Green Face of Hong Kong

An NGO has created an urban oasis in the city with a sensory garden

The chief secretary of Hong Kong, Carrie Lam, in her earlier avatar as the city’s Development Bureau Chief, was a big proponent of a Green Hong Kong. Under her leadership, the bureau pioneered a policy of leasing vacant urban land to people interested in farming as a hobby. Tiny tracts of land that were unused were all around the numerous high-rise concrete blocks scattered all over urban Hong Kong and Kowloon, and the government moved to lease such vacant usable land.

When the government announced its plan, the Kwun Tong-based Christian Family Service Centre (CFSC), a non-government, non-profit, organization (NGO), came forward to become one of its tenants. The CFSC leased a 75,000 sq ft area in Choi Hung, a crowded location in Hong Kong’s Kwun Tong district. Being an NGO, the CFSC pays just one Hong Kong dollar (13 U.S. cents) in yearly rent.

Integrating greenery with social services is the main objective of the CFSC, says Kitty Chau, programme director of the organization. The land, although small, is ideal for urban farming. The whole area is fenced and security is provided by the CFSC. Surrounded by tall residential blocks on all sides, 9,000 sq ft of the leased area is divided into small 30 sq ft-planters, or small plots of land for farming, each with one-foot high walls, filled with soil and watering facilities. Chau says that the whole project is designed to promote the environment as well as being a place for people to enjoy the greenery. The Christian organization also aims to increase interaction among the community together through this project. “Urban farming is a great way for people around the community to connect and relax,” says Ms Chau.


The first phase of the project was the Serene Oasis & Therapy Garden. Funded by Hong Kong’s Community Chest , an independent charity, the project began operating in August 2011. Serene Oasis has a size of 3,000 square feet. The therapy garden is used by people who have early symptoms of dementia and depression. The CFSC provides therapist training on how to equip with the techniques involved. It is open to public during designated hours.

A highlight of the garden is its raised bed platforms for wheelchair-bound patients, gardeners and visitors. There is also a meditation area and an uncluttered seating area with different planting beds of cool colours and water features. The promoters of the project believe that the sensory garden helps stimulate all the senses, namely sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch, for people suffering from weak sensory faculties.


The second phase of the project was the development of the Urban Oasis, housed in an area of 45,000 sq ft. The CFSC has already built 300 planters that are ready for farming on this land. The development of this project has been supported by Hong Kong’s Environmental Protection Department. The planters are open to the public under a city farmer scheme, with rent set at HK$300 per month, for six months. By early January, 150 applications from prospective farmers were in hand, and more enquiries are pouring in, according to Ms Chau. To keep the allocation of land fair, the CFSC plans to draw lots to decide on the winners among applicants.

A minimum of 50 planters will be reserved for the elderly and those with special needs. Handicapped users will have raised planters. An additional fifty planters have been reserved for the use of training people on farming techniques.

The winning urban farmers will be provided with seeds and fertilizers to promote organic farming. They can plant in a 30-sq ft planter a variety of seasonal vegetables, such as tomatoes, carrots , beans, chilies, just to name a few. But the centre is waiting for the approval of its application to the government’s Water Supply Department which was filed two years ago. As the CFSC was given the lease in 2010 for a period of three years the lands department is expected to renew it on a seasonal basis.

The CFSC also promotes the use of renewable energy and environmentally friendly measures along with the project. It already has installed a rainwater harvesting system. The promoters plan to set up hand cranks power generator sand street lights employing an LED system. They are proposing a green learning centre as well as eco tour activities. The Green Square in the oasis will be around 3,000 square feet and will be used for community gatherings.

Phase 3 of project Oasis is pending. This phase will have an area of 22,000 square feet. Ms Chau says, the CFSC welcomes new ideas, financial support and resources for the development of this area.


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