New Pathways for Promoting Environmental Protection and Sustainable Development of Rural Communities in China - Taoyuan County, Hunan Province

On May 16th 2012, the People’s Government of Lingjintan Township organized an opening ceremony for the Honghe Community Center, which Future Generations China’s Taoyuan Model Eco-Community and the Honghe Village Council worked together to complete. With fluttering flags, radiant flowers, and gongs and drums, the atmosphere was joyous and lively. Those present at the ceremony included: Chinese-American philanthropists Dr. Shung-ho and Mrs. Rong Juh Chang, American Dragon Group chairwoman Ms. Malina Yung, Future Generations board member Ms. Caroline Van, Future Generations China Director Professor Lei Guangchun, Deputy Country Director Cili Norbu, and the town leaders.

Dr. and Mrs. Shung-ho Chang were presented with an honorary citizenship certificate, and a commemorative plaque from the International Community Foundation, for their outstanding contributions to Honghe Village. The honorable guests were treated to a splendid performance of traditional dances and songs by the village’s school children.

After the ceremony, the first period of community training sessions began. Experts and professors were brought in from Beijing to teach the residents of Honghe Village about various topics. Mr. Lv Cai and Ms. Zeng Qing, arrived from Beijing Forestry University to talk about developing a national wetland park, benefiting both the environment and the economy through an ecotourism program, as well as the importance of protecting the iconic Chinese Merganser, a highly endangered species of duck native to the region. On the second day, Mr. Wang Weixing, from the Renmin University of China, gave a talk on the structure, formation and organization of farming collectives, which was supplemented by a presentation from the founder, Ms. Zheng Bin, and members of Yongji City Farmer’s Association, a highly successful farming collective in Shanxi Province. On the final day, Ms Cui Ying, an expert from Beijing introduced the women of the village to a handicrafts program that could provide an additional source of income. These training sessions will continue as the Taoyuan MEC program grows, in order to teach the farmers the skills that they need to develop a sustainable model of growth for their village.

The Honghe Community Center will provide a variety of services to the farmers, including skills training and cultural activities. To address the lack of pre-school level education that is prevalent in rural China, a kindergarden was also constructed next to the community center. This will offer classes, both large and small, for the villagers’ children, allowing them to have the chance to start their education early.

The completion of the Honghe Community Center represents the next step for the Taoyuan MEC program. The communal farming initiative will begin next month, and successive skills training sessions for the farmers will continue. Through community broadcasts, film screenings, and environmental awareness campaigns, the Taoyuan MEC program will help the farmers develop positive customs and practices, as well as improve the village as a whole. By supporting the community-driven formation through a farming collective and establishment of a community fund, Future Generations will help improve the entire village’s livelihood. The program will also aid in the development of an ecotourism project around the scenic Yuan River, as well as sustainable organic farming initiatives. Another goal of the Taoyuan MEC program is to foster strong bonds within the community, providing services for the young and elderly, and to promote a healthy recreational culture. These projects present a way for the farmers to protect the environment, and develop their economy in a sustainable fashion. Lingjin Tan Township Party Secretary, Lei Wang, gave high praise to the Taoyuan MEC program, and hoped to replicate Honghe Village’s successes throughout the rest of Taoyuan County.