Annual Report - Activities in 2017

Established in 2013 on the World Day to Combat Desertification (17 June), HomelandGreen was incorporated in Hong Kong under the Companies Ordinance on 5 August 2013.  As a Hong Kong based non-profitmaking association of volunteers, HomelandGreen pursues the objective of enhancing public awareness of the threat posed by desertification and land degradation to the world’s sustainable development.  For the year ended March 2017, our motto ‘Be just to the earth, for the good of all beings’ 『善待土地・惠澤眾生』has been put into practice through collaborating with local and overseas institutions and organisations with similar missions; working with local farmers on regenerative soil improvement projects; supporting civilian tree planting projects in Mainland China to combat desertification; organising talks and workshops to disseminate the relevant knowledge and skills to the public; and sharing our studies and research findings through our website and other social media.  

The activities we have conducted can be classified into 7 categories:

  1. Liaison work
  2. Studies and visits
  3. Voluntary tree planting
  4. Educational services in the form of talks and workshops for the public and sponsorships of study trips for voluntary project leaders
  5. Research projects
  6. Production of materials for distribution and sharing on internet and social media
  7. Administration

1. Liaison work

1.1       For the year ended March 2017, HomelandGreen continued with the collaborative partnership with NPO-GreenLife (綠色生命) which helps to support and coordinate all our voluntary tree planting activities in Inner Mongolia, China.
1.2       To better utilise the limited resources, HomelandGreen discontinued the paid membership subscription with Farming Secrets, Australia.  Free subscription with the organisation is maintained.  Knowledge and experience thus gained will be disseminated to the public through the network built with local organic farmers interested in promoting regenerative farming.
1.3       HomelandGreen subscribed to Grower and Participating membership of Bionutrient Food Association of USA beginning December 2015 to widen our international network of regenerative farming and to advance our knowledge of regenerative farming from a nutritional aspect and the liaison.  Paid subscription was not renewed but we will continue to keep in touch with the latest development in the field.
1.4       HomelandGreen began to enter into a professional partnership with Soil Foodweb Institute (Australia) (“SFI Aus”) in Lismore, Australia in the fall of 2015 and such partnership continued with regular exchanges on issues and knowledge and practices on land rehabilitation and regenerative farming.  Such exchanges help enrich the postings on our website and other social media such as FaceBook of HomelandGreen.  Chris Ellery, CEO of SFI Aus, visited Hong Kong in 10 April-4 May 2017.  HomelandGreen co-organised free talks and workshops for local farmers interested in regenerative farming with the support of local organic farming communities.
1.5       In preparation for the April-May talks and workshops, liaison has been established with local practitioners of organic farming including the Federation of Vegetable Marketing Co-operative Societies (菜聯社), Hong Kong Organic Association (香港有機生活社), 大江埔農村重建計劃, E-farm (川上農莊), Produce Green Foundation (綠田園基金會), Au Law Organic Farm (歐羅農場), Society for Indigenous Learning (鄉土學社) and Cham Shan Farm (杉山農場).  It is intended that a network of practitioners on regenerative farming will be formed after the April-May series of talks and workshops.  A working group comprising the Chairman and the four farmers receiving HomelandGreen sponsorship for in SFI Aus training has been set up to work out all the details of the visits, talks and workshops.
1.6       HomelandGreen managed to secure the free supply of organic vegetable and fruit wastes and high nitrogen wastes from HealthWorks (健康工房) as important ingredients to support our compost project since 7 September 2016.
1.7       Since the beginning of April 2015, HomelandGreen has liaised with the management office of Woodland Crest, a private residence, and obtained constant free supply of dry plant materials as an important ingredient for our compost project and the arrangement continued throughout the 16-17 period.
1.8       Liaison has been established with a mushroom farm in Yuen Long since December 2016 where post mushroom substrate can be collected for free as ingredients for producing non-commercial compost.
1.9       HomelandGreen continued with the collaborative partnership with the charitable Blessing Farm (築福農場) in Fanling which provides an experimental ground for our compost and regenerative farming work and in return, HomelandGreen helps provide training service to their volunteers.
1.10     In addition to Blessing Farm, HomelandGreen has facilitated the networking of 7 local small organic farms through the 16-17 period for the practice of and research on regenerative farming.  Such networking helps disseminate relevant knowledge and experience to the public.  This network is expected to expand to more farmers after the April-May visit of the CEO of SFI Aus to Hong Kong.

2. Studies and visits

2.1       Locally, our visits and studies on land degradation focused more on problem in terms of food production.  Within the 2016-2017 period, visits were paid to local farms to study the extent of soil degradation in terms of organic matter depletion, soil microbiology diminution, mineral deficiencies, compaction and flooding issues, etc.  Site visits include the following farms and in addition to data collection, specific practical works were initiated at different sites.
2.2       Blessing Farm in Fanling: Composting works began in the fall of 2015 and continued into 2016 with specific visits on 6 January, 30 March, 6 April, 12 April, 17 April, 14 May and 22 May 2016 to monitor the quality of the compost made.
2.3       Society for Indigenous Learning (鄉土學社) by the side of Indus River (梧桐河), Sheung Shui: Collaboration work with this farm began in the fall of 2015 and continued throughout the 16-17 period with occasional visits to monitor the progress made in transition to the practice of 100% regenerative farming.  Beginning February 2017, a second compost site is built within the farm.
2.4       Tai Lam Bus Interchange Square Farm (大欖隧道轉車站農場): First soil test on 23 January 2016 and subsequent visit paid on 3 April 2016.
2.5       HK Aquaponics at Tai Tong: First site visit and initial soil test on 10 June 2016, subsequent visits on composting work paid on 31 August, 9 September, 13 September, 16 September and 7 October 2016, and DIY compost tea brewer tried out on 8 December 2016.
2.6       Lok Tin Yuen Organic Farm (樂田園) at Shui Lau Hang (水流坑村), Ping Che (平輋): First consultation on 1 September 2016, visits on composting work began 19 October, 29 October 2016 and then eight more visits subsequently.
2.7       Partnership for Eco-Agriculture and the Conservation of Earth (活耕建養地協會) Farm in Nam Chung: First consultation on 26 September 2016, demonstration of composting work on 3 October and 18 October, visits on 30 October and 4 November 2016 and then subsequently about five visits.
2.8       A private backyard farm in Shui Tsan Tin Chuen (水盞田村), Kam Tin: First consultation on 30 September 2016, composting workshops on 23 October and 29 October 2016, monitoring visits every 3-4 days subsequently till mid-November 2016, workshop on compost tea brewing on 26 October, another data collection and workshop on 18 November 2016.
2.9       A private farm in Tse Uk Tsuen (謝屋村), Kam Tin: Initial soil test on 11 October 2016, data exchanges done on line since, first compost workshop on 30 December 2016.
2.10     Cham Shan Farm: first consultation on 20 December 2016, 3 subsequent visits made in February and March 2017.
Liaison were made with farmers working in the above farms to explore the possibility of the introduction of the practice of regenerative farming to address the issues of nutrition, pests and weeds management in these farm land.  Data collection and consultative advices were done sometimes online in addition to actual site visits.

3. Voluntary tree planting

3.1       In collaboration with two other voluntary organisations, The Graduate Association of Colleges of Education (GACE) and Mobile Schooling, HomelandGreen organized a voluntary tree planting trip to Duolun, Inner Mongolia, for 40 students from five secondary schools and 10 students from two higher education institutes in June 2016, under the partial sponsorship by the Commission on Youth (COY) of the Home Affairs Bureau under the Funding Scheme for Youth Exchange in the Mainland 2016-17.  In addition to tree planting, the students visited schools in Duolun and sites of rehabilitated land.  For this event, HomelandGreen compiled a 52 page reference booklet for participants to delve into the concept of desertification and the various efforts and strategies initiated by the Chinese Forestry Bureau to address the issue of land degradation in Mainland China.  Two briefings for participants were held before the trip and a reunion of the participants was organised on 10 December 2016, five months after the trip, to consolidate participants’ environmental awareness and the commitment to work towards a more sustainable future.  As the educational experience was highly recommended by the participating schools, HomelandGreen would adopt similar approach in her future endeavour in organising voluntary tree planting trips. 
3.2       Application for the COY Youth Exchange Program 2017-18 was submitted on 11 Jan 2017 for the sponsorship of some 60 secondary and tertiary students for a tree planting and youth exchange program in Duolun, Inner Mongolia, in late June 2017.  The event was co-organised by HomelandGreen and GACE. The 6 day program was designed along similar parameters as the 2016 trip with refinement based upon participants feedback and also support from our Mainland partner, NPO-GreenLife.  Letter of intent to receive volunteers from Hong Kong was received from Mm Yi of NPO-GreenLife.  She committed to locate for HomelandGreen a reputable secondary school in Duolun so that Hong Kong students can learn more about their counter parts in this part of Mainland China.  Two major themes different from the previous year’s project have been identified as the ‘One Belt, One Road’ scheme and the ‘Constitutional Obligation of the HKSAR.’  The first work group meeting with teacher representatives from participating schools and volunteers was held on 23 March 2016.  The trip was successfully held in late June 2017.  A reunion of the participants will be held in September 2017.

4. Educational services in the form of talks and workshops for the public and sponsorships of study trips for voluntary project leaders

4.1       HomelandGreen paid regular visits to the charitable Blessing Farm on Sundays and ad hoc visits on Wednesdays sharing with voluntary farmers knowledge about soil tests, thermal composting, soil biology, land rehabilitation and regenerative farming, etc.  Practical sessions on composting, compost tea and Bokashi making were also run from time to time in Blessing Farm to a widening audience of voluntary farmers throughout the 16-17 period.  Upon invitation, a workshop on making of sauerkraut was also conducted on 17 April 2017.  YouTube videos on these practical sessions were made and circulated among practitioners through their social networks.
4.2       HomelandGreen ran a study group with local young organic farmers to share with them updated scientific knowledge about soil health and rehabilitation, and offered on site advice to their farms.  The group met monthly from 2015 through February 2016.  It was then switched to a scheduled mode scattered over seven sites in the latter half of 2016.
4.3       Further to a talk on soil science in early 2016 in collaboration with 鄉土學社, a network of farmers was formed and HomelandGreen continuously disseminated relevant knowledge to these farmers to support their endeavour in ecological farming.
4.4       On 22 May 2016, HomelandGreen was invited by the charitable Blessing Farm to give a talk on regenerative farming to a group of 80 secondary school students from two schools with their principals and teachers.  Students were introduced to the use of Brix meter to measure quality of farm produce and got some hands-on experience on thermal composting.
4.5       On 21 and 24 June 2016, HomelandGreen gave two talks to students from five secondary schools on the threat of desertification as an ecological hazard and shared with participants the concepts of regenerative farming and tree planting as means for carbon sequestration that may help address the issue of global warming.
4.6       A Sunday workshop series on soil rehabilitation and regenerative farming began on 23 October 2016 at a former geography teacher’s home in Shui Tsan Tin of Kam Sheung Road where her former students and volunteers came to learn about the subject, and her backyard garden was used as an experimental ground for about four months.
4.7       A workshop on compost was conducted for several parents and pupils of Tai Po Old Market Public School (大埔舊墟公立小學) on 11 November 2016 at a backyard garden in Shui Tsan Tin of Kam Sheung Road.  The parents and pupils made the commitment to test out the effect of the compost at their experimental farm in school.
4.8       Between July and November 2016, HomelandGreen begun to offer free mentorship service to some seven farms run by young ecological farmers on regenerative farming.  Free mentorship service included workshops, talks, on-site consultative service, soil and plant analysis, hands on demonstrations on composting and compost tea brewing, etc.  For certain sites, materials were provided for free to help build the necessary structure to try out work on compost pile building and the brewing of compost tea.  HomelandGreen also helped make contacts for free wastes materials collection and provided delivery service of wastes materials to support these farms on a need basis. This provision of materials and wastes delivery was necessary to help these farms kick start their composting work before they can come up with independent systematic wastes collection and recycling routine.  HomelandGreen also provided the necessary ingredients for the brewing of compost tea, e.g. mature compost made by HomelandGreen volunteers and the necessary food for microorganism for the brewing process.  For example:

    4.8.1    The farm in Society for Indigenous Learning by the side of Indus River, Sheung Shui was provided with five stainless steel wire gauze cylinders with pile covers, one compost tea brewer and one compost thermometer.
    4.8.2    The Tai Lam Bus Interchange Square Farm were provided with five compost thermometers.
    4.8.3    The HK Aquaponics at Tai Tong was provided with one stainless steel wire gauze cylinder with pile cover and one compost thermometer.
    4.8.4    The 樂田園at Shui Lau Hang, Ping Che was provided with three stainless steel wire gauze cylinders with pile covers.
    4.8.5    The活耕建養地協會Farm in Nam Chung was provided with two stainless steel wire gauze cylinders with pile covers and one compost thermometer.
    4.8.6    The private backyard farm in Shui Tsan Tin Tsuen, Kam Tin in paragraph 2.2.7 above was provided with one stainless steel wire gauze cylinder with pile cover and one compost thermometer.
    4.8.7    The private farm in Tse Uk Tsuen, Kam Tin in paragraph 2.2.8 above was provided with two stainless wire gauze cylinders with pile covers, one compost thermometer and one compost tea brewer.
    4.8.8    Cham Shan Farm was provided with a compost tea brewer.

4.9       The Chairman, by invitation, gave a presentation on the work of HomelandGreen at the first consultative briefing of the Chinese University Alumni Charity Fund on 5 November 2016, which was warmly received.  A Partner of the Hui & Lam LLP offered to give HomelandGreen free legal advice on our application for tax exemption and made arrangement for the Chairman to meet with the Board members of GVBT Bio-Tech on 11 Nov 2016 on possible support to our work.

4.10     In November 2016, HomelandGreen sponsored three young organic farmers to attend a Certificate Course in Nutritional Farming organized by Nutri-tech Solutions in Yandina, Australia and another Certificate Course in Applying SFI Methodology to create compost tea, compost extract and analysis of the tea organized by SFI Aus, the professional partner of HomelandGreen in Lismore, Australia.  HomelandGreen continued to offer follow-on consultative service and technical support to these three young farmers to put regenerative farming into practice in their respective farms.  They were also encouraged to form networks with other ecological farmers who could also benefit from the consultative and technical support of HomelandGreen.  As a result, the network of farmers learning to practice regenerative farming expanded to seven at the end of 2016 and a social network 泥土學習群組was established to exchange ideas on practices and communication with our SFI professional partner in Australia.

4.11     HomelandGreen was invited to run a workshop on experiential learning at the 9th Asian Chinese Experiential Education Conference「第九屆亞洲華人體驗教育會議」 on 10-11 December 2016 and share our experience of organizing tree planting trips for Hong Kong teachers and students.  Some 50 participants turned up for the occasion and discussed what they learnt from the trip and how their environmental awareness had been raised as a result.  A booklet on our Tree Planting Trip to Duolun 2016 was published for the occasion and distributed to participants of the conference and for future promotion of the project.

4.12     During the November Australian trip to Yandina, Australia, the Chairman was interviewed by the local radio channel for the work of HomelandGreen and the land rehabilitation work in Mainland China and our voluntary tree planting project in Duolun.

4.13     The Chairman was invited for an alumni dinner hosted by Prof Michael King-man Hui, the new Pro-Vice-Chancellor of CUHK on 23 January 2016 to introduce the work of HomelandGreen among other voluntary work of CU alumni and contacts were made with potential supporter for the cause of HomelandGreen.

4.14     The Chairman was interviewed by Chinese University Alumni Magazine (中大校友期刋) on the work of HomelandGreen on 10 February 2016 and a featured article was published in the March 2017(89) issue of the magazine.

5. Research projects

One objective of HomelandGreen is to conduct research project in regenerative farming and share results and findings with local practitioners on how to produce environmental friendly, cost effective nutritional farm products through putting into practice the latest scientific knowledge on the subject, while at the same time appeal to the public to support regenerative or carbon farming as a way of soil rehabilitation so as to play our role in addressing global warming issues.  During the period April 2016-March 2017, the following progress has been made.
5.1       In addition to the composting site in Blessing Farm, a second compost base has been set up in the Sheung Shui Farm of the Society for Indigenous Learning in mid February 2017.
5.2       Thermal composting with 100% plant wastes has been put to trial and quality of thermal composts have been monitored through microscopy.  The farm of the Society for Indigenous Learning is the first experimental farm to put the thermal compost into use and, together with no till and mulching, managed to produce 100% chemical-free quality products.  The farm has attracted the attention of practitioners nearby and also received the attention of mass media.  Further work will be done to enhance pests management and increasing yield.
5.3       As a result of the Australian study trip in 2016, one of the participants, a young farmer from 樂田園at Shui Lau Hang, Ping Che, also began to try out using compost and compost tea as her farming practice.  Base-line data in terms of soil structure, soil biology and compaction level has been collected for the farm.
5.4       A group visit of young farmers interested in regenerative farming was arranged to Cham Shan Farm on 1 February 2016 and as a matter of follow-up, a simple control experiment to compare the growth of vegetables with or without compost was started.  Initial findings have been very encouraging for the subsequent months.  Simple measurements like pests count, weeds count, leaf lengths, etc. have been collected.
All these works will be carried over into the 2017 period.

6. Production of materials for distribution and sharing on internet and social media

6.1       A booklet on our Tree Planting Trip to Duolun 2016 was published to share our experience of organizing experiential tree planting trips for Hong Kong teachers and students to be distributed to participants at the 「第九屆亞洲華人體驗教育會議」 on 10-11 December 2016 and for future promotion of the project.
6.2       A booklet of reference materials to enrich the tree planting trip experience was published in the 2015-16 period and two additional chapters reflecting the two new themes for the 2017 event, ‘One Belt One Road’ and ‘The constitutional obligation of HKSAR’ were produced for use by participants of the June 2017 trip.
6.3       The HomelandGreen website continued to serve as the official web-based communication channel for our international counterparts in the 16-17 period with frequent updates of our events and activities.
6.4       The HomelandGreen FaceBook was put to more effective use in the 16-17 period to disseminate ideas about land rehabilitation and regenerative farming among Chinese speaking communities.  Since its inception, some 3000+ followers have been attracted to share our postings to a much wider community than what can be reached through person to person contacts.

7. Administration

7.1       A Workgroup was set up to prepare the required documents to apply for tax exemption under Section 88 of the Inland Revenue Ordinance.  With the help of Hui & Lam LLP, the application was submitted to the Inland Revenue Department in June 2017 and the result is still pending.
7.2       HomelandGreen submitted our response to the Government’s consultancy paper on the Development of Sustainable Farming in Hong Kong on 29 May 2016 and the Chairman made a 3 minute presentation at the public consultative meeting of the Legislative Council Panel on Food Safety and Environmental Hygiene on the policy on 9 June 2016.
7.3       The Chairman attended the briefing on the Sustainable Farming Development Fund on 18 Jan 2016 and a new network with organic farmers was made through the general manager of E-farm (川上農莊) in Hok Tau (鶴藪). HomelandGreen is actively identifying suitable professional partners with a view to submitting application for such funding.