In just over one hundred years it’s transformed itself from a sleepy fishing village….
….to one of the world’s greatest metropolises.
7million people ….. 8,000 skyscrapers… one of the planet’s most densely populated cities …crammed onto a few tiny islands.
It’s homage to consumerism has made Hong Kong a shoppers’ paradise.
But during my recent trip to the island nation I was surprised to discover that there’s one product residents are having difficulty buying – and that’s locally-grown FRESH FOOD.
Space-starved Hong Kong produces only 7% of its own food.
The rest needs to be flown in from Asia and Europe or trucked in from Mainland China.
But a band of innovative farmers has been looking skyward to find a solution….
They’ve started growing food on the rooftops of the city’s skyscrapers.
50year-old Osbert Lam is one of these urban farmers turning concrete into crops.
Osbert started the Eco-mama rooftop farm 2 years ago. It’s on top of a 12 storey office tower and covers 10,000 square feet. (929 square metres)
Local residents rent garden boxes for 15 dollars a month, and Osbert and his team of expert volunteers help them grow more than 20 varieties of fruit and vegetables organically.
“They are definitely so impressed by the whole set up that we can grow such good harvests on rooftops. Big melons, 4 ½ kilo pumpkins,’ says Osbert about his gardeners.
Running costs are kept low with free rain water and sunshine all year round.
Bugs are controlled with sticky paper strips and harvests protected from birds and pests with recycled netting and scarecrows.
Osbert says rooftop gardeners come from every walk of life – businessmen, young couples, families .. all wanting to enjoy fresh, local, pesticide-free produce.
Osbert says,‘We’re growing community .. they become friends.. such a nice feeling.They eat more healthier. They never think that organic food is expensive anymore because they contribute themselves to the labour into gardening and farming. They know it is not an easy task so they tend to appreciate more organic produce and fair trade.’
Osbert is constructing his third rooftop farm and says while there are dozens of similar ventures popping up all over Hong Kong, there is still little official support for rooftop farming.
‘I hope the government can open up the rooftops for everybody to enjoy the growing garden habit.
Food activist Chu Pui-Kwan, helped set up her roof top vegetable garden on a building near the old airport site.
Pui Kwan says in the future cities like Hong Kong will be embracing roof top farming.
‘That’s the whole idea behind it…. food security and food safety….
…the only person responsible for your well-being is you… why not grow your own food, ‘she says.
Local celebrity chef Margaret Yu grows produce for her award-winning restaurant YinYang the old-fashioned way – on her farm in the ground.
She’s impressed with the productivity of these small spaces.
‘There are people doing magic work on their little balconies and stuff… complete gardens…it’s very impressive.
Margaret wants the Hong Kong government to get behind these urban farming trailblazers.
“I hope everyone will look to Hong Kong as one of those examples, she says.
Osbert Lam agrees that Hong Kong could be a world-leader in roof top farming
‘This is nothing I could have imagined’ says Osbert, ‘… we started growing our vegetables.. we attracted more people to come. It’s been beyond my dreams.’
Saucy Onion travelled to Hong Kong as a guest of the Hong Kong Tourism Board.