Carrots on the roof: Urban farming for Hong Kong?
Urban farming methods can enable city dwellers to grow their own food, save money and reduce carbon emissions from transport and energy use associated with food production. Urban farming encourages the establishment of gardens on unused land and space while increasing diversity, raising awareness for environmental and wellness issues, as well as inspiring and educating communities.
Could Hong Kong and other cities in Asia become more self-sustaining whilst at the same time reducing their carbon footprint?
Food is always on people’s minds, especially if there is a lack of it. Hong Kong has an ample supply of food coming on to its shores from across the globe but that steady stream of products comes at a price: the food industry is responsible for approximately 20 percent of the world’s overall carbon footprint.
Eating apples from New Zealand and cheese from Switzerland when you’re living in Asia simply isn’t sustainable. The transport, energy and land use involved with food production is producing huge amounts of carbon. Cutting down trees to make way for crops and cows is removing the Earth’s ability to sequester it.
But of course we can’t abandon food production, it just needs to be more sustainable. Countries like United States, Cuba and China have attempted to address this issue, often with huge success, demonstrating just what can be achieved on a local, city and national level.
The US has seen a steady growth in small urban farms and is asking its President to support more. Due to the shortage of fuel and therefore severe deficiencies in the transportation sector, a growing percentage of Cuba's agricultural production takes place within urban farms. In 2002, 35,000 acres of urban gardens produced over three million tons of food. In Havana, 90 per cent of the city's fresh produce comes from local urban farms and gardens. Wherever there’s some soil and will, there’s a way.
Traditionally, Chinese cities have been known to mix agricultural activities within urban environments. Shenzhen's city farms are located about 10 kilometers from city center in a two-tier system. This system allows produce to be sold in city markets just a few hours after picking.
There are initiatives starting up in Hong Kong too. Good Food Watch, a non-profit venture, has been promoting the use of locally sourced ingredients for the past four years. With global warming worries, and an increasing need to sustain ourselves, it’s time we thought about the benefits of growing our own food and reducing our reliance on foreign imports.
Health-wise, local can also mean fresher because reliance on MSG and other fattening or unhealthy substitutes is lessened.