2019 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-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. 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.

In June 2017, HomelandGreen, noting official recognition as a charitable institution would be beneficial for achieving our objective, filed the application for tax exemption status under Section 88 of the Inland Revenue Ordinance with the assistance of Hui & Lam Solicitors. Subsequently, the Inland Revenue Department (‘IRD’) sought further information and advised HomelandGreen to draft an instrument for amending certain articles of the Articles of Association. The required information was submitted to the IRD for consideration in January 2018 via the solicitor. And, in response to IRD’s further request in May 2018, HomelandGreen provided further information and a revised draft instrument in June 2018 via the solicitor. The special resolution to amend the Articles of Association, as approved by the IRD, was passed at an extraordinary general meeting (‘EGM’) held on 29 November 2018. A certificate issued by 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 the date of the EGM.

For the year ended March 2019, the activities of HomelandGreen can be classified into 4 categories:

  1. Liaison work and professional partnerships
  2. Voluntary tree planting
  3. Educational services
  4. Research projects
  5. Acknowledgement

1. Liaison work and professional partnerships

  1. In the subject year, 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. On the successful completion of the five-year tree planting project in Duolun (多倫), Inner Mongolia in October 2018, HomelandGreen has planned to revisit Dengkou (磴口), the other tree planting site of NPO-GreenLife, in April 2019 as the restorative work in Ulan Buh Desert and the development of sustainable green agriculture in rehabilitated area is really impressive. Opportunities of experience sharing in regenerative farming with counterparts and academics in Dengkou are under exploration. The collaboration between HomelandGreen and NPO-GreenLife may enter a new phase after the April visit in 2019, venturing into the promotion of regenerative agriculture in addition to voluntary tree planting.
  2. For International professional partnership, HomelandGreen has continuous dialogue on the promotion of regenerative farming with Soil Foodweb Institute (Australia) (‘SFI Aus’) which is also a reliable supplier of the necessary materials for our compost tea brewing. Free subscription with Farming Secrets, Australia, was also maintained, and useful information on regenerative farming thus received was constantly shared with local practitioners. Our subscription as participating member to Bionutrient Food Association (‘BFA’) in USA was renewed to widen our international network of regenerative farming, which was further strengthened when collaborating partners from The Mushroom Initiatives participated in the 8th BFA Annual Conference in Southbridge, Massachusetts on 28-30 November 2018. Communication with Mr Dan Kitteridge, the founder and CEO of the BFA is maintained.
  3. 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) and Cham Shan Farm (杉山農場) in 2018-19, and has further extended to include Chuen Sheung Farm (川上農莊), the Hong Kong Federation of Women’s Centres (香港婦女中心協會), the Mushroom Initiatives (菇菌圓), the Produce Green Foundation (綠田園基金), 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). The Soil Learning Community social group formed with our previous partners comprising some 30-40 local practitioners has been expanded in 2018-19 to become a social group for the promotion of regenerative farming and soil health after a series of free workshops on regenerative farming and soil rehabilitation given by the Chairman to some 60 environmentalists and practitioners in September and October 2018. The social group has now a membership of around 70 with quite a number taking part in voluntary farm work practicing regenerative farming in Hong Miu Farm, an organic farm in Tai Kong Po, an experimental project which began in December 2018.
  4. The Society for Indigenous Learning (鄉土學社) (‘SoIL’) continues to support us by housing our compost site in their farm. In addition to HealthWorks (健康工房) which continues to supply free organic vegetable and fruit residues and high nitrogen wastes to support our compost project, both Tai Wo and Shek Lei branches of NPO Food Grace (食德好) have also offered free delivery of vegetable wastes collected from the respective wet markets in 2018-19. Dry plant materials have been collected on a continuous basis from the Management Office of Woodland Crest, a private residence.
  5. Following the workshop on 28 March 2018, the collaborative partnership with Federation of Vegetable Marketing Co-operative Societies entered a new phase. An agreement was signed with the organisation for the period 1 April 2019 to 31 March 2022 at which HomelandGreen will offer training and consultancy service to the organisation with an honorarium.
  6. The Mushroom Initiative and SOBE are two new professional partners that came to the scene in 2018-19. The three parties are interested in developing a device for measuring the nutritional value, quantity of antioxidants in particular, of farm products for better and informed decision making for farmers as well as consumers. The project managed to capture the interest of some local academics and is in the process for an application of the Innovation and Technology Fund for Better Living (創科生活基金) with the long-term goal of promoting more science-based agricultural practices in Hong Kong.
  7. Professional partnership has also been developed with Senior Buddy Charitable Farm in Shui Tsan Tin (水盞田). The major partner of the charity farm is firmly committed to the promotion and practice of regenerative farming and constantly seeks consultative advice from HomelandGreen. The farm provides free venue for training workshops and storage space for HomelandGreen.
  8. Jockey Club Tai Wo Centre of the Hong Kong Federation of Women’s Centres (香港婦女中心協會賽馬會太和中心) became one of our professional partners subsequent to an introductory workshop on microorganisms conducted by the Chairman upon their invitation to their community education program for promoting awareness of biological resources. The work of HomelandGreen was featured in the September and December issues of the organisation’s quarterly Newsletters circulated to the public.
  9. Thirteen production organic farms in the Kam Tin area showed interests in considering pursuing the regenerative agriculture approach. A free 5-hour training workshop was organised for their CEOs on August 2018. Subsequently, the thirteen farms established the Hong Kong Farmers Pride Association Ltd., an NPO to promote quality farm produce and regenerative farming. The Chairman of HomelandGreen has been invited to take up the role of an honourable science consultant for the Association and attended the Inauguration Ceremony of the Association on 3 November 2018. The Chairman was also invited to the ‘The Great Farm Feast’ organised by T.Dining Hong Kong Tatler, Swire Properties and Honestly Green as a celebration of Hong Kong Produce in the form of a collaboration between Hong Kong’s trailblazing farmers and chefs at Tong Chong Street Market on 17 February 2019. Produce of the farms of the Hong Kong Farmers Pride Association Ltd. was sourced as major ingredients for the event. The Swire Properties plans to host similar feasts at the various buildings of the Taikoo Place to promote local quality organic products and enhance the health of the tenants as well as building a healthy community when the Tong Chong Street Farmers Market, in which the Hong Kong Farmers Pride Association Ltd. has been playing a major role since October 2018, resumes its operation in the Fall of 2019. The professional partnership established between HomelandGreen and the Hong Kong Farmers Pride Association Ltd. has evolved into an experimental farm project located in one of the thirteen farms since then. The experimental farm project has also become a major research project for HomelandGreen to demonstrate to the public the local implementation of regenerative farming.
  10. The Chairman has been invited by the organising committee of The Kubuqi Award – Desertification Control Business Plan Competition (庫布其獎 – 荒漠治理創業大賽) targeted for tertiary students (大學生荒漠治理創業大賽) as one of the adjudicators in recognition of HomelandGreen’s involvement and dedication in combating desertification through voluntary tree planting in Inner Mongolia. The Award is sponsored by the Elion Foundation (億利公益基金會), a charitable arm of the internationally renowned enterprise based in Kubuqi Desert in Inner Mongolia. The Chairman has been invited to join the prize giving ceremony scheduled for August 2019.
  11. The Chairman hosted a dinner cum half-day workshop on regenerative farming and soil restoration for a group of some 20 visitors from Taiwan on Sunday, 24 February 2019. The event was organised by the School of Everyday Life (生活書院), an NGO working on environmental issues.
  12. The Chairman and three members received a visitor from Singapore who learned of the work of HomelandGreen through our Facebook on 24 May 2018. Both parties expressed willingness to continue our professional dialogue subsequently.

2. Voluntary tree planting

  1. On the establishment of the Youth Development Council (‘YDC’) in 2018, the former Commission of Youth (‘COY’) was incorporated into YDC. Nevertheless, application for the Funding Scheme for Youth Exchange in the Mainland 2018‑19 under the former COY was again met with approval. A total of 76 secondary students and seven teachers from seven schools, together with four volunteers took part in a six-day tree planting trip to Duolun, Inner Mongolia from 26 June to 1 July 2018 with subsidies from the Home Affairs Bureau and YDC. The group was headed by Jane So of HomelandGreen and received by NPO-GreenLife, partner of HomelandGreen under the leadership of Mme Yi Jiefang, Patron of HomelandGreen. Visits to local school, and historic and ecological sites in Inner Mongolia and Beijing were also arranged in addition to voluntary tree planting. The group was very well received by high officials of the Duolun Government and once again featured on Duolun TV news. All participants and volunteers gave very positive feedback on the benevolence and arrangement of the trip and most of the participating schools expressed interests to join again should similar trips be organised in the future. A reunion of the participants was organised on 15 September 2018 at which participants and teachers shared their learning through the trip and their commitment to further environmental conservation action in the future. The event was attended by an official representative from the YDC who showed his appreciation of our tree planting projects in his presentation: “Of the 20+ follow-up events of COY projects I have attended since July, I find this one run by HomelandGreen most touching.” He expressed gratitude to HomelandGreen for organising such meaningful event for young people in HK and encouraged us to organise similar event with the support of Funding Scheme again. Video clips of the trip were uploaded to the HomelandGreen website and Facebook. One of the clips is even featured on the Facebook of YDC.
  2. NPO-GreenLife’s role in the Duolun tree planting project has come to a successful conclusion in 2018 after five years of implementation. As the restoration work and the development of ecological and sustainable agriculture in Ulan Buh Desert have been very impressive according to Mme Yi of NPO-GreenLife, our Patron, HomelandGreen is exploring the possibilities of changing the venue of our future tree planting trips to Dengkou, the other plantation site of NPO-GreenLife at the realm of Ulan Buh Desert. In this connection, a study trip to revisit Dengkou was arranged in May 2019. Opportunities of experience sharing in regenerative farming with counterparts and academics therein is also under exploration.

3. Educational services

  1. The Chairman was invited by Tai Kong Po Land Education (大江埔生態農業教育社區計劃) to conduct a workshop on Sunday, 13 May 2018 as part of their plantation site monitoring program. The morning talk on Soil and Life was followed by a demonstration of compost tea brewing. Some 30 participants then made use of the compost tea for the restoration work at the plantation site in the afternoon. Young farming friends of HomelandGreen helped out both at the workshop and the on-site activity.
  2. A school project on soil restoration and regenerative farming was launched with Tai Po Old Market Public School (大埔舊墟公立學校) with the support of several young farmers once sponsored by HomelandGreen for overseas training on regenerative farming. Between March and June 2018, ten two-hour sessions were conducted for some 20 primary pupils of different levels introducing basic concepts and practices of regenerative farming. Data on progressive improvement of soil and plant growth were collected with a view to serving as reference points for similar trial outs at other local farms. It was encouraging to see three P6 students from the school received the 20th Hong Kong Young Scientist & Technology Innovation Competition Best Project Award by practising the use of compost tea and mushroom substrate provided by HomelandGreen. The young farmers treasured the learning and experimenting opportunities at the school site and the major instructor for the program, did thorough and detailed planning every time to ensure that the activities were efficiently and successfully run. When the project drew to a conclusion in June 2018, children seemed to have enjoyed the learning experience very much as they all requested to stay on should there be a second series in the coming academic year. A review meeting was held with the school personnel on Thursday, 5 July 2018 with the presence of the school principal and all the teachers involved and they were all very positive about the results of the program. HomelandGreen was invited to conduct another round of sessions at a different level with the original group of kids in the next academic year.
  3. The second round of the Tai Po Old Market Public School regenerative farming project was launched on 18 October 2018. He constantly reported his progress to the Chairman of HomelandGreen and sought advice both in terms of planning and implementation. The program run smoothly and drew to a conclusion in June 2019.
  4. A study group was formed by five young farming friends of HomelandGreen as core members incorporating other interested attendees from previous workshops to study scientific principles of modern farming with Arden Andersen’s Science in Agriculture as the textbook. Beginning 13 April 2018, the group met almost regularly on a biweekly basis. The Chairman would be consulted to clarify understanding and misconception whenever necessary.
  5. The Chairman was invited to conduct a workshop on Soil and Life by the Jockey Club Tai Wo Centre of the Hong Kong Federation of Women’s Centres (香港婦女中心協會賽馬會太和中心) to 60 some participants on 23 June 2018. Several young farming friends of HomelandGreen offered their help as assistant trainers. Very positive feedback was received, and the centre subsequently published a featured article covering some of what they learnt from the workshop as well as an introduction to the work of HomelandGreen in their quarterly newsletter. Further collaboration with the Centre is expected.
  6. Three young farming friends of HomelandGreen, hosted a game stall as part of a Microorganism Awareness programme organised by the Jockey Club Tai Wo Centre of the Hong Kong Federation of Women’s Centres and was warmly received by the local residents. Subsequently, two of the young farming friends were invited by Ho Lap College to give a short talk for lower form students on the same topic. The Chairman played the role of a science consultant on these events.
  7. The Chairman gave a talk on soil restoration work to the S2 students of HKSKH Bishop Hall Secondary School, one of the participating schools of the Duolun 2018 tree planting trip, on Friday, 28 September 2019.
  8. The Chairman gave a talk to S4&5 students of Ho Lap College on soil restoration and introduced the voluntary work of HomelandGreen in tree planting and promotion of regenerative farming.
  9. With the support of the following organisations as co-organisers, Chuen Sheung Farm (川上農莊), the Hong Kong Organic Association (香港有機生活社), Jockey Club Tai Wo Centre of the Hong Kong Federation of Women’s Centres (香港婦女中心協會太和分會), the Federation of Vegetable Marketing Co‑operative Societies (菜聯社), the Mushroom Initiatives (菇菌圓), the Produce Green Foundation (綠田園基金會), and SOBE, HomelandGreen hosted two series of workshop on regenerative farming between 30 September and 21 October 2018 to 60 some participants with the Chairman being the major speaker. The two series were run in parallel on Sundays and Thursdays within that period and were followed up with Q&A sessions and practicum held in some farms of the participants throughout November 2018. All co-organisers sent in their representatives or staff to attend the program. Some gave support in the form of administration work or video recording. Two compost workshops were held respectively on 29 October and 11 November in SoIL. Another two workshops on soil and plant tests were held respectively on 8 November in Senior Buddy Charitable Farm and 25 November in the Mushroom Initiatives with two different young farming friends of HomelandGreen serving as technical assistants. Feedback from participants were very positive. As a result of these workshops and practicum, 31 volunteers have been recruited to continue their learning and put regenerative farming principles into practice in one of the production farms of Hong Kong Farmers Pride Association Ltd. in Kam Tin. Several ad hoc groups were set up to give various support to the farm work and the project has subsequently evolved into an experimental project where progress in soil restoration and plant health would be closely monitored. The project has become a major research project of HomelandGreen in the years to come.
  10. The chairman was invited to give a talk on voluntary land restoration work by EcoBus (生態巴士) on 17 November 2018, an environmental concerned group comprises mainly young people. Response of the talk was very positive. Two participants came with the coordinator for the plant testing workshop on 25 November 2018 in the Mushroom Initiatives. As a follow up on the talk, a farm visit cum compost workshop was held on 20 January 2019 with 26 participants from the talk.
  11. A new professional partnership was developed with Senior Buddy Charitable Farm after the CEO of the managing board of the charitable organisation in the Sep-Nov workshop series on regenerative farming. The Farm hosted the 8 November 2018 workshop on soil and plant test where the Chairman was the major speaker. The event was very well received by some 25 participants including secondary teacher and students, community workers in addition to farming friends. The farm started providing storage service to some of HomelandGreen’s consumables whereas the Chairman constantly gave consultative advice to the farm since then.
  12. The Chairman made a presentation at the Lumina College (恩光書院) at the third session of a five-session course entitled ‘Future of Business in a Technological Age’ targeted at Christian university teaching staff organised by the Faith and Science Collaborative Research Forum HKU and Lumina College on 16 February 2019. The theme for the third session was ‘Beyond Impact Zero’ and the title of the Chairman’s presentation was ‘Road to Regeneration : The Emerging who what when and how beyond why’. Most of the attendees were from the business sector and their response to the presentation was very positive. The presentation and script were provided to the organiser for their subsequent publication of course materials.
  13. The Chairman hosted a group of some 20 visitors from Taiwan on 24 February 2019 for an afternoon visit cum workshop on regenerative farming and soil restoration to be hosted by the chairman. They learnt of the work of HomelandGreen through our Facebook. The event was organised by the School of Everyday Life (生活書院), an NGO working on environmental issues. They visited the compost site of HomelandGreen at SoIL and then joined a discussion cum dinner hosted by the Chairman. Feedback from participants was very positive and communication has been established ever since.
  14. Upon the invitation of the Hong Kong Organic Association (香港有機生活社), the Chairman ran a one-day workshop for participants of the ‘第三屆專業農夫培訓班’ on 16 March 2019. In this connection, HomelandGreen was enlisted as one of the supporters of the training program. The workshop was very well received. Several participants in the course attended the first progress review of the experimental farm project in Kam Tin with some becoming regular volunteers.
  15. The Chairman was invited to speaks at the Wu Yee Sun College (伍宜孫書院) Forums of the Chinese University of Hong Kong on 22 March 2019 on the theme ‘土壤教會我謙恭’. About 300 students and staff attended the occasion and their response was very positive. As a possible follow up, the College might consider organizing voluntary tree planting trips to Dengkou, Inner Mongolia, through the coordination of HomelandGreen.
  16. Upon invitation, the Chairman spoke to a farming club of St. Paul’s Convent School on 13 March 2019 on the theme ‘ecosystem and organic farming.’ The biology teacher-in-charge expressed her enthusiasm to learn more and was introduced to the HomelandGreen Facebook for further information.
  17. HomelandGreen produced resource materials in the form of videos or translated work from overseas professional bodies on soil restoration and regenerative farming and continued to share with the public through social media such as Facebook, WeiBo and the HomelandGreen website. The number of videos that have been uploaded reached 324 by the end of Mar 2019 of which 85 were self-produced documentaries and 239 were translated work. Response to our postings on Facebook has been very positive and encouraging ever since its launching. Our FaceBook followers rose from about 8000 to 11300 within the year 2018-19 and is still constantly on the rise.

4. Research projects

4.1. Experimental farming project at Hong Miu Farm

Hong Miu Farm in Kam Tin is one of the 13 organic production farms that came together to establish the Hong Kong Farmers Pride Association Limited, an NPO to promote local quality produce and the practice of regenerative farming. As the Chairman has been invited to take up the role of an honourable science consultant, the Hong Miu Farm was chosen as an entry point where the consultative service of the Chairman would be rendered. A visit was paid on 18 July 2018 to collect basic data on the condition of soil and crops and to understand the existing farming practices that need to be reviewed. After three subsequent visits, it was agreed that HomelandGreen would take up about an acre of land within the farm where regenerative farming will be practiced as an experimental and demonstration site. The project attracted 40 some volunteers, mostly participants of previous workshops conducted by the Chairman. The project was launched in mid-December 2018, where soil restoration work was first performed on 10 plots before planting crops. The aim of the project is to make use of the best available practices and state-of-the-art knowledge on the subject with a view to improving soil and plant health with lower production cost and higher yields. After trying out for several weeks for base line data collection and others, a steering committee comprising the Chairman and the Vice Chairman of HomelandGreen and the more active and regular participants was formed to coordinate the various dimensions of work of the project.

4.2. In connection with the project, several subgroups were formed with various volunteers taking up the leadership role:

  1. IT and data collection, management and analysis ─ cloud-based platform for farm logs was developed for routine reporting and put to trial for subsequent data collection and analysis;
  2. Production of compost tea brewers using parts purchased locally and online from Mainland China. An attempt has also been made to refine the design of mesh bags for using with the brewers;
  3. Compost making at both SoIL and Hong Miu farm;
  4. Logistics ─ transportation of various kinds of mulching materials, wastes for compost making, ingredients for various bio-fertilisers, biological inoculants, soil amendments, etc.;
  5. Local production of fish hydrolysate (an important food for compost tea and bio-fertiliser);
  6. Local production of kelp and/or seaweed liquid (also an important food for compost tea and biological inoculant for foliar spray) ─ local sourcing from volunteers is being explored;
  7. Local production of oyster shell powder and eggshell powder (important source of organic calcium for soil amendment) ─ eggshells collected from volunteers and oyster shells from Lau Fau Shan are ground at the Mushroom Initiative, one of the professional partners of HomelandGreen;
  8. Development and production of a local device for testing quality of farm produce and surface residues as quality assurance device for practitioners using surface enhanced Raman spectroscopy technique. A cheaper device using infrared spectroscopy will be developed at a second phase to adapt the model for consumers’ use. A data bank of local produce will be built for further research and development. This project has been taken up by the Mushroom Initiative with the support of Dr Daniel Kwong of SOBE, who also managed to seek the support of two physics professors from the Hong Kong Baptist University;
  9. Steering group for planting for biodiversity and Integrated Pest Management (‘IPM’) ─ relevant seeds have been sourced and purchased based upon well researched knowledge of companion planting and IPM principles in coordination with the farm owner;
  10. Farm tree management and practice of agroforestry ─ the project would be led by local tree expert Mr Ko Wan Fung and his group of volunteers with the support of experts from the South China Agricultural University (華南農業大學) at which several volunteers are furthering their study;
  11. Collection and organisation of visual records of project ─ pictures of crops and activities and videos are taken on routine basis to keep a visual record of all the happenings and crop response; and
  12. Close monitoring of the project was done through timely data analysis and feedback with the Chairman as chief coordinator in collaboration with the Vice Chairman and the farm owner. Relevant reading materials have been produced for the consumption of the volunteers for knowledge and information dissemination, consensus building and action as all the volunteers in the group operated as a network rather than an establishment with full-time employee or regular workers. Relevant workshops and meetings were continually held on a need basis to equip volunteers with the necessary knowledge and skills to take part in the project.

4.3. The project proceeded as planned in December 2018 with regular involvement of volunteers, and continuously yielded important findings that may help inform other farmers of better practices. Within a couple of months, the farm owner and volunteering farming friends have already noticed the difference of crop response to the new measures, and found the practices very promising.

4.4. Three workshops on the making of fish hydrolysate were held on 27 January, 3 February and 3 March 2019. Two reviews on plant performance and soil improvement were conducted on 6 and 24 March 2019. Volunteers were very much encouraged by the observations and results. Crops harvested received very good feedback on the distinctively different quality and flavour. Upon the request from the farm owner, the experimental field was extended from 10 to 15 plots by May 2019.

4.5. More acute challenges have been encountered as expected in spring and summer when weather turns warm and humid with occasional heavy torrential rain.

4.6. Within the first phase of experimentation, the project witnessed good harvest of a variety of crops, including 紅菜頭、西生菜、君達菜、香芹、芫茜、羅馬生菜、蕃茄、玉米、紫椒、潺菜、通菜, etc., with pests and weeds basically under control without applying any pesticides and weed killers. A progress review of the first phase of experiment was conducted on 19 May 2019 where data on soil penetration and microbiome were collected. Since then, the project has entered the second phase where the practices would likely be employed by the farm owner in other parts of the farm.

5. Acknowledgement

            HomelandGreen has made some progress towards her mission since inception and the Chairman wants to thank all members and the public for their contribution towards making HomelandGreen a meaningful presence in the world-wide effort in making our world a better place.