Revitalizing agricultural activities by adopting eco-farming methods (e.g. low carbon and organic farming)

June 21, 2017

Hong Kong Placeholder
Hong Kong

Revitalizing agricultural activities by adopting eco-farming methods (e.g. low carbon and organic farming)

About the Implementing organization

Name: Indigenous Hakka community of Lai Chi Wo Village

Country: China

Year of establishment: 2013

Type of organization: Indigenous group or organization

Description

The Programme uses an agricultural-led approach for community revitalization. Agricultural rehabilitation is conducted in terraced farmlands and irrigation system abandoned over 30 years. Farmlands and irrigation channels have been restored according to the villagers’ local knowledge. There are now active agricultural activities covering about 5 hectares of land in Lai Chi Wo.

Eco-farming practice is adopted by the farming partnership among indigenous villagers, new comers and the project team. Paddy rice is strategically selected as the main crop for agricultural rehabilitation to enhance the wetland in Lai Chi Wo. The farming community also aims to create a non-genetically modified papaya village in Lai Chi Wo by introducing non-GM seedlings to replace the old, source unknown papaya trees in Lai Chi Wo. Temporary wetlands are created on fallow farmlands to provide undisturbed breeding ground for wetland species. Phytoremediation trial using Pteris vittata, a local fern which is hyperaccumulator of arsenic, has been conducted in some farming plots to remove the high natural arsenic from soil for paddy resumption. Physical control method and regular monitoring for invasive ant species, Red Imported Fire Ant has been conducted also. Appropriate technology including solar-powered and hydro-powered farming facilities such as electric fences, pump and insect light traps are also introduced to reduce carbon emission.

Nature Element

Forests / Wetlands / Rivers / Wildlife

Type of Action

Protection / Restoration / Sustainable use / Pollution prevention, clean up / Invasive species / Awareness and education

Sustainable Development Element

Jobs and livelihoods / Food security / Health / Renewable energy / Climate action

Related Sustainable Development Goal(s)

        

Environmental Impacts

The wildlife friendly eco-farming approach is important to ecological sensitive areas like Lai Chi Wo. After decades of farmland abandonment in the village, farming wetlands had become dry and mostly succeeded by scrublands. The resumption of paddy cultivation has created large areas of farming wetland which act as important habitats for amphibians, freshwater fishes and dragonfly naiads. As freshwater wetland has become very rare in Hong Kong due to the decline of agriculture since the late 1970s, it is encouraging that the agricultural rehabilitation in Lai Chi Wo has recovered the ecological functions of farming wetlands of the area. Since the resumption of paddy farming, the cumulated number of amphibian species and dragonfly species recorded increased from 7 to 9 and from 38 to 54 respectively. A locally and globally concerned bird species Yellow Breasted Bunting (IUCN status: Endangered) was recorded. Some uncommon migratory birds such as Grey Nightjar have been recorded.

Sustainable Development Impacts

Since the late 70s, agriculture has been declining in Hong Kong’s. Agricultural rehabilitation at Lai Chi Wo contributes to the city’s food security by diversifying its food supply and reducing its heavy reliance on imported food supply. Organic farming in the village produces healthier and safer farm products. In response to climate change, solar energy and appropriate technology are used to reduce carbon emission.

Both indigenous villagers and new settlers participate in eco-farming at Lai Chi Wo. It helps them rebuild the human-nature relationship and engages them in environmental stewardship. Agricultural rehabilitation restores the traditional sustainable way of rural landscape management in the village. The resumption of paddy farming in the village is thus a way of cultural tradition conservation. The agricultural revival of Lai Chi Wo has been reported by the international news broadcaster Al Jazeera: www.aljazeera.com/news/2015/07/hong-kong-farming-rice-150726105428798.html

Scalability

Lai Chi Wo serves as an exemplar to promote the conservation of traditional farming landscape in other rural areas in Hong Kong and South China where intensive paddy rice farming used to be a major type of agriculture in the past. With economic and urban development, South China experienced a great decline in agriculture in the past decades and traditional farming landscape has been rapidly disappearing. With a similar hot and humid climatic condition to Hong Kong and a similarly undulating topography, rural communities in South China can make reference to the way Lai Chi Wo revitalizes abandoned terraced farmland landscape and irrigation system using the eco-farming approach.

The Programme’s collaboration approach involving university, NGOs, and the rural community, each familiar with different aspect(s) of the agricultural-led community revitalization can serve as an example for rejuvenating farming communities in other parts of China, demonstrating how synergy is achieved.

Replicability

Techniques of eco-farming and paddy farming resumption developed in Lai Chi Wo were transmitted to the wider society through training and knowledge exchange. All adaptive techniques can be replicated in similar villages through training. The Programme held the “International Symposium on Sustainable Revitalization of Rural Communities in Asian Cities” in 2016, attracted over 150 participants from Hong Kong and Asia. The “Hong Kong Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan 2016-2021” mentions that the Government will encourage environmentally friendly agricultural practices and explore innovative ways to conserve rural areas. Lai Chi Wo can serve as an example of how such initiatives can be developed. Quoting the Lai Chi Wo case, the Hong Kong’s Policy Address 2017 stated that the Government will promote rural revitalization. The Heung Yee Kuk, which represents rural interests in Hong Kong, also considers that some villages in Hong Kong can be modelled after Lai Chi Wo.

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