”.

    He added: “Our members pulled their weight in a difficult economic year, and came together to contribute to the sponsorship and resources for the conference.”

    Key takeaways

    Transforming perceived challenges into strengths, KCA succeeded in demonstrating Singapore’s creative urban farming advances amid a resource-stretched landscape.

    Said Eng: “We learnt that quality is more important than quantity, and that things must be done differently to stand out.”

    The 27th CAC bagged KCA the Best Association Conference Organiser at the Singapore Tourism Awards; an achievement that gave KCA the confidence to “focus on our small size as a strength and not a vulnerability, and to celebrate our local elements be it farms or culture or expertise”.


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