In China, every year, more than 15 million people move from the countryside to the cities. Most will eventually find themselves living in an apartment in a multi-storey block. They may be cramped but at least they have a roof over their heads. But most of these new urbanites miss contact with nature and yearn for the days when they could potter in their own garden back in their ancestral village, enjoying fresh food produced through their own effort.
After moving to Yang Xunqiao Town, Shaoxing County in Zhejiang Province, Peng Qiugen found himself in this position. Living in a four storey block in the burgeoning city and with no access to land, he felt that his green fingered days were over. Much of the new housing in China is of a sturdy reinforced concrete construction, and once Mr. Peng had realised that his building had a sturdy flat roof, he made plans for his 120m2 rooftop farm.
Since 2007 he has been growing watermelons and rice on his roof and now neighbours are following suit. His rice harvest has been particularly successful. After planting in May he has been able to harvest more than 120kg of glutinous rice which is destined to be made into (in order of importance) rice wine, rice cake and rice dumpling.
In the same area, in previous years he has grown 400kg of watermelon, which he has been able to sell for in the local market. Next year he will try something else, no doubt further expanding our knowledge of rooftop agriculture.
Peng has become a minor celebrity in China and picked up a green roof award at this year's World Green Roof Congress in Shanghai. I enjoyed a banquet in his company after the awards. We had top entertainment in the form of Chinese opera and the food was pretty good, but despite the language barrier I could tell that he was itching to get back to his plot. Peng has seen the future and it involves many more cool green roofs!