Response to Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department’s request for responses to new agricultural policy
Once upon a time on Lamma, not very long ago…
What happened to our agricultural land? (Same field, different story now)
What happened to our ponds and streams?
What is happening to our beaches?
Living Lamma is 100% in support of policy recommendations put forward in the New Agricultural Policy: Sustainable Agricultural Development in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong needs:
- – A world-class Agri-Park that can serve as an education centre.
- – Funds for those who seek to improve their community through planting and growing.
- – Business support services for those engaged in agriculture.
- – Venues and programmes to connect people with where their food comes from and where their waste goes.
We would like to stress that in supporting these measures, we would expect that efforts would be taken to engage communities throughout Hong Kong to provide education and outreach that is currently lacking. All of the 18 District Councils have a part to play.
On Lamma, we have seen our agricultural land destroyed. As Lamma has an OZP, but no DPA, there is no means by which agricultural land can be adequately protected anywhere on the island. Even where land is farmed, often dumping occurs on neighbouring plots, blocking streams and making it very difficult for the farming to continue.
We also have witnessed situations whereby owners of agricultural land do not want to farm, or have become too old to be able to do so. Aged, indigenous farmers have never been given any assistance in improving the methods they use. They sadly remain impoverished, with developments such as farming for educational purposes, for tourism, or for occupational therapy, beyond their capabilities.
At the same time, non-indigenous people who have successfully engaged in growing activities, providing opportunities for school groups to come and learn about how food is grown and nurturing care for the environment, have found themselves in trouble. One complaint (even if made maliciously) results in their plants being ripped out and ugly fences and signs being put up threatening prosecution for growing vegetables – no matter what the benefit to the wider community or how much their work has benefitted local school children.
There is clearly a mismatch between those who have the skills to engage in higher value-added activities based around agricultural activities and those who have access to the land. With the right policy support and community outreach, this gap could be closed for the benefit of the community, providing jobs, educational opportunities and better social cohesion around the common focus of food production.
Lamma island is an ideal place to pilot education schemes about where our food comes from and where our waste goes. This basic environmental literacy is fundamental to creating sustainable systems. We are promoting the idea of making Lamma Hong Kong’s Eco- Island, somewhere to encourage zero waste initiatives. Measures proposed by this consultation would greatly enhance this aim. Just imagine, where else in the world do you have a walking community of multinational and indigenous people, with forest, sea, and land? The opportunities for eco-tourism and education should be unmatchable anywhere in the world.
Yet, these opportunities are unfulfilled largely because government policy has not kept up with the needs of the community. It is a great shame and a waste, particularly when our children are growing up in a world where pollution is seriously going to impact their lives, yet what they see in their community is behaviour that trashes the land and the sea. There needs to be a great amount of effort put into education to change this.
Living Lamma has submitted some 100 reports to the HK government on the environment and development over the last six years. We would be very happy to talk those involved in agricultural policy through our work as it relates to the land. Through our friendships with other green groups across Hong Kong, we see that the challenges in creating and maintaining a clean, safe and beautiful community on Lamma are common in other places. We have noticed that policy and practices in some government departments actively work against essential elements of sustainability. In particular, we would hope that a new agricultural policy would encourage the Lands Department and District Office to play an active role in engaging with the community to provide opportunities for community gardening and venues to hold seminars and sell local produce.
Living Lamma is also connected to Incredible Edible, a movement to encourage sustainability through the common language of food, which was started in a small town in Yorkshire (UK) and has now spread to over 300 communities in the world, including Hong Kong. It began with planting food on derelict land and in public places – at bus stops, health centres, police stations and at roadsides.
Once it became more usual to see the land cared for, rather than neglected or dumped upon, the town became transformed with benefits for local schools, businesses and individuals. It is a bottom-up approach to tackling wider issues of climate change, which is truly inclusive and could so easily be used to encourage more sustainable behaviour in Hong Kong.
We hope the new agricultural policy can help people rethink attitudes and behaviours toward land and land usage, motivating public and government departments to work together to clean up communities and make land beautiful and productive. Support for action that protects and conserves agricultural space in every community (even for the rooftop farms of the type that have taken off in New York and other urban locations), and encourages people to contribute actively to the welfare of their community is very welcome indeed.
This sends a very positive message to our children and creates good examples for others to follow. As can be seen from the photos at the beginning of this paper, the sooner action is taken, the better.