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Story and Photos by Jia Ruting | Assistant to the Country Director | Heifer China
Zhang Ping, director of Dumex Baby Food Co., Ltd., a subsidiary of Danone Baby Nutrition, and four others visited the Heifer China office on December 3, 2012. The trip had two objectives: to hold the first Danone-Heifer Hebei Yudaokou Community Development Project steering committee meeting and to learn Heifer's best practices through a visit to Heifer China’s Earthquake Rehabilitation Project communities.
The Hebei Yudaokou Community Development Project is sponsored by the Danone Ecosystem Fund (a fund promoting projects of common interest). These projects aim to create shared value for all stakeholders working with Danone, i.e. the “ecosystem” of the company. The project, which took more than one year of investigation and preparation, was launched in November 2012.
The ambition of the project is to alleviate poverty in Yu Dao Kou Township over a period of five years by providing farmers with the gift of animals and by setting up a community-based organization to empower the farmers with technical training, local free interest loans, government subsidies, and better access to markets. In addition to increasing the incomes of local farmers, this project will ensure good dairy quality and product safety, while focusing on environmental protection.
Both Heifer China and two subsidiaries of Danone in China (Dumex Baby Food and Danone Dairy) hope that, through joint efforts, this first project will set a good example for the cooperation between non-governmental organizations (NGOs), corporations and communities.
At the beginning of the steering committee meeting, Senior Program Manager Cheng Peilin spoke about Heifer’s Theory of Change, its project model and the project’s impact. Heifer China Beijing Regional Project Manager Song Jinpin reported on the project’s progress and answered questions raised by attendees. Both discussed the 2013 project plan, including local resource implementation, government support and the next-phase timeline.
On the second day, the Danone team visited Heifer China’s Earthquake Rehabilitation Project in Xiangshui Village, Junle Township in Pengzhou City, Sichuan Province. Chen Taiyong, country director of Heifer China, and the village leader gave enthusiastic speeches at a welcome ceremony, where farmers performed a dance and a Kuaiban, or a bamboo clapper performance.
As the guests visited project participant families, they learned that breeding rabbits had significantly improved the farmers’ incomes. In addition, they learned that the families used rabbit manure to fertilize the soil and saw that vegetables growing in manure-fertilized plots appeared healthier than other vegetables. The visitors also discovered that, with guidance from the local self-help group, the community formed a cultural performance group comprised of members of all ages. Now townspeople gather regularly to dance. Extracurricular activities are no longer restricted to playing cards and mahjong. A more harmonious neighborhood and positive community spirit greatly impressed the visitors.