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From Big City Kuala Lumpur to Rural Kampung, Chalin Food Forest

Malaysia might not be a country that is known for permaculture, but many of the tropical ancestral practices of our forefathers reveal wisdom and the interconnection of humans and nature. Who would have thought the supposedly simple act of daily burning of excess leaf litter with branches in front of the ‘kampung’ or village house, actually helps fumigate the whole compound off mosquitoes and pests. The burning is done by smothering the burning branches with a thick layer of leaf litter resulting in smoke production and oxygen-less burning. And the other purpose for this habit? 
The branches become biochar for use around the garden!

This was all very unfamiliar and distant knowledge for us back when we were working in the oil and gas industry and living as a city family. It was not until after 2012, when we stumbled upon the term permaculture while scrambling a more sustainable and self sufficient way of life that our journey began. The discovery lead us to a Permaculture Design Course taught by Rhamis Kent in Malaysia in 2014, and a year after that gathered our family members and contemplated getting a land for clean and pure food production.

The search for land was a difficult one as we are limited by proximity, cash in hand as well as our knowledge of good land selection. We actually browsed for land via google earth, looking for the best looking landscape that was not far from where we were based, Kuala Lumpur. And finally we decided on Chalin Food Forest, a property only one and a half hours drive away from KL with an affordable price, good access, surrounded by forests and a nice view to boot.

Going into the land for the very first time was scary. You know that you already had the theory in the PDC but going out to an actual site makes you pause and reflect. Nature’s complexity is really something that we have to learn to appreciate and collaborate with.


Wan Ridhwan Hanizan with Geoff Lawton at Zaytuna Farm

Above: Receiving my International Permaculture Project Management certification from Geoff Lawton at Zaytuna Farm

Unclogging the mental block

In 2016, my wife and I decided to travel to Australia and learn from Geoff Lawton of Zaytuna farm. Whilst in Zaytuna Farm, we acquired the understanding of farm systems namely, cattle, poultry, nursery, cropping and food forest setup, operations and maintenance. In addition to that irrigation, farm piping network, necessary mechanical works, earthworking and PDC co-teaching. We were blessed enough to be awarded the International Project Management Certificate and gained valuable experience managing a place like Zaytuna farm and working together with Geoff Lawton on consultancies, designs and implementation. We also had the honour of learning from many others who are leading the way in their field, like Paul Taylor, Graham Bell and David Spicer.

Upon our return to Malaysia, we begin implementing the knowledge gained to develop our 8-acre homestead that is now known as Chalin Food Forest.

Above: Example of some of the vegetable beds with small tropical garden already established.

Developing a Permaculture Education and Demonstration Site

We are creating a complete education system on the farm so that visitors can study permaculture, receive a certificate in the field, be certified to build and maintain permaculture lands, teach and/or consult on permaculture.

Our home is a classic example of a tropical farm and forest. Blessed with almost 12 hours of daylight and 2500mm of annual rainfall. The local population is made up of aboriginal tribes and local mix of Malay, Chinese and Indian villagers. Currently the site is demonstrating energy-efficient appropriate housing design with natural cooling systems, solar electricity, biological waste water treatment, rain water harvesting and diverse interactive plant, animal and tree systems for local food production and processing. We are in the process of developing several vegetable beds, tropical garden, food forests, and aquaculture to produce food on two acres of land. The demonstration house will function as a classroom and administration office for the project.

We hope that our homestead will serve as a model that can be replicated within the village, throughout Malaysia and other countries in the region.

Top Image: Our home built from a converted shipping container.

Common house


Lower Image: One of the classes from our first Permaculture training at Chalin Food Forest


What’s Next?

We have recently launched a crowdfunding campaign to fund our development and maintenance in a vision to educate more people on permaculture and support the #deurbanize movement. We appeal to all to join this cause by donating via this link:


  1. How exciting, Wan. I am sure you and your family will inspire many others to convert to permaculture.

    I like your house. Do have many windows for cross ventilation? Apart from the shade roof, what other method(s) do you use to keep the house cool? Insulation?

    Thanks in advance, Louise

    1. Hi Louise, Thank you for the compliment.
      We try to put in at least 2 windows per room for ventilation and the whole house is open to air flow without walls.
      Insulation is being used behind the wall to help reduce conduction of heat.

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