Supporting Organic farmers in China

There is a wave of organic farming taking place in parts of China.

April 27th 2011_Anlong Village, Sichuan, China_ Organic farmer Mr. Gao Yi Cheng (with short hair), shows off some 8 month old Pixian Douban, which is a famous chili paste made in China's Sichuan province. Mr. Gao's organic farm is located near the city of Chengdu, in the village of Anlong in Sichuan, China Photographer: Daniel J. Groshong/The Hummingfish Foundation

Thanks to the hard work of several organizations, like the Quan Riverbank Natural Farming Co-Op, International Rivers and the Chendu Urban Rivers Association, Chinese farmers are going back to their roots and tending to their land in organic and sustainable ways, using natural fertilizers, organic waste fuel generators, multi-crop planting methods and more.

The Hummingfish Foundation is committed to support this trend towards organic farming in two ways. Supporting the supply side (the farmers) and working to increase the demand side (the consumers).

Any serious shift to organic farming, must be driven by the consumers.  The more people who demand healthy food, the more farmers will work to provide that food.

Eating organic food is not only healthy for us humans, but it is also good for the environment and all the animal species that share our ecosystem with us.  As it turns out, the majority of river pollution in China comes from agriculture!  If we all demand organic foods, we will not only be healthier people, but we will be doing allot to help protect our ecosystem as well.

As a part of our efforts to encourage more supply side demand for organic produce, The Hummingfish Foundation is organizing a special event in Hong Kong, which will include organic produce shipped daily from Anlong Village in Sichuan directly to our Hong Kong event.

On the support of the supply side of the organic farming equation, The Hummingfish Foundation is in the process of putting together a monthly newsletter in Chinese for the organic farmers.  We plan to give these informative newsletters away for free at farm supply stores in rural China as well as publish on online version (Yes, many rural Chinese farmers have access to internet).  We think that providing helpful and important information about the world of organic farming will not only be useful for the organic farmers themselves, but will also serve as an incentive for non-organic farmers to switch to organic methods.

It should be clear, that when we say “organic” farming, we mean farmers who are producing their crops using organic methods.  There has yet to be any internationally recognized certification of these farms, but for sure, they have stopped using chemical fertilizers and pesticides.  Getting an internationally recognized “organic” certification is an expensive process and for the moment is out of reach for these rural farmers in China.

 

Please read this excellent story on the state of China’s rivers and the efforts to protect them:

April 27th 2011_Anlong Village, Sichuan, China_ A delicious organic vegetarian meal sits at the ready on an organic farm, which is located near the city of Chengdu, in the village of Anlong in Sichuan, China. Photographer: Daniel J. Groshong/The Hummingfish Foundation

To Save Rivers, Help Farmers – Chinese environmental activist Tian Jun found that in order to clean up Chengdu’s rivers, she needed to look upstream. – April 30, 2008

Chengdu, China — Tian Jun remembers when she could still drink the water from the rivers. But that was long ago, before industrial and agricultural pollution turned the water a fetid brown.

Now, she is working to turn things around.

Ms. Tian is a Chinese environmentalist from Chengdu, the capital of western Sichuan Province. She lives in a small apartment in a city of 10 million people.

But she also makes regular trips to the surrounding countryside. One sunny spring afternoon, Tian toured the family farm of Gao Shengdian, a longtime farmer who, together with his wife, grows wheat, rice, corn, and 10 kinds of vegetables.

Like most farmers in China, Mr. Gao once used large quantities of chemical fertilizer. He purchased this fertilizer from the wheelbarrow of an unlicensed local vendor and he believes it was often impure, even toxic.

Now Gao points proudly to a series of tidy tomato plots. They are labeled with new signs that read, in neatly written Chinese characters, “Green vegetable farmland.” He is converting these plots to organic farming, a three-year process. For Tian and other residents downstream, this means less agricultural pollution in their water supply.

April 27th 2011_Anlong Village, Sichuan, China_ Organic farmer Mr. Gao Yi Cheng (foreground), shows off some of his organic farm, which is located near the city of Chengdu, in the village of Anlong in Sichuan, China Photographer: Daniel J. Groshong/The Hummingfish Foundation

This farm is one of a dozen now enrolled in a sustainable agriculture program that Tian helped launch three years ago. An environmental group that she heads splits the cost of equipment to produce “biofertilizer” from compost and manure on the farms, provides tips on what crops grow best, and connects farmers with nearby urban consumers who want organically grown produce.

Many more families have requested to join the program. Gao says his neighbors are jealous.

But Tian is growing the initiative slowly, taking time to perfect the model. “When I think about how to make a project sustainable, I don’t just think about the land,” she says. “The human relationships must be sustainable, too. We need to figure out how to make everyone’s interests meet.”

Tian didn’t set out to save the countryside. She first embarked to clean up the city. But, as she found, those two goals are intertwined.

 

April 27th 2011_Anlong Village, Sichuan, China_ Organic farmer Mr. Gao Yi Cheng, shows off some of his organic farm, which is located near the city of Chengdu, in the village of Anlong in Sichuan, China Photographer: Daniel J. Groshong/The Hummingfish FoundationHer hometown of Chengdu is an ancient city at the convergence of the Fu and Nan rivers in southwest China. Like many Chinese cities, it began to grow rapidly in the 1970s. Factories began to dump wastewater into the rivers. Several thousand food vendors and small shopkeepers did the same. Sewage pipes led directly into urban canals.

Her hometown of Chengdu is an ancient city at the convergence of the Fu and Nan rivers in southwest China. Like many Chinese cities, it began to grow rapidly in the 1970s. Factories began to dump wastewater into the rivers. Several thousand food vendors and small shopkeepers did the same. Sewage pipes led directly into urban canals.

At the time, Tian was working as a journalist. There was little precedent for environmental cleanup in China, but through her work she learned about international discussions on the environment, including the 1992 United Nations’ “Earth Summit” in Rio de Janeiro, which made “sustainable development” a global buzzword.

In the early 1990s, Tian began to lobby the city government to clean up the rivers. She helped convince local authorities that a cleaner environment would improve the city’s image with foreign investors and tourists, and they hired her to establish a fledgling conservation office. In the next decade, she says the city spent about 10 billion yuan ($1.4 billion), on river cleanup.

Today many factories have moved outside Chengdu city limits. Local air and water quality have improved. The rivers are no longer brown. The United Nations Environment Program in 2000 recognized Chengdu at a conference on “Learning From Best Practices.” The city has even built parkland and planted cherry trees along sections of the rivers.

Tian worries about the potential for backsliding if public attention doesn’t remain focused on these issues. In 2003, she founded an environmental nonprofit, Chengdu Urban Rivers Association and began to work with local university students on a “Get More Green” outreach campaign.

“If we don’t have good environmental education after we improve the rivers,” she says, “our progress could disappear.”

Here is another excellent article about the effort to save China’s rivers on the Zester Daily.

Have a look at the Chendu Urban Rivers Association and International Rivers.

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