2021 Annual Report

Established in 2013 on the World Day to Combat Desertification (17 June), HomelandGreen Limited (“HomelandGreen”) was incorporated in Hong Kong under the Companies Ordinance on 5 August 2013. As a Hong Kong based non-profit-making 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. Since HomelandGreen’s inception, 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 with professional partners and the public through our website and other social media. These activities are provided to the public mainly in the form of free services. A certificate issued by the Inland Revenue Department (“IRD”) on 8 August 2019 confirms that HomelandGreen Limited being a charitable institution of a public character is exempt from tax under Section 88 of the Inland Revenue Ordinance with effect from 29 November 2018. HomelandGreen’s application to join the French “4 per 1000 Initiative” (the “Initiative”) was accepted in December 2019 and HomelandGreen was publicly listed as a forum partner as from 7 October 2019 on the website of the Initiative. HomelandGreen’s application as a partner of Regeneration International was accepted on 29 September 2020. We will continue to reach out to more international counterparts as concerted efforts of the global community is needed to work from the soil up to address global ecological issues.

For the year ended March 2021, HomelandGreen continued to engage in activities of (1) liaison and professional partnerships; (2) promoting regenerative farming; (3) educational services; and (4) research projects, as in previous years despite the global pandemic. However, voluntary tree planting projects in Inner Mongolia have been temporarily suspended as a result of consequential travel restriction.  

  1. Liaison work and professional partnerships
  2. Promoting Regenerative Farming
  3. Educational Services
  4. Experimental Farming and Research Projects
  5. HomelandGreen Website and Social Media
  6. Acknowledgement

1. Liaison work and professional partnerships

Liaison with our tree planting partner in Mainland China

  1. Even though organisation of voluntary tree planting trips to Mainland China has been suspended, HomelandGreen continued to receive updates from NPO-GreenLife (綠色生命) including their successful launching of the new plantation site in Dunhuang, Gansu (甘肅敦煌) in May 2020. A collaborative partner in tree planting trips has expressed interests in promoting tree planting-cum-study tours to this valuable historical site to the local education sector in collaboration with HomelandGreen should travelling between Hong Kong and Mainland China resume as normal. The tentative theme for our future trips will take the form of “Study tour for the development of ecological civilisation” (生態文明建設探討之旅). Moreover, it is expected that HomelandGreen and NPO-GreenLife may reach a new phase of collaboration in the coming years, venturing into the promotion of regenerative agriculture in addition to voluntary tree planting.

Liaison with international counterparts

  1. HomelandGreen had continual dialogues on the promotion of regenerative farming with the Soil Foodweb Institute (Australia) (“SFI Aus”). Free subscription with Farming Secrets, Australia, was also maintained, and useful information on regenerative farming thus received was constantly shared with local practitioners.
  2. New partnership developed with the Initiative saw marked progress in the year.
    1. The past activities of HomelandGreen were shared at the online Civic Community of the Initiative to reach out to like-minded forum partners and feedback has been positive.
    2. Five HomelandGreen members and a collaborating volunteer of HomelandGreen has joined two Task Forces regarding the goals on inception & conceptualisation and promotion of the Initiative to take part in the process of drawing up the strategic plan of the Initiative that will guide its action until 2050. Involvement in the Delphi Study to reach consensus on the strategic plan with the international community turns out to be a very valuable learning process and for HomelandGreen to really get engaged in this international effort of putting the regeneration of soil as the entry point for ensuring food security and mitigating climate change. On approval of strategic plan, the Delphi study entered its second stage in June 2021 and we continue to make our best effort to learn and contribute.
    3. HomelandGreen responded positively to the Initiative’s calling in March 2021 for virtual display showcasing various soil restoration work around the globe as a partner event of the EU Green Week 2021 with the theme “Zero Pollution for a healthier planet and people”. Our proposal of hosting two stands was subsequently accepted by the Initiative and our two proposed live presentations on the same themes were accepted by the EU Green Week 2021 organiser. The two themes we chose to work on are “Promoting regenerative farming in Hong Kong, China” and “Turning the Ulan Buh Desert into a high yield zero pollution eco-agricultural zone.” A workgroup was formed to work on the project to meet the very tight time frame. This event will help put HomelandGreen on the world map and make the necessary international connections that may enhance our work in the future.
  3. With the help and support of Dr Renée Mullen from Hong Kong Community Composting Limited, our application for Regenerative International membership was submitted in June 2020 and acceptance of partnership was received in September 2020.
  4. HomelandGreen has been in close liaison with the representatives from Zero Foodprint (“ZFP”), a US-based charitable organization promoting regenerative farming through the involvement of the food industry and consumers for collaborative partnership in the form of advisory service. Zero Foodprint Asia, an extension of ZFP was launched in July 2021. 

Local professional partnerships

  1. Locally, HomelandGreen maintained professional liaison with the Federation of Vegetable Marketing Co‑operative Societies (菜聯社), the Hong Kong Organic Association (香港有機生活社), Au Law Organic Farm (歐羅農場), Society for Indigenous Learning (鄉土學社), the Hong Kong Federation of Women’s Centres (香港婦女中心協會), the Mushroom Initiatives (菇菌圓), So Organic Biotech Enterprise Ltd. (“SOBE”), Senior Buddy Charitable Farm (老友記慈善農場), Hong Miu Farm (康苗農場) and Hong Kong Farmers Pride Association Ltd. (香港農友心協會有限公司). Relationship established with these local groups helps HomelandGreen disseminate information about training courses as well as recruiting volunteers to take part in the experimental project on regenerative farming.
  2. As for our compost production, The Society for Indigenous Learning (“SoIL”) continues to support us by housing our compost site in their farm. HealthWorks (健康工房) and the Tai Wo and Shek Lei branches of NPO Food Grace (食德好) remained the major suppliers of wet organic wastes for our compost production whereas dry plant materials were collected on a continuous basis from the Management Office of Woodland Crest, a private residence. However, production was slightly slowed down by the pandemic at times.
  3. Recyclegreen Project (綠惜再生計劃), the charity arm of Sum Kee Construction Limited (森記建築有限公司) and Hong Kong Tree Care (香港樹護) became a new collaborative partner of HomelandGreen as from 14 April 2020 in that they offer free delivery of natural brown wastes to support our compost work and experimental plots. A service agreement between the two charitable entities was signed on 2 November 2020 in that HomelandGreen will continue to receive the brown wastes which will be delivered to any collaborating farms of HomelandGreen accessible by vehicles in the coming year. The agreement is instrumental to our promotion of composting in Hong Kong as lack of brown materials is a major constrain for most local farms to start compost work.
  4. HomelandGreen continued to provide free consultancy service to the compost project at the Hong Kong Organic Waste Recycling Centre (香港有機資源再生中心) in Kam Tsin Village, Kwu Tung South (古洞南金錢村), Sheung Shui, funded by the Jockey Club “Field So Good” Community Composting Programme (賽馬會「好壤」城市有機堆肥計劃) in collaboration with the Biology Department of the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Upon invitation of the project manager, HomelandGreen submitted a quotation for the preparation of an information booklet for public educational purposes summarising the Programme and also promoting public awareness of the knowledge and use of compost. A regular volunteer involved in many HomelandGreen events was commissioned to prepare the manuscript for the booklet under the guidance of the Chairman. The Chinese booklet was subsequently published in May 2021.
  5. COME Groundworks (土作.時分) of St. James’ Settlement (聖雅各福群會) in Sheung Shui learnt of HomelandGreen’s work of providing free workshop for farmers through one of our collaborating farms. The project manager helped produce a video on our workshop on the preparation of fish hydrolysate.  The video was shared with the public through Facebook.
  6. Community service in promoting green products: HomelandGreen volunteers coordinated successfully the purchase and distribution of fresh Yam (山藥) product from Dengkou where one of NPO-GreenLife voluntary tree planting project is located in late 2020. Two more rounds of similar services were extended subsequently to source ecological farm produce from wider regions of Mainland China, especially with produce associated with the National Poverty Alleviation Projects in ecologically restored areas. Such activities not only offer Hong Kong people more options for quality ecological farm produce, support economic development in remote areas in Mainland China once plagued by poverty, they also pave ways for promoting voluntary tree planting trips to the NPO-GreenLife plantation sites in the future.

2. Promoting Regenerative Farming

  • HomelandGreen works with local farms in Hong Kong to experiment and showcase the benefit of regenerative farming. Regenerative farming does not deplete the soil. Rather it makes the soil healthier and encourages biodiversity.

3. Educational Services

  1. Three talk-cum-workshops were given to staff and volunteers of the farming group of the Conservancy Association (長春社) on Wednesday, 13 May; Saturday, 6 June; and Saturday, 13 June 2020 to prepare for their new project of starting a vegetable farm in Ho Sheung Heung. The project was initiated by a young farmer whom HomelandGreen had sponsored to attend the Living Soil Symposium in Montreal in 2017 and has since become a regular volunteer at the Hong Miu farm project.
  2. The Chairman was invited to give an online lecture entitled “Regenerative Agriculture and Soil Science” to City University of Hong Kong (“CityU”) students enrolled in the “Food: Culture, Science and Society” course on Wednesday, 21 October 2020. Response from the participants was overwhelming.
  3. An agreement signed in 2018 with Federation of Vegetable Marketing Cooperative Societies commenced in April 2019 and will remain in force until March 2022. HomelandGreen offers training and consultancy service to the organisation with an annual honorarium. The 2021 one-day training on Regenerative Farming was conducted online on 27 January 2021 with over 40 participants. Onsite workshop was cancelled because of the pandemic.
  4. The one-day training workshop for the「第五屆專業農夫培訓班」 of the Hong Kong Organic Association (香港有機生活社) was conducted online on 30 January 2021 with over 50 participants. This is the fourth year of involvement of HomelandGreen in this annual event of the Association. Past trainees occasionally call the Chairman for consultative advice and some also turn up as volunteers in our experimental farms. Onsite follow-up training was cancelled due to the pandemic.
  5. A series of three talk-cum-workshop on regenerative farming to farmers (organic or conventional) under “Version 3.0 of Hong Kong agriculture: a sustainable development project of vegetable supply chain” (香港農業3.0–蔬菜產業鏈的可持續發展計劃), a Sustainable Agricultural Development Fund (“SADF”) funded project organised by the Sustainable Ecological Ethical Development Foundation (香港有機生活發展基金), were originally scheduled for earlier 2021. Because of the pandemic, the first two workshops were conducted online on 22 February and 1 March 2021 but the follow-up onsite workshop has been postponed indefinitely.
  6. The Chairman accepted the invitation by On Becoming a Farmer (學人做農夫), a Community Involvement Broadcasting Service of RTHK (香港電台社區參與廣播服務) program for a radio interview of two parts on Regenerative Farming on Wednesday, 28 October 2020. The recorded programs will be broadcasted some time in 2021.
  7. Other committed talks or workshops postponed or cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
    1. A talk on regenerative farming for the farmers of Plant Right Now (濃作物), an organization that helps build sale network for quality produce from organic farmers scheduled for July 2020 was postponed indefinitely.
    2. A talk for rooftop gardeners in Sham Shui Po organised by Groundworks (土作坊), a social enterprise of St. James’ Settlement scheduled for August 2020 was cancelled.
    3. A talk on land restoration projects in Mainland China to S2-3 students of La Salle College originally scheduled for December 2020 was cancelled after several postponements.
  8. In 2020-21, HomelandGreen continues to produce educational resource materials in the form of videos and Chinese translation of works from overseas professional bodies on soil restoration and regenerative farming, and have them shared with the public through social media such as Facebook, Weibo and the HomelandGreen website. Responses to our postings have all along been very positive and encouraging.

4. Experimental Farming and Research Projects

4.1   The Hong Miu Farm project with farmer Cheong

4.1.1    Background
  • Hong Miu Farm in Kam Tin is one of the 13 organic farms establishing the Hong Kong Farmers Pride Association Limited, a non-profit organisation to promote local quality farm produce and the practice of regenerative farming. The Chairman was invited to be an honourable science consultant of the group to provide consultative service at the Hong Miu Farm back in 2018. Cheong Gor, the farm owner, has been a forerunner of the organic movement in Hong Kong for some 17 years before the involvement of HomelandGreen.
4.1.2    Approach
  • A zero-risk approach was adopted to help the farm transition into the practice of regenerative farming in that HomelandGreen would bring in all the necessary resource to try out regenerative farming in an unused section of the farm without interfering the routine practice of farmer Cheong. Volunteers were recruited and trained in basic knowledge and skills of regenerative farming to practice in the experimental plots. Farmer Cheong was to observe along the way and pick up whatever new ways of practice he feels comfortable. HomelandGreen provided farmer Cheong with whatever tried out if he chose to give it a try, commercial or home-made.
4.1.3    Process
  • After completion of the first phase in May 2019, the second phase was run between August 2019 and May 2020 but with frequent interruptions because of social unrest and the pandemic. Most leafy greens and seasonal crops suitable for the Hong Kong climate were tried out in open field with no application of pesticides or herbicides. Farmer Cheong began to adopt some of the practices in the experimental plots in his own field towards the end of the first phase of experiment and improvement in crop quality has been observed.
4.1.4    Result
  • A thorough review was conducted with farmer Cheong in early April 2021 to learn of his perception of the changes in his farm since the involvement of HomelandGreen. His overall impression was that regenerative farming really works in that after adopting the various practices, he continuously sees improvement in crop yield and quality, reduction in input, decrease in pests and weeds pressure, less laborious work, increase in income and greater consumer satisfaction. He even said that after running the farm for 19 years, the past year was the first time he has ever really made profit. Cultural practices like mulching, minimum tillage, companion planting and cover crops in addition to use of compost are now regular practices in his farm. He would keep try out the best possible composition of companion planting for local crops to further cut down his cost. He gave advice to newcomers to the field that working from the soil up would be the first priority if they wanted to grow quality produce. He found the whole process meaningful in that he has seen hope in the agricultural scene in Hong Kong.
4.1.5    Data collecting and recording
  • The process and result of the transition to regenerative practices of farmer Cheong in Hong Miu was made into a video documentary and featured as one of the display items in the virtual display “Promoting Regenerative Farming in Hong Kong” prepared for the Initiative.
4.1.6    Conclusion
  • The collaborative project with Farmer Cheong at Hong Miu was considered a success and our mission of the experimental plots has been satisfactorily accomplished. Farmer Cheong and his farm will continue to serve as a showcase of how regenerative farming can be practised in Hong Kong.

4.2   The Eva farm project with farmer Eva

4.2.1    Background
  • As a follow-up on the workshop on regenerative farming and composting in January 2020 at Organic Community Grower Group (有機種植社群辦公室), a workshop on thermal composting was conducted later that month upon the invitation of Eva, one of the participants at her farm in Kai Leng, Sheung Shui. That workshop resulted in an ongoing process of collaboration since then.
4.2.2    Approach
  • Like that of the Hong Miu project, a zero-risk approach was adopted to help the farm transition into the practice of regenerative farming. Volunteers were also recruited and trained, and plans were made to run experimental plots in the farm beginning November 2020. However, as more stringent social distancing measures were enforced then because of the pandemic, experimental fields with volunteers were forced to be aborted after a couple of months. Instead, the Chairman paid consultative visits to the farm regularly with the assistance of Mrs Kan to help Eva try out practices of regenerative farming plot by plot and crop by crop.
4.2.3.   Process
  • As Eva is an experienced farmer, progress in soil health and crop yield and quality was almost immediately visible right at the beginning plots in autumn and winter. Progress was slightly held back for about two months in March 2021 when Eva, with little knowledge of the science of composting and compost quality, switched to use the complementary product provided by the Jockey Club “Field So Good” Community Composting Programme instead of the compose prepared by HomelandGreen. The consequence was a total loss of two months’ effort and input. Fortunately, the problem was quickly identified and rectified and progress got back to normal in summer. Eva is very happy now with the improvement in yield and quality of her crops. The Eva farm also now serves as a showcase of how regenerative farming can be practiced with lower cost, higher yield, free of pesticides and herbicides and better consumer satisfaction of farm produce.
4.2.4.   Results
  • The process and result of the transition to regenerative practices of farmer Eva was also made into a video documentary and featured as one of the display items in the virtual display “Promoting Regenerative Farming in Hong Kong”.
4.2.5    Conclusion
  • This project is considered a success though HomelandGreen’s involvement has only been less than a year. Improvement in soil health condition will be monitored continuously as farmer Eva continues with her regenerative farming practices. Eva’s farm will also serve as a training site for newcomers to regenerative farming with talks and workshops to be conducted by HomelandGreen.

4.3   Other collaborative projects with farmers under exploration:

  • Ming Fai Garden (明輝農莊) and 新田農莊 in Kau Lung Hang (九龍坑), Noah’s Forest (諾亞之森農莊) in Cham Shan (杉山), a brand new charitable farm under preparation.

4.4   Application of funding

  1. Upon the suggestion of Dr Chan Yuk Wah of CityU and the consent of Eva, a proposal was drafted, and an application for Biodiversity Education Fund of the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (“AFCD”) was completed in June 2020 with the backing of members. However, after a more careful cost-benefit analysis of the proposed project and a deeper reflection on the mission and the strengths and weaknesses of HomelandGreen, the application was finally aborted. Instead, the idea of applying for a Sustainable Agricultural Development Fund (“SADF”) to transform Eva’s farm into a “Food Forest” and an educational centre for regenerative farming was seriously considered.
  2. A working group composed of members and volunteers was set up to work out a project draft of a 36 months undertaking with a budget of $5.5-6 million with two formal farming partners, farmer Eva of Eva Farm and farmer Cheong of the Hong Miu Farm, and a potential staff crew of five. The proposal was approved and supported by members and was submitted to the AFCD in June 2020.  Initial response from the AFCD in December 2020 was that our proposal was of experimental nature and did not meet with the objective of the SADF to support practical, application-oriented projects, schemes or research work that would help local farmers enhance their productivity and output as well as contribute to fostering the sustainable development and enhancing the overall competitiveness of the local agricultural industry but sounds more like a proposal for environmental protection. The message is seen as a sign that promotion of regenerative farming in Hong Kong is not yet an agenda of the Hong Kong government and there will be no immediate follow-up plan. 

5. HomelandGreen Website and Social Media

  1. After groundwork for more than a year, the HomelandGreen Website was revamped with the collaborated effort of the website working group with members and friends. The revamped bilingual website was officially launched in May 2021.
  2. In 2020-21, the HomelandGreen Facebook had gradual increase in page likes reaching over 13,300 with over 15,600 followers. This platform mainly addresses the Chinese speaking communities in South-east Asia, including Hong Kong, Taiwan and Malaysia, and continues to serve the purpose to promote basic science and practice of regenerative farming as well as general global ecological issues.
  3. The HomelandGreen Weibo, which was designed to reach out to counterparts in Mainland China, will be put under review as other more effective platforms are now available.

6. Acknowledgement

  • HomelandGreen has made some progress towards her mission since inception about ten years ago and the Chairman wants to thank all members, friends and the public sharing our aspirations, for their contribution towards making HomelandGreen a meaningful presence in the global effort to make our world a better place from the soil up.