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Community Resilience and Localised Food Production

Recall how people were panic buying rice and other supplies during the early stages of COVID-19 outbreak in Hong Kong. People began to wonder whether our city can survive if we were cut off from external supplies, whether we have the capacity to produce our own food to meet our needs. This is very much related to community resilience and localised production. 

Community resilience is the ability of the community to cope with and recover from unexpected shocks such as the COVID-19 pandemic. In other words, people in a resilient community can survive and thrive even when there are stresses or shocks. Localised food production contributes towards building a sustainable food system, and can also make our communities more resilient. 

Running an edible space is a good way to help people understand about localised food production and experience it themselves. When people grow vegetables, they are basically participating in the primary production of food. If they want to extend the shelf life of their crops, they can also pickle or dry some of the fruits or vegetables, which is a form of secondary production.

Benefits of localised food production

1. Shorten food supply chain

With fewer parties and steps involved in the food supply chain, such as transportation, possible contamination and food safety issues can be reduced.  Moreover, it is easier for consumers to trace back the origin of their food. Shorter handling time also enables crops to be delivered to consumers’ hands in a fresher condition. Most importantly, it enables a faster response to shocks and stresses.

Harvest lunch
Teammates preparing seedlings

2. Increase awareness in food quality and equality

It is so easy to buy food in a developed city, but do we really know what we are putting into our bodies? When people have a lack of information about the origins and impact of food choices on health, the environment, and economy, it leads to food illiteracy.  

Localised food production enables the public to get closer, if not trace, the origin of the food they buy and eat. Consumers will be able to communicate with local farmers directly to understand the practice they adopt in growing the crops. For example, the type of fertilisers used and the schedule of using pesticides, if any. Consumers can thus choose food according to their knowledge about the quality of farming practices adopted. In some cases, consumers can buy directly from the farmers, minimising the exploitation of farmers which is common.

4. Restore human-nature relationship

Harvest at HKU Rooftop Farm

3. Re-establish a sense of community

When people get close to the farm in a community, community cohesion can be achieved. Instead of being just a consumer buying food from a supermarket, people can also get to know the farmers who produce their food personally and establish more meaningful relationships.

Instructor Carol and workshop participants

Realising that the food you eat comes from nature can change how we relate to the environment. People not only become more conscious about the environment that they are in, but may also become more connected to nature. A healthy ecosystem can only be achieved if human-nature relationship is not defined by exploitation, but by care.

References & Extended Reading

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