Grow More Food Campaign



The Grow More Food Campaign was started during the Japanese Occupation to place a check on inflation and to prepare for an eventual blockade from enemy forces. People were encouraged to strive for self-sufficiency by growing their own food. Vegetables, tapioca and sweet potatoes were some of the common crops grown. The campaign targeted people from all walks of life including city-dwellers, government workers, schoolchildren and prisoners-of-war. When the campaign failed to produce results, the Japanese resorted to coercive tactics like the cutting of rations and the migration of people to farming communities to increase agricultural output.

Background
After the Japanese occupied Malaya, they anticipated that the region would eventually be isolated and blockaded by enemy forces. Food shortages were also driving inflation up. Hence under a three-year Food Sufficiency Plan, the Grow More Food Campaign was started to encourage people to grow their own food.1 Some common crops grown include vegetables, fruits, sweet potatoes, yams, tapioca, maize, ragi and dry rice.2 People planted wherever there was empty space – in front, beside and behind their houses and along the roadsides.3 No space was left vacant.4 Even the grand Padang was not spared.5 In 1944, its grassy plains were planted with tapioca trees.6 These changes in the city landscape led a Japanese wartime official, Shinozaki Mamoru, to comment that Syonan had changed into a vegetable garden.7


Campaign Promotion
The campaign in Singapore was organised by the Agricultural and Forestry Section of the Special Municipality and the Overseas Chinese Association.8 Newspapers published farming tips by the Agricultural Departments, and radio programmes broadcasted farming instructions.9 The Japanese also published a Malayan recipe book that showed how food could be prepared using tapioca and other native food substitutes.10

Government workers were required to lead by example and were compelled to participate in the drive.11 Each government department formed its own labour corps and were mandated to cultivate their plots at least four hours per week. Female employees were not excluded.12 When the primary schools opened in April 1942, gardening was introduced as part of the school curriculum.13 The knowledge was put into practical use in the vegetable and tapioca gardens to which the schoolchildren tended.14

In the Malay Peninsula, forest reserves and rubber plantations were cleared for agriculture.15 Free seeds and loans were given to farmers to encourage them to plant.16 In June 1944, voluntary service units called Kinro Hoshi Tai were created in towns and districts to grow crops. Production competitions were held among these sectors with monetary prizes handed out to the winning group.17 Agricultural exhibitions were also staged.18 Sultans were upheld as models of farming. In particular, the Sultans of Perak and Johore received a fair amount of publicity for their successful agricultural enterprises.19

Crop-growing
Tapioca, in particular, was extremely popular because it grew well in various soil conditions and took only three months to mature.20 The plant also gave good foliage and lent the appearance that the people were industriously producing crops.21 War survivor, Chin Kee Onn, recorded in his book that only the lower-income group cultivated for food.22 The rest of the city-dwellers found ways to make money through the black market.23 Hence the planting of crops was, in some instances, a show for the Japanese.24

With the intense cultivation of crops, the soil’s fertility was soon depleted.25 Since fertilizers were not readily available, the people turned to the traditional Chinese practice of using human excrement to enrich the soil. But this practice led to the spread of diseases. The use of human waste as fertilizer caused typhoid, dysentery, cholera and the spread of intestinal parasites like hookworms, tapeworms and roundworm eggs. To counter this, the Japanese advised the people to make compost from human and vegetable waste material, as heat generated by the composting process would get rid of disease-carrying germs. But this advice went unheeded most of the time.26 Besides human waste, the dung from fowls were also used. In the Selarang and Changi POW camps, the internees also used urine as fertilizer for their crops.27

Rationing and Farming Communities

As the call to farm only managed to draw lacklustre responses from the public between 1942–43,28 the Japanese took a tougher stance from 1944. Non-cooperation was regarded as subversion. Citing the need to conserve stocks, rice, sugar, salt and coconut-oil rations were cut.29 The Malayan Administration Department also resettled groups of people from town areas into farming communities to ease the congestion in urban areas. The best known of these farming colonies was the Bahau and Endau settlements in Johore and Negri Sembilan.30 Though people were largely encouraged to move to these agricultural villages, there were also cases of forced resettlement.31 In December 1944, the Japanese announced the Danshi Shugyo Gensei Horei (Ordinance Restricting Men’s Employment) to convert men who belonged to specific occupational groups (for example, waiters, shop assistants, telephonists, laundry-men, amusement park attendants, hawkers, cooks, and tailors) into farmers. Alternatively, they would be attached to the military units as enlistees of the volunteer corps, cadet reserves, special police and labour corps.32

Failure of the Campaign
Despite the campaign, Malaya was unable to achieve self-sufficiency.33 The majority of the Malayan people were not trained for farming.34 Many people also believed that the British would return soon so they did not pick up farming skills to survive.35 Hence many people were severely under-nourished and developed beri-beri and various skin diseases.36



Author
Joshua Chia Yeong Jia




References
1. Lim, P. P. H., & Wong, D. (Eds.). (2000). War and memory in Malaysia and Singapore. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, pp. 60–61. (Call no.: RSING 959.503 WAR)
2. Lim, P. P. H., & Wong, D. (Eds.). (2000). War and memory in Malaysia and Singapore. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, p. 61. (Call no.: RSING 959.503 WAR); Kratoska, P. H. (1998). The Japanese occupation of Malaya: A social and economic history. St Leonards, N.S.W.: Allen & Unwin, pp. 259, 266. (Call no.: RSING 959.5103 KRA)
3. Shinozaki, M. (1973). My wartime experiences in Singapore. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, p. 68. (Call no.: RSING 959.57023 SHI-[HIS])
4. Wong, H. S. (2009). Wartime kitchen: Food and eating in Singapore, 1942–1950. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet and National Museum of Singapore, p. 21. (Call no.: RSING 641.30095957 WON)
5. Wong, H. S. (2009). Wartime kitchen: Food and eating in Singapore, 1942–1950. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet and National Museum of Singapore, p. 73. (Call no.: RSING 641.30095957 WON)
6. Lee, G. B. (2005). The Syonan years: Singapore under Japanese rule 1942–1945. Singapore: National Archives of Singapore and Epigram, p. 163 (Call no.: RSING q940.535957 LEE-[WAR])
7. Shinozaki, M. (1973). My wartime experiences in Singapore. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, pp. 68–69. (Call no.: RSING 959.57023 SHI-[HIS])
8. Wong, H. S. (2009). Wartime kitchen: Food and eating in Singapore, 1942–1950. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet and National Museum of Singapore, pp. 21–22. (Call no.: RSING 641.30095957 WON)
9. Wong, H. S. (2009). Wartime kitchen: Food and eating in Singapore, 1942–1950. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet and National Museum of Singapore, p. 24. (Call no.: RSING 641.30095957 WON)
10. Kratoska, P. H. (1998). The Japanese occupation of Malaya: A social and economic history. St Leonards, N.S.W.: Allen & Unwin, p. 263. (Call no.: RSING 959.5103 KRA)
11. Turnbull, C. M. (1989). A history of Singapore, 1819–1988. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 201. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TUR-[HIS])
12. Chin, K. O. (1946). Malaya upside down. Singapore: Jitts & Co, p. 48. (Call no.: RCLOS 940.53595 CHI-[RFL])
13. Turnbull, C. M. (1989). A history of Singapore, 1819–1988. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 201. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TUR-[HIS]); Wong, H. S. (2009). Wartime kitchen: Food and eating in Singapore, 1942–1950. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet and National Museum of Singapore, p. 22. (Call no.: RSING 641.30095957 WON); Lee, G. B. (2005). The Syonan years: Singapore under Japanese rule 194–1945. Singapore: National Archives of Singapore and Epigram, p. 163. (Call no.: RSING q940.535957 LEE-[WAR])
14. Lee, G. B. (2005). The Syonan years: Singapore under Japanese rule 1942–1945. Singapore: National Archives of Singapore and Epigram, p. 163. (Call no.: RSING q940.535957 LEE-[WAR])
15. Kratoska, P. H. (1998). The Japanese occupation of Malaya: A social and economic history. St Leonards, N.S.W.: Allen &Unwin, p. 260. (Call no.: RSING 959.5103 KRA)
16. Kratoska, P. H. (1998). The Japanese occupation of Malaya: A social and economic history. St Leonards, N.S.W.: Allen & Unwin, p. 259. (Call no.: RSING 959.5103 KRA); Lim, P. P. H., & Wong, D. (Eds.). (2000). War and memory in Malaysia and Singapore. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, p. 61. (Call no.: RSING 959.503 WAR)
17. Chin, K. O. (1946). Malaya upside down. Singapore: Jitts & Co, p. 48. (Call no.: RCLOS 940.53595 CHI-[RFL]); Lim, P. P. H. & Wong, D. (Eds.) (2000). War and memory in Malaysia and Singapore. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, p. 61. (Call no.: RSING 959.503 WAR)
18. Big vegetable show to be held in June. (1941, March 12). The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
19. Lim, P. P. H., & Wong, D. (Eds.) (2000). War and memory in Malaysia and Singapore. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, p. 62. (Call no.: RSING 959.503 WAR)
20. Shinozaki, M. (1973). My wartime experiences in Singapore. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, p. 68. (Call no.: RSING 959.57023 SHI-[HIS])
21. Turnbull, C. M. (1989). A history of Singapore, 1819–1988. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 201. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TUR-[HIS])
22. Chin, K. O. (1946). Malaya upside down. Singapore: Jitts & Co, pp. 49–51. (Call no.: RCLOS 940.53595 CHI-[RFL])
23. Wong, H. S. (2009). Wartime kitchen: Food and eating in Singapore, 1942–1950. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet and National Museum of Singapore, pp. 36–37. (Call no.: RSING 641.30095957 WON)
24. Turnbull, C. M. (1989). A history of Singapore, 1819–1988. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 201. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TUR-[HIS])
25. Kratoska, P. H. (1998). The Japanese occupation of Malaya: A social and economic history. St Leonards, N.S.W.: Allen & Unwin, p. 263. (Call no.: RSING 959.5103 KRA)
26. Kratoska, P. H. (1998). The Japanese occupation of Malaya: A social and economic history. St Leonards, N.S.W.: Allen & Unwin, p. 267. (Call no.: RSING 959.5103 KRA)
27. Lee, G. B. (2005). The Syonan years: Singapore under Japanese rule 1942-1945. Singapore: National Archives of Singapore and Epigram, p. 164. (Call no.: RSING q940.535957 LEE-[WAR])
28. Turnbull, C. M. (1989). A history of Singapore, 1819–1988. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 201. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TUR-[HIS])
29. Lim, P. P. H., & Wong, D. (Eds.). (2000). War and memory in Malaysia and Singapore. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, p. 61. (Call no.: RSING 959.503 WAR)
30. Kratoska, P. H. (1998). The Japanese occupation of Malaya: A social and economic history. St Leonards, N.S.W.: Allen & Unwin, p. 277. (Call no.: RSING 959.5103 KRA)
31. Shinozaki, M. (1973). My wartime experiences in Singapore. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, p. 69. (Call no.: RSING 959.57023 SHI-[HIS]); Wong, H. S. (2009). Wartime kitchen: Food and eating in Singapore, 1942–1950. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet and National Museum of Singapore, pp. 21–26. (Call no.: RSING 641.30095957 WON)
32. Chin, K. O. (1946). Malaya upside down. Singapore: Printed by Jitts, p. 49. (Call no.: RCLOS 940.53595 CHI-[RFL])
33. Kratoska, P. H. (1998). The Japanese occupation of Malaya: A social and economic history. St Leonards, N.S.W.: Allen & Unwin, p. 274. (Call no.: RSING 959.5103 KRA)
34. Kratoska, P. H. (1998). The Japanese occupation of Malaya: A social and economic history. St Leonards, N.S.W.: Allen & Unwin, p. 267. (Call no.: RSING 959.5103 KRA)
35. Chin, K. O. (1946). Malaya upside down. Singapore: Printed by Jitts, p. 50. (Call no.: RCLOS 940.53595 CHI-[RFL])
36. Kratoska, P. H. (1998). The Japanese occupation of Malaya: A social and economic history. St Leonards, N.S.W.: Allen & Unwin, p. 277. (Call no.: RSING 959.5103 KRA); Wong, H. S. (2009). Wartime kitchen: Food and eating in Singapore, 1942–1950. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet and National Museum of Singapore, p. 33. (Call no.: RSING 641.30095957 WON)



The information in this article is valid as at 2016 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources.  It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject.  Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

 

Subject
Food conservation--Malaysia--Malaya
Events>>Historical Periods>>World War II and Japanese Occupation (1939 - 1945)
History>>Asia>>Southeast Asia>>Singapore
1942-1945 Japanese occupation
History>>Asia>>Southeast Asia>>Malaysia
Malaya--History--Japanese occupation, 1942-1945