2020 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.
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. The information is available to the public at IRD’s website. HomelandGreen’s application to join the French “4 pour 1000 Initiative” was also accepted in December 2019 and HomelandGreen was publicly listed as a member as from 7 October 2019 in the website of the Initiative. Efforts will be made to reach out to more international counterparts through documenting the past activities of HomelandGreen onto the provided forum in the coming months. Relevant paragraphs have been updated in both the HomelandGreen Website and Facebook to reflect these new statuses of ours.
For the year ended March 2020, HomelandGreen continued to engage in activities of (1) liaison and professional partnerships; (2) voluntary tree planting; (3) educational services; and (4) research projects. While some of the activities have brought advancement, the others have been affected one way or the other by the local social unrest and the global pandemic. In particular, the activities depending heavily on the participation of volunteers have been impaired or even cancelled. To a lesser extent, some activities had to be rescheduled, sometimes more than once.
- Liaison work and professional partnerships
- Voluntary tree planting
- Educational services
- Research projects
1. Liaison work and professional partnerships
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 made two tree planting-study trips to Dengkou (磴口), the other tree planting site of NPO-GreenLife, in April and August 2019, and found the restorative work in Ulan Buh Desert and the development of sustainable green agriculture in rehabilitated areas really impressive. Opportunities of experience sharing in regenerative farming with counterparts and academics in Dengkou were explored after the visits and the collaboration between HomelandGreen and NPO-GreenLife may enter a new phase in the coming years, venturing into the promotion of regenerative agriculture in addition to voluntary tree planting.
- 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.
- 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) in 2019. Relationship established with these local groups help HomelandGreen disseminate information about training courses and also become means for recruiting volunteers to take part in the experimental project on regenerative farming in Hong Miu Farm, another professional partner of HomelandGreen in the local community.
- As for our compost production, The Society for Indigenous Learning (鄉土學社) (‘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 in 2019.
- An agreement signed in 2018 with Federation of Vegetable Marketing Co‑operative 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 2020 event took place on 9 January where a talk-cum-workshop was offered to some 60 members of the organisation; very positive feedback was received.
- The Chairman was invited to serve as one of the adjudicators for the「庫布其獎」– 大學生荒漠治理創業大賽 (The Kubuqi Award – Desertification Control Business Plan Competition) organized by the Elion Foundation (億利公益基金會). There were more than 60 entries and the 14 shortlisted teams presented their proposals in person. The adjudicating panel came to a consensus on the top three winning teams after considering the merits of each. Spokesman for the Elion Group expressed their wish to make the competition an annual event in Hong Kong. Short video clippings on various local media covering the greening of the Kubuqi Desert as well as HK students’ involvement in the competition have been made available on internet.
- HomelandGreen has been involved in providing free consultancy service to a compost project at the Hong Kong Organic Waste Recycling Centre (香港有機資源再生中心) in Kwu Tung South (古洞南) near Kam Tsin Village, 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. The Chairman paid several visits to the site and gave advices regarding how to improve the operation of the compost vessel and the quality of the compost produced. An invitation was also received to send in a quotation for the preparation of a pamphlet for public educational purposes summarising the result of the experimental trials and also promoting public awareness of the knowledge and use of compost. With members’ endorsement, Mr Ng Wai Shing, a regular volunteer involved in many HomelandGreen events, has been commissioned to prepare the manuscript for the booklet under the guidance of the Chairman. The final draft was submitted to the Directing Board of the project in June 2020. Feedbacks from the Board would be incorporated in the final delivery.
- The Chairman was invited by Cheong (昌哥), the owner of Hong Miu Farm and Ms Wong, his farming partner in Jiangxi, to pay a visit to their ecological farm in Yichun, Jiangxi (江西宜春) on 17-21 June 2019. Mrs Kan and another volunteer at Hong Miu Farm also joined the trip together with another eight friends. It was an enlightening experience to witness the development of biological farming in Jiangxi and most importantly, a visit was paid to a quality compost factory where good compost and biological fertilisers have been identified. The sharing of knowledge and experience from the Chairman was very well received by all the participants of the trip. Since then, Ms Wong has become a very supportive collaborator of HomelandGreen, coordinating the procurement of material and farm produce from across the boundary; supporting our experiment in regenerative farming locally as well as maintaining a network of volunteers to assist the poverty alleviation efforts in rural areas of Mainland China.
- Ms Paige Tantillo and Ms Renée Mullen, two of the three directors of the Hong Kong Community Composting Limited paid the chairman a visit in September 2019 for a briefing on thermal composting and expressed great appreciation in in the work of HomelandGreen. Future collaborative opportunities were explored and Ms Mullen assisted in drafting HomelandGreen’s application for the membership of the French 4 per 1000 Initiative and the Regeneration International.
2. Voluntary tree planting
- With the special arrangement by Mme Yi, the Chairman and the Vice Chairman visited Dengkou, Inner Mongolia on 23-27 April 2019 together with four volunteers to study the progress of this third plantation site of NPO-GreenLife. All were deeply impressed by the restoration work in Ulan Buh Desert and the development of sustainable green agriculture there. An even more in-depth study-cum-tree planting trip was made on 24-29 August 2019 with 29 farming friends from Hong Kong. Details of the trip are as follows:
- Purposes of visit: update our knowledge about the efforts and achievement of combating desertification in Mainland China; study the development of green agriculture in the rehabilitated Ulan Buh Desert and the Dengkou area; take part in voluntary tree-planting with NPO-GreenLife; locate resources to support the practice of regenerative farming in Hong Kong; collect current information along the route for future trip design for Hong Kong volunteers, teachers and students; collect up-to-date visual images of large scale landscape restoration projects for public education purposes in our website and Facebook; and establish contacts with potential partners and networks to accomplish the mission of HomelandGreen.
- Routing : flights to Yinchuan, Ningxia (寧夏銀川) seems to be most viable until direct flights between Wuhai and Hong Kong are available.
- Itinerary and contacts : The 6-day itinerary was substantially different from the regular 4-day voluntary tree-planting arrangement and was agreed between the Chairman and Mme Yi, taking into account the feedback from the trip in April 2019, with the support of Mme Yi and NPO-GreenLife’s volunteers. Because of the tight schedule, the saxaul (梭梭, Haloxylon ammodendron) saplings were donated to the local farmers. Instead, participants learnt of the symbiotic association of desert broomrape (肉蓯蓉, Cistanche deserticolar Ma) with saxaul and how the planting of saxaul helps the local economy.
- Places visited:
- Inner Mongolia Hansen Winery Group (內蒙古漢森酒業集團) in Wuhai (烏海) (漢森酒莊、有機葡萄園、有機紅酒釀酒廠和藏酒地窖、腐殖質生物肥料廠): Received warmly by the Group Chairman who shared the mission, vision, achievement and progress of the Hansen Group, presented detailed research findings of the Ningzhiyuan (檸植源) humic biofertilizers they produce. Caragana (檸條), the raw material, is a resilient native plant grows on sand. The General Manger and Public Relation officer also gave a detailed briefing about their progress and advancement in grapes production and red wine business.
- Inner Mongolia Lüheyuan Agropastoral Limited (內蒙古綠禾源農牧業有限公司烏蘭布和枸杞文化園): A newly established enterprise is experimenting with the unconventional use of black goji (黑果枸杞, Lycium ruthenicum Murray) for rehabilitating shifting sand dunes with considerable success. Participants were impressed by the hight content and quality of the Oligomeric Proanthocyanidins (低聚原花青素) of black goji.
- Chinese Academy of Forestry farms: Three organic farms of Chinese yam (山葯), corn and sunflower were visited. The Chinese yam is Dioscorea polystachya (鐡山葯), a special species grown in the desert area; quality and taste were highly appreciated. The produce was benefited from the special desert environment of abundant sunshine and low humidity.
- Inner Mongolia Shengmu High-tech Dairy Farm (聖牧高科奶牛場): One of the several fully automated organic dairy farms of the company in Ulan Buh Desert with milk production meeting the strictest EU organic milk standard. Mission, vision, commitment and high spirit of staff of the company were really impressive.
- Shengmu High-tech pasture (聖牧高科奶牛飼料養殖場): One of the several organic pastures purposely created on the moving sand dunes in Ulan Buh Desert for producing cattle forage by Bayannur Shengmu High-tech Ecological Forage Co., Ltd. (巴彥淖爾市聖牧高科生態草業有限公司) with their own compost factory. Visits were made to different areas of the pasture to witness the differential improvement in soil health over their seven years of hard work. A short video recording how the pasture was created among unsurmountable hardships was shown during the presentation of the professionals-in-charge. HomelandGreen is committed to offer assistance in producing an English version of the video so that their stories can be heard in the English-speaking world.
- A tourist spot created by Shengmu High-tech that preserves the original landscape of Ulan Buh Desert before rehabilitation which was all running sand dunes: the intention was to let visitors learn of the geographical history of the dairy farms and pasture and understand the importance of environmental protection. Participants had a wonderful time and much fun experiencing the real desert with running sand.
- Shengmu pasture NPO-GreenLife poplar (楊樹) plantation: Shengmu High-tech has become a second partner of NPO-GreenLife in Dengkou and poplar will be planted to increase the biodiversity of the pasture.
- Zero waste circular economy system with PV sand control and high efficiency low carbon recirculating aquaculture (光伏治沙及高效低碳流水養殖池零廢物循環經濟系統): Solar powered circular economy system comprising flooded paddy fields under solar panels, automated running freshwater aquatic systems, free-range poultry farms, organic farms, etc. along miles of solar farms (百萬光伏大道).
- A cruise at Lake Nailun Ecological Tourism Area (黃河畔奈倫湖生態旅遊區): ecological water filtration system clearing up sand and silt in this part of the Yellow River is cleaning up the Yellow River so that the water of Lake Nailun is no longer yellow, so is certain part of the once heavily sedimented Yellow River.
- 「希望小鎮」, Dengkou: a purpose-built residential area developed with solar powered houses, schools and community centre offering job opportunities in the neighbourhood for local farmers and ranchers under poverty as a response to the national targeted poverty alleviation (精準扶貧) policy. Houses are surrounded by lawn with seasonal flowers and fruit trees to provide a pleasant green environment for the residents. According to UNCCD, this targeted poverty alleviation policy in Mainland China has helped over 87 million people to rise above poverty line in the past eight years.
- Sanshenggong Water Conservancy Project (磴口縣三盛公水文化博物館及三盛公水利樞紐) at Dengkou: hydraulic engineering system at the junction of the Yellow River and the artificially constructed diversion at Sanshenggong was indispensable in the rehabilitation of the Ulan Buh Desert. The museum shows how the Yellow River has been tamed and revived since the project commenced in 1959.
- Three North Shelterbelt Construction Bureau, National Forestry and Grassland Administration (國家林業和草原局西北華北東北防護林建設局) at Yinchuan: communication has been established with the officer-in-charge for future visits and possible collaborative projects. Agreement has been obtained to prepare English subtitles and incorporate edited clippings from the latest video documentary on the progress of the Great Green Wall project (「聚焦三農」綠色長城建設工程) into our uploads to the HomelandGreen Facebook and website.
- Follow-up purchasing of farm produce and bio-fertilizers after the August Dengkou visit: First attempt of purchasing Chinese yam from Dengkou and apples from Xinjiang was effectively organised by two friends of HomelandGreen. A second round of purchase covered more varieties of ecological products from wider regions throughout Mainland China was met with great enthusiasm. Goods were delivered in time for the Lunar New Year in late January 2020. New friends have provided great supports in purchasing and delivery. The network thus established will facilitate the promotion of Inner Mongolia tree-planting trips in the future.
- Ho Lap College organised a 5-day tree planting trip to Dengkou for their students on 27-31 June 2019. The Chairman was invited to give a briefing to the participating students before the trip on 24 June 2019. Feedback from the students were quite positive.
- Based upon the successful experiences at Dengkou plantation site, HomelandGreen originally planned to organise more tree-planting trips for secondary school teachers and students as well as volunteers from Hong Kong in the 2020 tree planting season. However, the plans were temporarily suspended due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
3. Educational services
- Invitation was received from the representative of a Hostel Gardening Group of the Jockey Club Student Quarters (賽馬會學生宿舍) of the Education University of Hong Kong to provide training in Regenerative Farming. A workshop on ‘Soil health and soil test’ for the hostel garden was conducted on Friday, 27 September 2019 for the project organisers. Subsequently, the Chairman was invited to give a lecture on regenerative farming to an expanded group on Thursday, 31 October 2019. A volunteer of the Hong Miu Project, who is an experienced farmer, was invited along to share with the students some of his practical experience. These students planned to try planting crops in a small open area in their hostel. Occasional consultative advice was given to the student-in-charge of the project on a need basis.
- The Chairman has been recommended by farmer Cheong to speak as a discussant on his behalf for the session ‘Planting and Soil Management’(種植與土壤管理) at a public Food and Farmer Forum entitled “In search of the local agricultural community, food movement and sustainability” organised by the Department of Asian and International studies, College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, City University of Hong Kong (CityU), on Saturday, 26 October 2019. The presentation was short but enthusiastically received. As a follow-up, the Chairman was invited to run a workshop on Thermal Composting at SoIL on Friday, 1 November 2019 by a group of experienced conventional farmers who attended the forum. Some 20 people from various parties attended the workshop. The response was positive and future collaboration with the participants were under exploration.
- The Chairman was invited for a consultative visit to a farm in the Fanling area recently established by two attendees of the CityU Public Forum on Saturday, 26 October 2019. Future collaboration with this group in try-out and research work regarding regenerative farming is under exploration.
- A workshop on regenerative farming and composting was held on Thursday, 9 January 2020 at Organic Community Grower Group (有機種植社群辦公室) (CGG) upon invitation. It was oversubscribed and attendees showed great enthusiasm for future training and study trip opportunities. Over 30 participants left contacts for future communication and more than eight farms invited the Chairman to visit them. Follow-up has been held up for the time being because of the pandemic.
- The Chairman was invited by a volunteer of St. James’ Settlement (聖雅各福群會) to speak at a community event for the promotion of organic farming, composting and healthy living at Eva Farm in Kai Leng, Sheung Shui on Friday, 17 January 2010. Eva, the owner of the farm, was an attendee at the 9 January 2020 talk at CGG. That workshop initiated fruitful collaboration since then and several projects have been under exploration. A visit to Eva’s farm in June 2020 by volunteers of the Hong Miu project witness the change brought about by the owner’s consistent application of the newly acquired thermal composting technique on the soil and crops. Visitors were greatly impressed by the biodiversity in Eva’s farm whose practice echoes lots of the principles of regenerative farming and integrated pest management (IPM).
- 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 ‘第四屆專業農夫培訓班’ on Sunday, 23 February 2020. The workshop was very well received. HomelandGreen was listed as a joint organiser of the course. It was the third year for HomelandGreen’s involvement. Past trainees occasionally called the Chairman for consultative advices and some also became volunteers in our experimental farm. An invitation to hold similar training for their ‘第五屆專業農夫訓練班’ tentatively scheduled for October 2020 has been accepted.
- HomelandGreen produces resource materials in the form of videos or Chinese translation of works from overseas professional bodies on soil restoration and regenerative farming and continues to share them with the public through social media such as Facebook, Weibo and the HomelandGreen website. Responses to our postings on Facebook have all along been quite positive and encouraging. Our total followers on Facebook rose to over 14 000 in 2019-20 and is still constantly on the rise. The HomelandGreen website is being revamped with a view to getting a new look with enhanced function in 2020.
4. Research projects
- Experimental farming project at Hong Miu Farm
- Hong Miu Farm in Kam Tin is one of the 13 organic farms establishing the Hong Kong Farmers Pride Association Limited, an NPO 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 and Hong Miu Farm was selected as the site where the consultative service of the Chairman would be rendered. HomelandGreen assisted collecting basic data of soil and crops of the farm in 2018, and later set up a one-acre experimental and demonstration site in one corner of the farm to practise regenerative farming. The project was launched in mid-December 2018 with soil restoration work on 10 plots before planting crops. The aim was 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. Over 40 volunteers, mostly participants of previous workshops conducted by the Chairman, were attracted to the project, which was coordinated by a steering committee comprising the Chairman and the Vice Chairman of HomelandGreen and the more active and regular participants.
- Within the first phase of experimentation, the project witnessed good harvest of a variety of crops with pests and weeds basically under control without applying any pesticides or weed killers. A progress review of the first phase of experiment was conducted on Sunday, 19 May 2019 with data on soil penetration and microbiome. A video was made to record the basic findings, and it was expected that the practices introduced would likely be adopted by the farm.
- Beginning June 2019, the experiment entered its second phase. Experimental plots were relocated to a slightly elevated area as the plots of phase I suffered severe flooding because of the low topography causing drainage problem with the heavy summer rain. Steady progress in the new plots of Phase II was made with more varieties of seasonal crops being tried out within the period from June 2019 to May 2020 as the number of plots increased gradually to twelve. The project witnessed a drop in the visit of frequent volunteers beginning September 2019 when there was social unrest and even further drop beginning February 2020 because of the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. By mid-May 2020, it was decided that cover crops would be planted after the harvest to cut down manpower demand while continuing to improve the soil until a third phase of experiment in the following planting season in Autumn 2020. Products from plots in Phase II were good in general, new lessons were learnt as the weather and crops were different from those in Phase I. Mistakes were made occasionally but were soon rectified.
- During its full operation, the experimental project managed to attract quite some visitors interested in regenerative farming and sharing sessions were frequently held. Since February 2020, such events have dropped significantly for social distancing.
- The latter half of Phase II was managed by only a handful of volunteers with strong commitment to the practice of regenerative farming. During this period with no planting activities on the experimental plots, they still took turns to look after all the necessary supporting service at the farm.
- Besides the practice of the principles of regenerative farming like mulching, no-till, companion planting, use of compost and compost tea, the experimental plots also offer opportunities for the try-out of various soil amendment materials and plant nutrients. Unconventional materials tried out at the experimental plots include:
- Self-made fresh mature compost from our own compost site in SoIL;
- Freshly brewed bacteria or fungi dominated compost tea;
- SOBE Bio-fertiliser and EM (Effective Microorganisms);
- Oyster shell powder made by grounding oyster shell powder collected from Lau Fau Shan;
- Humic acid biological fertiliser Ningzhiyuan (檸植源) produced by the Hansen Group in Wuhai, Inner Mongolia;
- Mushroom substrate from local organic mushroom farm
- Specially formulated foliar spray to monitor the growth and health of the crops and pest control;
- Compost bought from a Jiangxi compost factory visited during the April 2019 Jiangxi visit;
- DIY fish hydrolysate made more than 10 months ago at workshops which proved to be some 25 times more cost effective than those bought from the overseas supplier;
- Free shredding machine donated by a volunteer installed to produce homemade mulching materials with the farm wastes proved to be very useful;
- A grinding machine bought from the Mainland to produce oyster shell powder was installed and put to function.
- Near the end of the Phase II, it was happy to see Farmer Cheong had adopted many of the practices tried out at the experimental plots and yielded very good results. Pests problem has obviously been under control and there was almost no loss due to pests during the experimental period. There was obvious increase in yield and product quality with reducing cost.
- The collaborative project with Farmer Cheong at Hong Miu was considered a success and our mission of the experimental plots has been satisfactorily accomplished.
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 global effort to make our world a better place.