Introduction to Community Supported Agriculture Programme that Promotes Urban-Rural Interaction

2012-05-09

Nurturing Facilitators

  • Community Supported Agriculture - How far apart is the ideal and the reality?
  • In what way can we help consumers to become closer with small farmers and with the land?
  • What should we do so that people who do not have a high income might eat healthy food too?

In response to a request by the CSA network for greater exchange and learning with urban consumers, an activity entitled “Spirit of Urban-Rural Mutual Support” was organized from March 24 to 28 2009 at the Chengdu Waldorf School. During these four days, participating organizations and individuals from five provinces shared experiences from their work over the last three years. Organisations in Hong Kong engaging in CSA, (Life in Harmony, St. James Settlement, Li-Ruhn, etc.) shared their group purchasing experience and how they worked with businesses (e.g. restaurants, shops) and grass root communities to support agriculture. They also shared their experience of organising small organic markets.

Nearly fifty people took part in the exchange. In the sharing from the participants, “trust, mutual help, dignity, and fairness” were not only words but rather experiences from everyday work. After the exchange, friends from Shichahai Green Living Centre gave us their feedback: “What we found most interesting in this activity was how it enabled ordinary consumers to participate in healthy agriculture while also reflecting how they could further contribute to sustainable development.”

PCD’s Community Supported Agriculture and Urban Farming Programme aims to provide a platform for discussion and exchange so that more people, especially urban consumers, will reflect on their lifestyles, consumption practices, and how these can impact on the environment and sustainable community development. The programme has been launched in Guangdong, Guangxi, Beijing (including Hebei) and Chengdu. Presently it focuses on exploring the following:

  • Healthy ways of farming;
  • Local production, local consumption; consumption of local and seasonal food;
  • Forms of beneficial urban-rural interaction.

Since 2006, we have been carrying out a healthy agriculture volunteer internship programme. The programme management team has worked with receiving organizations to provide volunteers with internships, training and exposure on sustainable agriculture, urban consumer education, and transformation of farming practices. By working with organizations from all over the country and through the efforts of the young volunteers, we have been exploring healthy models of agricultural development that are appropriate to local conditions. At the same time, learning and exchange activities are organized every year to nurture cooperation between network partners. To-date nearly twenty people have completed the programme and will mostly remain in their receiving organizations, thus forming the mainstay of these organizations. The number of partner organizations has also increased to about fourteen.

As the issue of food safety is drawing public attention, we have discovered that in places outside the province where the project is being implemented, there are individuals and groups that are moving in the same direction of their own accord. Even though these are early stages, these people have good connections to local resources and demonstrate enthusiasm about having more interaction with current network partners. As a member of the network, we are actively working with partner organizations and volunteers to document experiences over the last three years in order to support friends working in this area. In the meantime, we are cooperating with friends from Hong Kong, Taiwan and Southeast Asia in the hope of bringing more sophisticated experiences to the mainland.

Zhu Ming
Programme Officer, Urban Programme, PCD