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Dreaming of the countryside amidst concrete and steel —A study trip on Urban Farming in Hong Kong

By Chan Yu Fai (Programme Manager, Urban Programme, PCD)

If one pays close attention, it is not difficult to see, even in a first-tier city[1], urban dwellers racking their brains to grow something in the limited space they have. Sometimes plants are grown on the balcony or the rooftop, sometimes in back alleys On the one hand, such vibrant growing activities in the interstices of a city show a face of the city besides that of concrete and steel. On the other hand, they remind us that city life and nature are, in spite of everything, inseparable.

Farming life in the city

It is an interesting fact that if anyone cares to investigate, he/she will discover that every city has its own story of growing. Whether in Beijing's hutong or in Guangzhou's small buildings built during the Chinese Republic, you can hear someone saying that people in their cities like to grow, or that people used to grow vegetables for their own consumption. There are different versions of this story in different cities. In fact, it may only be in the last two to three decades that urban dwellers have become so distant psychologically from, and felt so unfamiliar with, agriculture.

Since most people naturally feel close to earth and every city warms to its own memory of life of farming, urban farming has been an approach we and our partners are interested in as part of our exploration of sustainable urban living. As people start to reflect more on urban life and look for safe food and alternative lifestyles, we find that life in the countryside is becoming the dream of many urban dwellers. In collaboration with our partners, urban farming cooperative programmes have been launched by PCD in many cities. Some initiatives are carried out in schools and have an educational aspect. Other initiatives aim at encouraging local communities to practice farming on their balconies.

Multiple functions of ecological farming

It is with this background that an activity entitled "Study Visit on Hong Kong Urban Farming" was organized last year. A dozen partners coming from Beijing, Chengdu and Guangzhou visited various sites of urban farming around Hong Kong. The purpose was to facilitate our partners, who have just begun to undertake urban farming, to learn from Hong Kong's local experience. Participants were exposed to campus farming in schools and community farming, as well as to groups that emphasise autonomous everyday-life practices as urban dwellers, and groups that make use of ecological farming for other social causes, such as to foster diversity and integration or to strive for sustainable urban development. One of the objectives of the trip was to strengthen exchange on urban farming among participants from the three cities. In fact on the trip there was heated discussion and reflection among our partners. The trip has therefore met the purpose of fostering exchange and interaction among our partners.

The seedlings of urban farming have taken root in many cities, and we look forward to exploring the rich content and meaning of urban farming hand in hand with our partners.

 


Note:

  1. Tier cities in China

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