Rooftop farms flourish in space-starved Hong Kong

On the rooftop of a tower block above the hustle and bustle of teeming Hong Kong, dedicated growers tend to their organic crops in a vegetable garden.

Against a backdrop of skyscrapers and jungle-clad hills, earth-filled boxes are spread out on the roof of the 14-storey building, where a wide variety of produce including cucumbers and potatoes are cultivated.

It is one of several such sites that have sprung up in Hong Kong's concrete jungle, as the appetite for organic produce grows and people seek ways to escape one of the most densely populated places on earth.

"I am happier eating what I grow rather than food I buy from supermarkets," said Melanie Lam, a 28-year-old nurse, who comes to the "City Farm" in the Quarry Bay district of Hong Kong's main island about twice a week.

"Compared to vegetables from the supermarket, vegetables that I plant are sweeter and fresher. It gives me a greater sense of satisfaction."

With most of the southern Chinese territory's seven million people living in tower blocks and land prices sky-high, unused roofs are some of the few places in the most heavily populated areas for budding vegetable gardeners.

The money-obsessed city has been late to latch on to rooftop farming, which has been popular in cities such as London and New York for years.

While there are no official figures for the number of sites, as no licence is needed to set one up, anecdotal evidence suggests their popularity is growing.

"I think urban farming is becoming more popular... we have grown bigger in a short time," said Osbert Lam, the founder of "City Farm", which has about 100 regular gardeners two years after opening.

There are 400 growing boxes on the 10,000-square-foot (930-square-metre) rooftop available to rent for between HK$150-200 ($20-25) a month each.

"People who come to the farm are so happy -- It's like a tranquilliser, it's a way out," added Lam.

In To Kwa Wan in the east of the Kowloon peninsula, one of the founders of another rooftop farm says the project has given a boost to the neglected neighbourhood, which has poor transport links and a predominantly elderly population.

Chu Pui-Kwan and two friends came up with the idea of setting up a vegetable garden on the unused rooftop of a 12-storey building.

Using old planks and other materials salvaged from construction sites, they assembled growing boxes, and then decided to get the local community involved before the farm opened in November.

"We invited the older people from around this area to come up, we gave them paints and had them paint the different boxes," she said. "They had so much fun."

Now the brightly decorated boxes are filled with a huge variety of vegetables and herbs, including spinach, peas, lemongrass, mint and rosemary, providing a splash of colour to the drab neighbourhood.

The site has regular open days and runs classes to teach people about urban farming.

Chu is also involved in Time To Grow, a company which aims to improve access to locally produced food.

It is running classes once a week on Victoria Peak, the highest point on Hong Kong's main island, where participants have stunning views over the city.

"The whole idea is to get into each individual home a little bit of green... rooftops, windows, even one pot at a time," said Chu.

Official figures suggest organic food is becoming increasingly popular in Hong Kong, with the number of farms taking part in a government-run scheme to encourage organic agriculture rising to 193 in June this year, from 123 in 2008.

But despite the hobby's growing popularity, there is little sign of Hong Kong's rooftop farmers producing enough crops to sell for profit, unlike their counterparts in cities where space is not so scarce and the idea took root earlier.

Just three percent of vegetables consumed in Hong Kong are grown locally, according to government figures.

Loading...

Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • Philippine troops end offensive they say killed 139 rebels
    Philippine troops end offensive they say killed 139 rebels

    MANILA, Philippines (AP) — A monthlong Philippine offensive against hard-line Muslim rebels ended Monday after 139 insurgents were killed, 12 others were captured and bomb-making strongholds were seized by troops, the military chief said. …

  • Developers prepare for new rules and regulations
    Developers prepare for new rules and regulations

    Known as the "Subdivision and Condominium Buyers' Protective Decree," Presidential Decree No. 957 issued two sets of revised implementing rules and regulations (IRRs) earlier in 2015. A bill initiated by former President Ferdinand Marcos in 1976, the decree and its most recent amendments were designed to "protect buyers from fraudulent and unscrupulous subdivision and condominium sellers, operators and developers," according to the explanatory note that accompanied the bill in its senate …

  • ‘Get SAF 44 killers before BBL passage’
    ‘Get SAF 44 killers before BBL passage’

    Lawmakers are demanding the arrest of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) fighters involved in the killing of 44 policemen in Mamasapano before the approval of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) in Congress. Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, chairman of the 75-member ad hoc committee in the House of Representatives deliberating on the BBL, prodded the Department of Justice (DOJ) to speed up its investigation and file charges against the MILF guerrillas as the Aquino administration …

  • Pinoys dance for Earth Hour
    Pinoys dance for Earth Hour

    The Philippines once again displayed its support Saturday night for the worldwide observance of Earth Hour by hosting a dance party after turning the lights off from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. to save energy and make a statement on various environmental issues. The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) said widespread participation proved anew that no individual action on climate change is too small and that no collective vision is too big with celebrations in over 7,000 hubs in 170 countries. The WWF said …

  • Phl offers Sabah to win Malaysia’s support for UN case vs China
    Phl offers Sabah to win Malaysia’s support for UN case vs China

    The Philippines has offered to downgrade its claim on Sabah in exchange for Malaysia’s support for its case against China before the United Nations. The quid pro quo was contained in a note verbale the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) handed to a representative of the Malaysian embassy last week, a week after the visit of Malaysian Defense Minister Dato  Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein. The note verbale, a copy of which was obtained by VERA Files, referred to the May 6, 2009 joint submission …

  • Maysak to enter Phl Wednesday
    Maysak to enter Phl Wednesday

    A typhoon with international name Maysak is expected to enter the Philippine area of responsibility (PAR) on Wednesday and bring rains over Northern Luzon by weekend, the state weather bureau said yesterday. Aldczar Aurelio, weather forecaster of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), said the typhoon was 2,810 kilometers east of Mindanao as of 10 a.m. yesterday. “This typhoon is still too far to affect any part of the country,” the weather …

  • Nonviolent disciplining of kids pushed

    Child rights advocates called on senators to pass and strongly endorse a law that will institutionalize positive and nonviolent methods of disciplining children.The Child Rights Network (CRN), Plan International Philippines (PIP), Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLPCD), and Lihok Pilipinas Foundation led the call for the enactment of the Positive Discipline Bill.Several Quezon City Council members led by Majority Floor Leader Jesus Manuel Suntay, Victor Ferrer …

  • Method to their madness

    [caption id="attachment_256768" align="alignright" width="212"] Illustration by Rod Cañalita[/caption] EMMANUEL PORTUGAL Country Manager for the Philippines, VMware I look after the garden. I’d like to think that I have a green thumb—no plants have died so far! The ones I like now that I planted a few months ago is the Blue Iris. Like the town in the movie, my Blue Iris shows up in the morning and only appears for one day. …

POLL

Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Loading...
Poll Choice Options