By Huijin Yu, Clean Development Mechanism Research & Development Center of School of Public Policy and Management, Tsinghua University
In recent years, more and more non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have discovered that climate change is severely influencing poverty-stricken regions of the world, many of which have made an effort to develop solutions in response to these negative impacts. Regions severely affected by droughts or flooding, for example, have developed educational programs to teach and guide local residents to improve their ability of responding to these challenges.
Tsinghua University, a partner of the Alcoa Foundation Advancing Sustainability Research (ASR): Innovative Partnerships for Actionable Solutions initiative has investigated the non-governmental organization Green Watershed for its community governance program with residents’ participation in China’s Yunnan Province. Over the past 12 years, the program has worked to prevent increased detrimental environmental damage in the Lashi Lake area (below is the map of the area) and to maintain a sustainable way of living for local residents.
The Green Watershed program is based on the belief that environmental governance and disaster prevention are closely related and that appropriate governance could effectively improve farmers’ lives and production and prevent natural disasters such as flooding.
The program includes many sub-projects. One is community disaster governance project with the goal of realizing sustainable development of the environment. Due to 30 years of deforestation, the ecological environment had been severely damaged, and villages in Lashi Lake area became vulnerable to massive flooding. At-risk villages are carrying out a community disaster governance project through forest planting, methane utilization, and watershed management to achieve ecological restoration.
With support from Green Watershed and energy station in Yulong County, residents in Xihu Village built a methane pool by themselves to utilize livestock waste and human waste to generate methane gas for cooking. By doing this, residents no longer use wood when cooking, and this could protect the forest. More than 72 families in Xihu village have built methane pools. Meanwhile, led by Green Watershed, villagers built four dams, which could store water in dry seasons and prevent flood in rainy seasons, and might reduce the mud and sand flowing into Lashi Lake. Through the dam building process, problems such as irrigation and drainage are solved. In the past, flood could cause great damage to villagers who grew yams. In 2004, after the watershed was improved, villagers could earn about 7,000 RMB annually for each mu of yams because yams are no longer destroyed by floods.
There is also a sub-project focused on improving the sustainable livelihood of residents. With the help of Green Watershed, local residents developed a sustainable development approach giving priority to farming, complemented by ecological tourism and livestock breeding. The watershed region, surrounded by mountains on three sides, is abundant in forest resource and wild animals, which is quite attractive for ecological tourism.
In order to attract travelers, a Yi culture exhibition center was built and the city infrastructure was improved. Additionally, villagers could earn an income by providing meals and accommodations for travelers. Green Watershed also helped to bring in new varieties of sheep to improve the quality of livestock breeding. At the same time, it provided seeds of forage grass to villagers to solve the problem of lack of forage grass in the winter.
Overall, the community-oriented program of Green Watershed aims to promote community governance and disaster management with residents playing a major role. As a result, villagers gradually strengthened their ability to manage the community through their participation in programming planning and implementation.
Green Watershed’s work in the Yunnan Province underscores the fact that that a program model based on the constructive and cooperative dialogue among residents – including local government, NGOs and villagers – can potentially establish a long-term resource management model and realize a harmonious balance between sustainable development and environmental protection.