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27 Jul 2021 | HI-LIFE

Sharing best practices of sustainable mountain development with Chinese community leaders in the Far Eastern Himalaya

Liu Rongkun & Yi Shaoliang

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Participants learning about guesthouse design in Baisha town, Lijiang City (Photo: Liu Rongkun/The Ohio State University)

When it comes to best practices, the answers usually lie close to home. Communities in China’s Yunnan Province understood that an open approach to sharing and adopting ideas locally can foster a culture of innovation and progress. Within the province, community members from Fugong County and Lijiang City saw that there was much to share and learn from each other on sustainable mountain development. To facilitate such sharing, we partnered with the Global Environmental Institute (GEI) to bring four leaders of rural cooperatives from Fugong to Lijiang on 20–21 June 2021 for a workshop and exposure visit. Community leaders in Lijiang and the visitors from Fugong exchanged ideas and practices on sustainable livelihoods, ecotourism, and community-based adaptation to climate change in mountain regions. This workshop followed another one we conducted in December 2020 in Fugong County on nature-based solutions for rural revitalization, focusing on sustainable livelihoods and rural eco-tourism potential assessment.

Lijiang City is famed for its pristine natural landscapes such as Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and Tiger Leaping Gorge, old towns and villages, and diverse ethnic cultures, attracting millions of visitors every year. Fugong also has great natural and cultural resources but lacks tourism development experiences and hosts very few visitors compared with Lijiang.

The knowledge exchange and training workshop focused on three themes: community adaptation to climate change, nature-based poverty alleviation and rural revitalization, and deepening women’s participation in community affairs. Our colleagues joined hands with experts from GEI, Lijiang Conservation and Development Association, Yulong County Wildlife Conservation Association, Media Center for Community, and Gathering Nature to present their experiences in sustainable community development and livelihood diversification. Cun Yanfang, Director of Lijiang Conservation and Development Association, delivered a presentation on community-based conservation and livelihood promotion, emphasizing the importance of strengthening a harmonious community–nature relationship and aligning development objectives with conservation goals, especially when it relates to the preservation of local ethnic and indigenous cultures.

experts discussing sustainable community development
Participants and experts discussing sustainable community development during the workshop (Photo: Liu Rongkun/The Ohio State University)


Wei Xingzhi, Director, Gathering Nature, introduced new models of community development through community-based nature education that integrates biodiversity conservation, ecotourism, and livelihood diversification. He provided the example of nature-based learning courses in the Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan Protected Areas, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as a model that could be adopted in Fugong. Yang Qing, Director of the Media Center for Community, highlighted the power of images and media for the dissemination of ideas on sustainable development and community heritage preservation, which form the bedrock of any community. Wang Qian, Program Officer, GEI, spoke about how an inclusive and gender-mainstreamed atmosphere can be cultivated through continuous reflections among household members concerning their gender-oriented roles and responsibilities while tackling climate change and accelerating green and low-carbon development.

Later, the participants visited Baisha town and Yuhu and Jiazi villages to learn about themed guesthouse design and management, as well as community-based rural ecotourism development and coordination. During the visit, the participants had the opportunity to exchange ideas with the managers of rural guesthouses such as Lijiang Tsingpu Baisha Retreat and Villafound Jade. In particular, the chiefs of Yuhu and Jiazi villages shared their experiences of implementing poverty alleviation programmes in areas inhabited by indigenous minorities. They emphasized the importance of having competent community leaders who can identify niche resources for their communities, build sustainable value chains with equitable distribution of resources, and coordinate with government bodies at various levels. Communities in Jiazi village have been able to yield average annual bonus shares of over RMB 10 million from their collective rural ecotourism services in Yulong Snow Mountain National Nature Reserve.

Participants discussing guesthouse design
Participants discussing guesthouse design, management, and customer service with the manager of Lijiang Tsingpu Baisha Retreat (Photo: Liu Rongkun/The Ohio State University)


“This is such a great learning experience for me. I hope such exchanges and learning sessions will be organized more often,” shared Li Zhijun, Director, Zhiyuan Nature-based Poverty Alleviation Cooperative in Fugong. He further shared how he intended to draw on the insights he had gained from the exposure visit to improve his guesthouse, Gaoligong Wanlai Mountain Lodge in Shiyueliang town in Fugong, which recently opened its doors to visitors.

The training workshop and exposure visit was part of the larger Global Environment Facility (GEF) Small Grants Programme-funded project titled “Promoting climate-smart livelihood space among mountain communities in Nujiang valley, northwest Yunnan”, which is being implemented since July 2019 in a UNESCO World Heritage Site – the Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan Protected Areas in northwest Yunnan. After the workshop in Lijiang, the participants were also invited to join another training focusing on tea plantation management and multidimensional agriculture development in Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture, which we jointly organized with the Tea Research Institute of Yunnan Academy of Agricultural Sciences, and Gongshan Zhicheng Yupin Tea Co., and supported by the Forest and Grassland Bureau of Gongshan County in Nujiang Prefecture.

Liu Rongkun is a PhD candidate at The Ohio State University. He is also a consultant for HI-LIFE activities in China.

He Shijian (middle), chief of Jiazi village 2
Experiencing value-added tourism 3
1. Participants speak with a local craftsman of copper wares for tourism souvenirs (Photo: Liu Rongkun/The Ohio State University) 2. He Shijian (middle), chief of Jiazi village in Lijiang shares his experience in rural ecotourism with participants from Fugong (Photo: Liu Rongkun/The Ohio State University) 3. Experiencing value-added tourism activities at Lijiang Tsingpu Baisha Retreat (Photo: Liu Rongkun/The Ohio State University)

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