Browsing Tag

permaculture asia

City, Garden Stories

Garden Stories: Natural Farmer & Permaculturist Mr Tang Hung Bun


Meet Mr Tang Hung Bun, a joyful, down-to-earth and all-round lovely gentleman. An avid nature lover and experienced permaculturist, Mr Tang is a former physics teacher, and has co-authored a book titled “A photographic guide to the dragonflies of Singapore“. He has since retired from teaching to focus on his passion of farming. He now volunteers with Farmily, a social enterprise which works with senior citizens through farming naturally-grown, pesticide- and chemical-free produce, it is also the farming arm of non-profit group, Ground-Up Initiative (GUI).

I first learned of Mr Tang through his blog, where he shared a soul-crushing video of his established permaculture food forest destroyed by heavy machinery. His landlord decided to lease the land that he rented to a developer, and what he had created in almost two years was demolished in three days. I would later hear my urban farmer friend, Ong Chun Yeow, mention Mr Tang in many of our conversations, and it took me quite a while to make the connection that he was that same person.

I had the immense fortune of meeting him during my visit to Kampung Kampus, and he gave me an impromptu tour of a permaculture garden that he and other volunteers had been working on since mid-January this year, after a few of them discovered a small, temporarily unused plot on the premises. Here is a video of that plot before and after Mr Tang and other Farmily volunteers worked on it. Incredible and inspiring. One of the remarkable things about this garden is that they do not water it.

As you can see from the video, he grows wintermelon, eggplants, roselle, taro, chilli, currant tomatoes, okra, winged beans and bittergourds. Some of these edible plants are intercropped with marigolds, a wonderful companion plant, and the garden features several pigeon pea plants, a shrub favoured by permaculturists for its nitrogen fixing qualities and as “chop and drop” material, there is also a neem tree, which is also a nitrogen fixer, and has many medicinal properties, its small branches can be used as a natural toothbrush.

It was such a pleasure to spend time with Mr Tang. Please read on to find out more about him and his interesting perspectives!

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Reviews: Permaculture Courses in South East Asia and Australia

Recently, I obtained my Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) in Sydney with Milkwood, and was keen to find out about the courses offered in the region. Since several people in the urban farming community in Singapore have one, I thought to ask them about their experiences and write a blogpost listing PDC options and reviews.

For those asking, “Do I need a PDC?”, my personal opinion is that while it is a useful course and it sounds very interesting, it’s relevant if you’re designing your own backyard or someone else’s garden/farm space. Otherwise, learning the 12 permaculture principles would suffice, a more affordable option, because the full 14-day PDC will cost you at least $1,000 in course fees alone – my opinion, of course. It greatly helps if one already has gardening/farming experience. In my class, everyone pretty much had experience growing edible plants, and some people had chickens as well as goats, so we didn’t have to keep stopping to explain basic information on growing plants.

When deciding on a PDC, it is worth considering what climate you are thinking of applying your knowledge to – tropical, subtropical and/or temperate, and city or rural? Also, whether you prefer a more hands-on experience in the countryside or a less physically involved experience in the city. They each have their own strengths, so see if any of these 7 reviews pique your interest!




1. Where did you complete your PDC?
Kul Kul Farm at Green School, Bali.

2. Who were your teachers? And how many people were in your class?
Ian Lillington (main trainer), Orin Hardy (practical training), Jodi Roebuck (grazing and bio-intensive gardening) and Scott Godfredson (planning and design). Additional evening talks and speakers – Brendan Morse (permaculture in East Timor), Jeni Kardinell (straw bale housing), Petra Schnieder (water technology), William Ingram (social enterprise and traditional weaving), Dennis Walker (systems approach) and Elora Hardy (bamboo architecture and design).

There were 26 students in total (including myself).

3. How much was it? Did it include accommodation?

The two-week design course is USD1,500. It includes food and tent accommodation. I added another USD150 for better comfort of staying in a twin-sharing bunkhouse.

4. Highlights of the course? 
  • Personally, the greatest highlight is getting to visit the Green School and Green Village to physically immerse in the amazing bamboo architecture.
  • We were also given a tour of the bamboo factory, PT Bamboo Pure, where different types of bamboo are treated and formed for making furniture and buildings.
  • On top of that, a short workshop by native craftsmen using bamboo to create simple building structures, musical instrument, etc.
  • I also thoroughly enjoyed myself on a half day tour of the Subak water management system in Bali.
  • Another highlight is a trash walk, led by John Hardy, which was an eye-opener on how destructive urbanisation and modern lifestyle can effect a once pristine and harmony with nature island.
  • Last but not least, the invaluable friendship of sharing culture and exchanging ideas with fellow classmates from all over the world. I’m so excited by the projects they will bring back home to start upon completion of this PDC!
5. Theory vs practical? 
Personally I found that the course inclines more towards theory-based classes and would prefer more practical and hands-on experiences. However, I also appreciate and understand it is next to impossible to cover the subject’s holistic and multidisciplinary teachings within two weeks when it is also evolving with the advancement of technology. Thus, this PDC generally managed to give a good overview of permaculture and its design as a form of a toolkit for the participants.

6. This course is for those who…

love Balinese culture and Green School! 🙂 I wouldn’t recommend just anyone to head there for PDC, especially city folks who are used to modern amenities. You will need to gauge your comfort level and appreciate a rural and back-to-basic lifestyle of insect bites, smell and sight of the composting toilet, stomach discomfort due to food and water, awareness of natural surrounding and possible danger, etc.