XINING (Dec. 30, 2014) – Chinese environmental NGO, the Global Environmental Institute (GEI), along with the Sanjiangyuan (Three Rivers) National Nature Reserve Management Bureau and Qinghai Forestry Department jointly held the “Three Rivers Region Eco-farming Development Seminar” in Xining, the capital city of China’s Qinghai province.
Experts from Qinghai University, Inner Mongolia University and the Sichuan Academy of Social Sciences were invited to attend the seminar along with community members including demonstration project participant households from Haidong City, Yushu City, Haiyan County, Jigzhi County, Banma County, Nangqen County, Qumalai County and Gonghe County.
During the seminar, participants took part in exchanges and discussions about methods to introduce sustainable eco-farming practices to the Sanjiangyuan region.
Mr. Li Ruofan, Director of the Sanjiangyuan National Nature Reserve Management Office/Bureau
Mr Li emphasized that in the past the government’s environmental work paid more attention specifically to ecological protection, but if this work is to be successful it is also necessary to pay attention to enhancing economic circumstances in local communities, to develop the local economy at the same time as protecting the environment.
Director Li went on to describe how developing eco-farming in light of local conditions and cultural characteristics, along with demonstration and developing an ecosystem services-based economy, are both important methods to bring about ecological protection and development of the local economy in the Sanjiangyuan region.
Director of Qinghai Forestry Department’s International Cooperation Office, Ms. Zhang Li
Ms Zhang took part in a study tour of US Eco-farms organized by GEI in September 2014, and during her address to the seminar compared the status of US eco-farms and the current circumstances surrounding development of the livestock industry in Qinghai.
Director Zhang pointed out that herdsmen in the Sanjiangyuan region are contracted to large areas of land, and coupling the development of eco-farming and related industries with appropriate cooperative transformation would provide favorable conditions to develop eco-farming across the length and breadth of their land. To achieve this, however, support is needed in terms of finance, tax relief and the provision of agricultural insurance, along with relevant training and the support of related policies including those governing land access and use.
GEI Sanjiangyuan Program Coordinator, Dr. Peng Kui
Dr. Peng introduced the concept and background behind GEI’s community protection agreement and climate change adaptation work in the region, along with current progress of work to demonstrate protection agreements community development in Longge and Ganda villages.
Chief of Sanjiangyuan National Nature Reserve Management Bureau, Basanglamao
Basanglamao explained the plan for protection and community development in the two demonstration villages.
- In Longge village, the protection and development fund acts as the basis for the project, providing support to villages to hand make yak tents in order to develop the local economy. The fund is also used to purchase forage for the winter and conduct training and demonstrations about using different types of grass, while villagers continue to carry out work sorting local waste to protect the local ecology.
- In Ganda village protecting the water supply is the core of the project, along with launching eco-tourism and a women’s handicraft cooperative to supply high quality livestock products, this increasing the economic income of the community.
Experts from three of China’s academic institutions then introduced their areas of research and work to the seminar.
Professor Da Lintai from Inner Mongolia University introduced joint ownership and management of the Alxa league grassland, taking the Alxa Zuoqi area of this prefecture-level subdivision of Inner Mongolia as an example.
Research Fellow Li Shengzhi from Sichuan Academy of Social Sciences then introduced the use of value chain tools in ecological and economic development, taking the Baoxing county long-haired rabbit as an example.
Professor Liu Shujie from Qinghai University spoke about the development path of the Tibetan Yak industry.
Feedback on US-Study Tour
During the discussion part of the seminar, Tibetan herdsmen that took part in the September Eco-farm study tour to America shared their experiences and what they had gained from the trip, along with their thoughts and activities after returning, including joint household grazing and Tibetan agri-tourism.
Representatives from different villages also gave accounts of circumstances in the village, the challenges encountered in environmental protection and development and the thoughts and actions taken to address them.
GEI’s Dr. Peng carried on the discussion with some of the herdsmen representatives and academic experts into the evening, including local circumstances and challenges, and explored opportunities to support communities to realize environmental protection and economic development such as bringing Haidong City and Haiyan County into future demonstration projects.
Participants left the seminar with genuine confidence and expectations for future cooperation. Since beginning the Sanjiangyuan project in September 2013, GEI’s Dr. Peng has lost count of the number of times he has visited the region, but after each time engaging local herdsmen in discussion has the feeling that time is not enough. He is a firm believer that by conducting projects in the region is a way of repaying the Sanjiangyuan region for the ecological services it provides us, and repaying the herdsman for their hard work to protect our water sources and ecological systems.
About the US Study Trip
From August 30 to September 6, GEI led a group of 9 delegates including respected rural farmers and government officials from China’s Three Rivers Region (Sanjiangyuan), among four of whom are Tibetans, on a study tour of U.S. Eco-farms.
The group visited three eco-farms in the east of the U.S., namely Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, Polyface Inc. and Timbercreek Farm.
GEI organized the trip in hopes to leverage the capacity of the respected rural farmers and government officials to lead other local farmers in their region to develop the eco-economy, by learning about the concept, management methods and operation of American eco-farms through the visit.
The three farms the group visited are small, environmentally-friendly farms which respect the principles of the ecological cycle, and differ greatly from large-scale, industrialized farms more typical of the modern U.S-agriculture system. The farms adopt the raising model of transferring and rotational grazing, which enables them to achieve sustainable grassland use and preserve animals’ health, without the use of antibiotics to prevent sickness. In addition, the eco-farms insist on recycling all kinds of materials, which results in zero emissions of waste.
The farms also do not use chemical fertilizers and pest control chemicals, the eco-farms produce healthy, ecological agricultural products while protecting the environment. While sharing the same basic principles, the three farms each have unique features.
The Three Farms Visited
The Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture owns both open land and green houses for vegetable planting. According to differences in soil nutrition, the farm plants different vegetables accordingly. By adopting rotational planting, the farm not only makes full use of and maintains soil fertility, but also avoid harmful pests. The farm owner ensures the safety and health of the vegetables by using only green manure and compost.
Polyface Farm has become a pioneer and model of American eco-farms. The farm has a slaughter and processing house which can slaughter and process animals quickly. It also features a timber mill, grinding factory and shop, which bring extra profits to the farm. The shop sells merchandise and educational material introducing the farm. In addition, the farm owner often gives lectures and takes part in interviews, as well as organizing markets and farm visits, which not only brings profits but also increases the farm’s impact.
Timbercreek Farm also follows a rotational grazing method and has a strong focus on being part of the local community. It buys locally to reduce the carbon footprint of the farm and only sells its products locally, which Timbercreek believes ensures accountability throughout the supply chain. Following completion of the U.S. eco-farm study tour, the delegates expressed how the experience had been a real eye-opener.
Although there are significant differences between the Three Rivers Region and the places visited in terms of natural environment and resources, management conditions and the economy, religion and so on, the delegates committed to think over and make careful plans for conducting pilot eco-farms in their hometowns, in the hope of leading the development of surrounding communities.