MA PO PO: Sustainable Future in Fanling, Hong Kong
We almost forgot Hong Kong still has a considerable amount of arable land suitable for farming until we visited Ma Po Po (馬寶寶), the community farm at Ma Shi Po Village (馬屎埔) in Fanling (粉嶺). In recent months, the government’s proposal to develop rural areas and farming villages into high dense residential communities in Northeast North Territories has became a controversial topic in the city.
Hanging on the metal gate of Ma Po Po Community Farmer’s Market is a handmade signage. Ma Po Po literally means “Baby Horse”. The founders of the farmer’s market hope that everyone would treat the gradually disappearing farmland with care and love as if their baby.
Developing the north region of New Territories is a controversial topic in recent months. Many farmers, including the villagers at Ma Po Po, are facing a real risk of eviction. The Hong Kong government favors urban development over agriculture, and doesn’t seem to bother finding a balanced solution that encourages the coexistence of farming and urban development.
Wall mural depicting the snacks that once sold at this village’s grocery store. The elderly shop owner is still living in this house, but his tiny shop couldn’t stand the contest with the chain supermarkets outside the village.
Simple wall murals are common in Ma Shi Po depicting original farming scenes. Since the residential towers were built across the street from the village, sunlight exposure to certain farmlands is greatly affected. Some owners switch to growing fruit trees instead.
Raising poultry was once part of the village life. However, we were told that in recent years the government has imposed heavy restrictions on raising poultry. Today, free range chickens and ducks can only be seen on wall murals captured by the young artists.
The guide presented a bucket of soy pulp collected from a tofu shops nearby. Many types of organic waste are being collected from restaurants and markets in nearby neighborhoods to support organic farming. Ma Po Po aims to demonstrate a perfect cycle of co-existence among organic farmers, restaurants and the local communities. Not only does their collection/compost/farming cycle create some of the best produce in the city, it also indicates a strategy that partially alleviates the burden of organic waste.
The last part of the tour was to demonstrate about how the collected organic waste is turned into organic fertilizer. Removing the plastic wrap, our guide showed us a compost mount, in which dry leaves and branches were mixed with small amount of organic waste such as fish bones.
Many original farmlands and houses have been vacant or sold to large developers. Large developers then come and fence off the properties under their control. After months of neglect these lands would soon turn into overgrown wastelands. Some people have proposed to rent the abandoned farmlands from the developers while the land was left idling. Their proposals were rejected by the developers.
While exiting Ma Shi Po, we could clearly see the overwhelming residential development just across the street. Without character, memories, and living traditions, these highrise developments are efficient machines to house a population made up mainly with people from elsewhere in the city.
We brought back lots of fresh vegetables from Ma Po Po. They were definitely the sweetest vegetables we’ve ever had in recent months. Now, a visit to Ma Po Po Farmer’s Market has become our weekly ritual. People who live in the Fanling area are lucky to live so close to this terrific organic farm. We believe in balanced development. The coexistence of Ma Po Po and the surrounding neighborhoods shows us a good example of what a sustainable future may look like for generations to come.