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Fields replanted as 400-year-old Lai Chi Wo is revitalised as example for Sai Kung

by Trevor Bailey

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The revitalisation of Lai Chi Wo, a 400-year-old Hakka village near Sha Tau Kok, points the way for Wong Chuk Yeung, now trashed, fenced off and uglified. A project to re-cultivate the land at Lai Chi Wo will be completed this year, according to Hong Kong Countryside Foundation. This is what could be done at Wong Chuk Yeung, Guy Shirra, former chairman of Friends of Sai Kung, said.

The Countryside Foundation, formed in 2011, turned its attention in the same year to Lai Chi Wo, which was on its way to becoming just another abandoned village. Working with the University of Hong Kong’s Sustainability Lab, Produce Green Foundation and the Conservancy Association as well as HSBC, the foundation set out on an agriculture-led revitalisation plan for Lai Chi Wo. Irrigation channels were re-developed and the fields cultivated. Rice, maize, turnip, taro, ginger, papaya are now grown on 40,000 sq metres of land rented by the foundation. A farmers’ market operates there. Residents have returned to the village and Lonely Planet now lists Lai Chi Wo as one of the top 10 destinations in Hong Kong. It is also designated legally as one of the territory’s 16 special regions.

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Why isn’t this happening at Wong Chuk Yeung? It is perfect for this kind of project: a lovely plateau where farming started 360 years ago, isolated high in the forested hills below the peaks of Ma On Shan. A developer with no soul has fenced it off and only bats live there now.

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Background on the Hong Kong Countryside Foundation: it was founded in 2011 by former Chief Executive C.Y. Leung and Sir David Akers-Jones. The Chairman is Lam Chiu-ying. The foundation states its aims as conserving the countryside and “working to turn dreams into projects”.

The foundation lists two advisers, Roger Nissim and Hans Michael Jebsen, Chairman of Jebsen & Co. Ltd. SAI KUNG BUZZ will ask them for comment on whether the land owners could be compensated and a revitalisation project undertaken for Wong Chuk Yeung. We will also consult Ng Sze-fuk, district council chairman for about 24 years.

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