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Story and Photos by Pan Sheng | Xinjiang Regional Manager | Heifer China
Farmers actively voiced their opinions and discussed the issues they faced more freely after shifting their training meetings from a village meeting room to a home. Before the shift, very few participants actively voiced their thoughts. However, due to the comfort of holding the meetings on a warm kang (a traditional heated-brick platform bed), no one felt inhibited about participating.
The farmers, participants in Heifer China’s Turpan City project from Jangza and Gongxiang villages, met in a participant's home that was most convenient for them from October 12-18, 2012. Unlike previous trainings, all seven sessions were carried out at night.
"It's much easier to open up [discussion] when holding trainings on the kang than in the village meeting room,” the program's local partner Tohti said. “From now on we should use this method more of holding meetings on the kang in order to see ample participation in the trainings, [because] only then can we truly be effective."
Because October is the busy autumn harvesting season for Turpan farmers, Heifer's coordinator for Turpan City decided to hold training sessions at night after participants had eaten dinner. During the day, Heifer staff and farmers were able to confer and gather information about the villages' work throughout the training period, an added benefit of holding the training at night. During the training session, farmers discussed topics that included the establishment of and rules for mutual aid groups, the spending of group funds, agricultural insurance and a national governmental policy to benefit rural areas.
In this relaxed setting, many farmers offered multiple suitable suggestions relating to their village's actual situation, taking an active role in determining solutions for their community.