Hebian Village, a University Professor’s Experiment with Poverty Alleviation

公益时报

中文 English

Editor’s Note

This article was originally published by the China Philanthropy Times(公益时报)on the 26th of August 2017. It describes a poverty alleviation project led by Professor Li Xiaoyun in a village in Southern Yunnan province, near the border with Laos. Below is CDB’s translation.

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In 2011 the Chinese government drew up a program to eradicate poverty lasting until 2020. This program must count as the most determined action taken since the state started promoting poverty alleviation, and the one with the highest amount of resources invested in it. Its strength is unprecedented. The comprehensive effort to manage the deep poverty in Hebian village is a successful case of effective poverty alleviation supported by China’s charity sector, which displays certain unique characteristics.

Li Xiaoyun, a professor from China Agricultural University, has researched poverty alleviation for more than 20 years and set up the “Xiaoyun Poverty Alleviation Centre” in Hebian village (literally “Riverside Village”), Mengla County, Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture, Yunnan Province, creating a model of cooperation between the charity sector and the government. This model has been extensively propagated and studied.

So what kind of background is there to the successes that have been achieved by the Xiaoyun Poverty Alleviation Centre? What influences have come out of the project’s methods and production? Does this method have the potential to be reproduced? And what kind of plans are there for the future? In order to answer these questions, the China Philanthropy Times carried out a special interview with the founder of the Xiaoyun Donation Centre, and listened to his and Hebian village’s story.

 

Why carry out the Hebian Village project?

In March 2015, the Xiaoyun Poverty Alleviation Center established a presence in Hebian Village, a village of the Yao ethnic minority in Mengla County, Yunnan Province. Within two short years, the Hebian Village Project had already received approval from the Yunnan Provincial government, and was being promoted throughout the whole province.

From Li Xiaoyun’s point of view, if public welfare organisations want to become a pro-active force in China’s political and social transformation, they must define how they will set up a more pro-active relationship with the government, and this relationship must be based on two preconditions; the first one is guaranteeing the stability of China’s politics and society, without creating divisions or inconveniences, and the other one is ensuring that resources are used in a complementary and effective fashion while building up this relationship, avoiding waste.

As Li Xiaoyun emphasises, “the government and the public welfare organisations must sufficiently complement each other and improve efficiency in their use of resources for development and for resolving social problems. This complementary relationship depends on NGOs sufficiently demonstrating an original purpose. We must make the purpose and positioning of public welfare organisations unshakeable and indispensable. So looking back, has today’s public welfare sector reached this point? There’s still a long way to go.”

As one of the first researchers studying poverty alleviation, Li Xiaoyun feels that capital, ideas and government leadership and planning are never lacking in poverty alleviation projects. Only the issue of walking the ‘last mile’ and reaching the poor remains unsolved.

According to Li Xiaoyun, poverty alleviation is a very scientific and serious work that requires high technical abilities, but non-profit organizations should not stop exploring and learning, because that is their mission. As an academic studying poverty alleviation, he wanted to do an experiment – to see how non-profit organizations can meet the needs of both governments and ordinary people in solving the ‘last mile’ problem, and spend the money that the government has put into the problem both professionally and effectively.

Li Xiaoyun once visited Mengla County in the 1990s, and at the time it left him with quite a good impression. Two years ago, when he returned to Mengla County to do poverty alleviation research in Hebian village, he was deeply touched by the situation in the village. Since none of the houses could be defined as decent, the village children had to walk and play barefoot on the cold floor during winter. The farmers’ living quarters were scattered, transportation was extremely inconvenient, manufacturing and standards of living were backward, social development was low, poverty ran deep, the ability to self-develop was weak, and the subjective push to break out of poverty was insufficient.

Why not sink in, leverage his own academic achievements and partner with the party committee, government and local villagers to explore and develop a recipe for the economic development of Hebian village? Thus he decided to stay and begin his intricate ‘last mile’ poverty alleviation experiment there.

Mengla County is situated in the southernmost part of Yunnan Province, sharing a border with Laos. Under the jurisdiction of Hebian is a natural village of the Landianyao ethnic group, right next to the rainforest, where every sugar cane season wild elephants would come to eat the crops, sometimes even breaking into the villages. As transportation is very inconvenient, Hebian village can be said to have the worst conditions out of the whole Mengla County.

Because traffic and road conditions were so poor, villagers would be effectively trapped at home whenever it rained. Additionally, many households in the village also shouldered debt. Through research, Li Xiaoyun found that from 2014 to 2015 the yearly average household income in Hebian village was 13,277 Yuan and per capita income was 3,193 Yuan, much lower than the average per capita income for China’s rural residents in 2014, which was 10,489 Yuan, and lower than the average for Yunnan province in 2014, which was 7,456 Yuan.

Therefore, the original intention of Li Xiaoyun’s experiment was to find out how to solve the kind of structural poverty that plagued Hebian village.

 

A strategy for development and prosperity in Hebian village

In March 2015, Action Against Poverty (AAP, 小云助贫中心) was registered with the Mengla County Civil Affairs Bureau. Various departments within Mengla County gave the organization enormous support during the registration process. The County Poverty Alleviation Business department and the County Registration Management department within the Civil Affairs Bureau helped Action Against Poverty to obtain legal status.

According to Li Xiaoyun, Action Against Poverty currently only has three permanent members of staff, in other words a full-time project officer, a driver also acting as a project officer, and an accountant. The centre’s projects are implemented through the mobilization and recruitment of various kinds of professional volunteers. These volunteers include Li Xiaoyun’s colleagues and students, and professional volunteers recruited externally, such as architects.

“If the income of those in deep poverty is raised by 20% (and farmers’ income nationally grows at an annual rate of 9-10%), at this rate the farmers will never escape poverty. We thus proposed that if Hebian village is to escape the low income trap, incomes must increase by at least 100%”, as Li Xiaoyun concluded after careful calculations. Based on this conclusion, he proposed that Hebian village should develop a compound industry.

“We analysed the local characteristics, for example the natural resources and climate, and we finally decided to take advantage of the local climate (which allows you to avoid the freezing cold in winter and the oppressive heat in summer). At the same time, the local rainforests are home to Asian elephants and other natural resources and tourist attractions; there is also the Yao people’s own minority culture. We can turn Hebian village into a small scale conference village, used mainly for meetings and training, but also for leisure, tourism, parent and child activities and so on, and create a leading industry. Following this lead we created our own public welfare product, called the Yao Mama Guesthouse” Li Xiaoyun explains.

Li Xiaoyun structured the model of the Hebian village project on the following basis: first of all, develop the leading industries. Hebian village itself has many strengths, such as a full range of natural climate advantages, the tropical rainforest landscape, and the nearby tourist attraction of the Parashorea tree scenic area. Based on these strengths, Li Xiaoyun plans to turn Hebian village into a high-end conference and economic tourism town. Once the houses are built, future tourists and people who come to attend meetings can stay at the Yao family guesthouses, living alongside the local people and experiencing ‘full immersion’ in the local culture. Such a set up would increase the farmers’ income substantially. This is the leading industry in Li Xiaoyun’s blueprint for poverty alleviation.

Secondly, develop subsidiary industries. Action Against Poverty created the Hebian village brand of “Natural Rainforest Eggs” and targeted high-end consumer groups in Beijing, Shanghai and other big cities through an online business platform. Supplied directly to Shanghai, Beijing and other places, these “Natural Rainforest Eggs” can be sold for 10RMB a piece, bringing in a considerable income for the villagers. According to Li Xiaoyun, future products for potential distribution include traditional brown sugar, honey pomelos, Japanese bananas, papayas, honey and other natural products. At the same time, the farming of winter vegetables will also be developed to increase the diversity of the subsidiary industry.

Thirdly, develop the basic industry; that is, the existing local farming industries, such as rice, corn and sugarcane.

 

Hebian Village Development Model

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“Adding up these three levels, the income of the farmers is no longer limited like it used to be”, says Li Xiaoyun. He added that without resolving the problem of income growth, they could only keep going round in circles, stuck in the poverty trap.

“We plan to spend three years on the construction of a residential system based on the principles of ecological health and economic sustainability. The system will help the villagers break free from the costs imposed by housing and the environment. We will complete the basic construction of the infrastructure and public service facilities in the village, so that they are no longer an obstacle on the path to improving the quality of life of the villagers. We will build a high-output, market-oriented, advanced system of ecological manufacturing, so as to get rid of the village’s dependence on the rainforest’s natural resources, the environmental destruction and the state of perennial low income. We will develop a public welfare model of rural governance which everyone can participate in, and change the backwards situation of service and governance in areas of rural poverty”, says Li Xiaoyun.

 

Integrating Resources from the Government and the Public Welfare Sector

Putting a plan to action requires funding support. By collaborating with government and public welfare forces, the AAP has found a path towards a common effort for development.

The government supplied more than 10,000,000 Yuan for the construction of housing and infrastructure. In order to decrease the farmers’ debts, the AAP sought public funding for construction in Hebian village and the building of the Yao Mama Guesthouse through Tencent’s “9/9 Charity Day”. In 2015 and 2016, it raised more than 1,100,000 and 600,000 Yuan respectively. With the support of the AIDE Foundation and the China Women’s Development Foundation, a public organization was established to supervise the use of donations throughout the project.

Through this mechanism, the AAP also attracted donations from the China Merchants Foundation and the Australian Embassy. The donations raised through the “9/9 Charity Day” and other charitable organizations totalled more than 3 million Yuan, mainly used to subsidize the village’s landscaping, model housing, model room construction, and the Yao Mama Guesthouse’s interior decorating.

“Funds from the “9/9 Charity Day” will be used to subsidize farmers’ housing. Each household will get more than 20,000 Yuan for windows, bedding, lighting and extras. If there was no government investment in the construction of housing and infrastructure, it would be impossible to build the Yao Mama Guesthouse. This shows that public resources must be used in the most technical areas, and cannot fully replace government resources”, Li Xiaoyun sums up.

“The most crucial aspects are innovation and professionalism. Our working methods are meant to complement the government’s work under their leadership, and to create a uniquely irreplaceable role for public welfare organizations by making up for what’s lacking. With the help of government-led projects, charitable organizations can establish their own unique role in society so that all can see their value. Once you have made obvious achievements, society cannot deny your value”, he stresses.

The government and nonprofits have achieved a good collaboration through this method. This combined effort, however, also presents a big challenge.

“Action Against Poverty has implemented really modern concepts in a really traditional and underdeveloped village. However, there exists a considerable gap in the areas of management and marketization. The local farmers aren’t able to keep up, nor are they able to organize these things themselves. This has become the next focal point of our work: how can we work with the farmers to establish a set of relationships and mechanisms that will allow us to carry out our work.”

According to Li Xiaoyun, the local problems they have encountered are not only deep but unlike what other charitable organizations face. “First of all, how does a charitable organization take the advanced, modern concepts it has brought to a village and indigenize them? That’s a big challenge. At the moment we don’t have any better way of tackling this problem, and because we’re still searching for an answer, we’ve decided to slow down.

Secondly, after charitable organizations are able to find an innovative way to reach the second stage, it is incredibly difficult to determine how to help the farmers engage in innovation and get connected with the market. Currently the standard method has been to connect companies with household farms, but sometimes this isn’t exactly an ideal solution. So at the moment, our work has really come up against a bottleneck within the charitable sector, and our administrative and innovative capacities are lacking. The current problems are that farmers continue to rely on Action Against Poverty, while the outside world doesn’t correctly understand the needs or strengths of the local people.”

Referring to Action Against Poverty’s plans for the future, Li Xiaoyun says “Action Against Poverty plans to work with the UNDP and the Yunnan branch of the All China Women’s Federation, as well as the UNDP and the Hainan Provincial Government, to set up project areas in the cities of Chuxiong in Yunnan Province and Wuzhishan in Hainan Province, respectively. In Enshi County, Hubei Province, we will provide charity project support for a poverty alleviation district created by the Xinhu Group. This shows that our project model can be replicated.”

“What we want to do now is determine how to link up farmers with the market and how to market their products. At present, since our local projects can’t operate independently of Action Against Poverty, and the local government doesn’t have the ability to take them over, we plan to possibly operate through a social enterprise model.”

河边村,一位大学教授的扶贫试验

2017-08-29 来源 :公益时报  作者 : 李庆 皮磊 通过规划,河边村展露出全新的面貌

 

“国家在2011年制定了到2020年消除贫困的目标,这是国家自推动扶贫工作以来决心最大、资金资源投入也是最大的扶贫行动,其力度前所未有。河边村深度性贫困综合治理实践是在中国公益界集体支持下,在精准扶贫场域中发挥独特性作用的成功案例。”

中国农业大学教授李小云从事扶贫研究超过20年,他于2015年在云南省西双版纳州勐腊县河边村注册成立的“小云助贫中心”,做出了一个公益资源和政府资源合作的样本,这一样本被广泛传播和学习。

那么,小云助贫中心所做出的这一成功样本,其发起成立有着怎样的背景?项目的模式以及产生的影响是什么?其模式是否具备可复制性?接下来又有怎样的规划呢?为此《公益时报》对小云助贫中心发起人李小云进行了专访,一起来听听他与河边村的故事。

为什么做河边村项目

2015年3月,小云助贫进驻云南省勐腊县瑶族村寨河边村,短短两年的时间,河边村项目已经得到云南省政府的认可,并在全省推广。

在李小云看来,公益组织要想成为中国政治社会变革中的一个积极力量,必须明确如何和政府建立起一个比较积极的关系模式,这个关系模式基于两个条件,一个是确保中国的政治社会相对稳定,不能制造断裂和麻烦,另一个是服务于这个关系构建之间要能够提高资源的互补性,提高资源的使用效率,不要产生浪费。

“政府和公益组织用于发展的资源,用于解决社会问题的资源,要能够产生互补性,提高效率,这个互补性在于过程中民间组织本身要能够呈现出的独到的作用。要让公益组织的作用、地位不可动摇,不可或缺,那么,再回过头来看今天的公益是否做到了这点呢?还差很远。”李小云强调。

作为较早开始研究扶贫问题的学者之一,李小云认为在开展扶贫工作中,资金、思路、政府的领导和规划都是不缺少的,唯一的问题是如何到达贫困的“最后一公里”,这个问题还解决不了。

在李小云看来,扶贫工作是一项非常科学和严肃的工作,需要很高的技能,而公益组织应该不断去探索和学习,因为它有这个使命。作为研究扶贫问题的学者,他想做一个实验,看公益组织怎么在“最后一公里”做到让政府和老百姓都需要,将政府放在“最后一公里”的钱花得专业和有效。

上世纪90年代,李小云曾经去过勐腊县,那时候当地留给他的印象还很不错。两年前,当他再次来到勐腊县,到河边村做扶贫调研的时候,他被村子里的情况深深触动了。

因为这里没有一处像样的房子,村里的孩童光着脚在冬日冰冷的地面上行走和玩耍。农户居住分散、交通极为不便、生产生活方式落后、社会发育程度低、贫困程度深、自我发展能力弱、脱贫主观能动性不足等问题突出。

为什么不能够沉下来,利用自己的学术成果,配合党委、政府和当地村民一起探索实践,为河边村开出一副发展致富的良方?

于是他决定留下来,在这里开始他精准扶贫“最后一公里”的实验。

勐腊县位于云南省最南端,与老挝接壤。下辖的河边村是一个蓝靛瑶自然村寨,背靠热带雨林,每到甘蔗成熟的季节,总有野象来啃食庄稼,甚至还发生过闯入村里的情形。由于交通非常不便,河边村在整个勐腊贫困县可以说是条件最差。

由于交通、道路情况太差,只要一下雨,村民基本就被困在家中。并且,村里的很多人家都处于负债状况。李小云经过调研发现,河边村2014年到2015年的每户平均收入是13277元,人均纯收入是3193元,远低于2014年我国农村居民人均收入的10489元,也远低于云南省2014年人均可支配收入的7456元。

因此,如何解决河边村这样的结构性贫困,是李小云实验的初衷。

为河边村开出一副发展致富的良方

2015年3月,小云助贫中心在勐腊县民政局注册成立了。勐腊县各个部门在小云助贫中心注册过程中给予了极大的支持。县扶贫办作为业务主管部门、县民政局作为登记管理部门支持小云助贫中心获得了合法的身份。

据李小云介绍,小云助贫中心的全职人员目前只有三人,一个专职项目官员,一个司机兼项目官员,还有一名会计。小云助贫中心项目的执行通过动员和吸收各种类型的专业志愿者来完成,这些志愿者包括李小云的同事、学生、通过招聘到的专业志愿者,例如房子设计的志愿者等。

“对于深度贫困的群体来说,若让他们的收入提高20%(而全国农民的收入每年增长率为9%~10%),按照这个水平,农民永远无法脱贫,所以我们提出,河边村要走出收入陷阱的话,收入至少提高100%。”这是李小云经过详细计算得出来的结论。

基于这一结论,李小云提出河边村必须发展复合型产业。

“我们分析了当地的特点,比如自然资源、气候资源等,最后我们决定,可以利用当地的气候资源优势,比如冬能避寒、夏能避暑;同时在当地的热带雨林里面,有亚洲大象等自然资源、旅游资源,还有瑶族自身的少数民族文化。可以把河边村打造成一个小型会议村,以会议、培训为主,再加上度假、休闲旅游、亲子活动等,作为一个主导产业。按照这个主导,我们有了自己的公益产品,叫做瑶族妈妈的客房。”李小云介绍道。

在此基础上,李小云理出了河边村的项目模式:

第一,发展主导性产业,河边村这个地方有着很多的优势,全方位的气候资源、热带雨林景观、附近还有望天树景区这个旅游资源。基于这样的判断,李小云计划将河边村打造成高端会议经济旅游小镇。房子盖好之后,前来旅游、开会的人可以住在瑶族人家的客房里,与他们一起生活,形成“嵌入式”居住,让农民的收入实现大幅度的提高。这是李小云勾画的脱贫蓝图上的主导性产业。

第二,发展辅助性产业,“小云助贫”项目组通过微电商平台,瞄准北京、上海等大城市里中高端消费人群,打造河边村小组“天然雨林鸡蛋”品牌。“天然雨林鸡蛋”直供上海、北京等地,卖到10元一个,为村民带来了不菲的收入。据李小云介绍,未来还将开发包括古法红糖、蜜柚、芭蕉、木瓜、蜂蜜等在内的一系列天然产品,同时,也会发展冬季蔬菜,增加辅助性产业的内容。

第三,发展基础性产业,即当地现有的种植业,比如水稻、玉米、甘蔗等。

“这三个层次加起来,农民的收入就不止原来的水平了。”李小云说,不解决收入增长的问题,他们就只能在贫困的陷阱里打转。

“我们计划在三年的时间里,实施以生态健康和经济宜居为原则的人居系统的建设,帮助村民摆脱居住和环境对收入积累的消解;完成村内基础和公共服务设施的基本建设,使其不再成为改善升级和生活的障碍;建设高产值、市场导向型的生态型生产升级系统,摆脱对雨林资源的依赖和破坏以及长期低收入的状态;发育人人参与的公益型乡村治理模式,改变贫困乡村服务和治理的落后局面。”李小云表示。

实现政府资源与公益资源的结合

规划的落实需要资金的支持,通过与政府、公益力量的结合,中心找到了一条协力发展的路径。

来自政府的配套资金有1000余万元,用于建设住房和基础设施等。为了不增加农户的债务,小云助贫中心先后于2015~2016年两年,通过腾讯“99公益日”为河边瑶寨的村落建设和瑶族妈妈的客房建设进行了公众筹资,分别筹集善款110余万元及60万元。通过与具有公募资质的机构——爱德基金会、中国妇女发展基金会签订了项目执行协议,全程监管善款的使用情况。

通过这种机制小云助贫中心还吸引了招商局基金会、澳大利亚大使馆等机构对项目的捐赠,由“99公益日”筹集的善款及其他资助机构获得的善款共计达300余万元,主要用于村落景观建设、示范楼居、示范客房的建设以及瑶族妈妈客房装修的材料补助等方面。

“99公益日筹款的那部分钱会给农民部分补贴,一户两万多元,用于窗户、被褥、灯饰等锦上添花的装饰。例如做瑶族妈妈的客房,如果没有政府投资建设的房屋和基础设施,我们的工作也是无法开展的。这就说明了公益资源一定要用到技术含量最高的地方,不能取代政府的资源。”李小云总结道。

“做一件事最关键的是一定要有创新、要专业。我们的工作方式就是在政府的领导下,补充政府工作之不足。通过弥补政府工作的不足,创造公益组织独特的不可替代的作用。通过在政府开辟的场域中发展,呈现自己独到的作用,进而从根本上奠定公益组织在社会中的作用,让大家看到你的价值。做出成绩后,社会就不能否认你的价值。”李小云强调。

在这种扶贫模式下,政府和公益组织实现了很好的结合。然而,这样的结合也存在很大的挑战。

“小云助贫中心把一种非常现代的理念植入到了一个非常传统和落后的村庄里面,这中间存在一个很大的断层,在管理、市场化方面都存在断层,农民跟不上,也不可能组织起来做这样的事情,所以这也是我们下一步的工作重点,就是如何同农民建立一种关系,一种机制,去展开工作。”

李小云告诉记者,他们在当地遇到的问题是其他公益组织没有遇到过的问题,是更深层次的问题。“第一,公益组织把一种先进的、现代化的理念引到乡村以后,如何让这些理念变成乡村自己的?这个挑战是很大的,我们目前也没有更好的办法。我们在探索,因此现在放慢了速度。第二,公益组织创新到了第二阶段之后,如何能够帮助农民创新,让农民自主和市场对接,这个难度太大了。现在一般的做法是公司加农户,但有的时候这种做法并不理想,所以我们现在做的事情确实是遇到了公益行业的一个瓶颈,治理和创新能力不足。现在的问题是,当地农民还是依赖小云助贫,而外界还没有真正了解当地人自身的需求,以及他们的能力在哪里。”

“小云助贫计划在楚雄帮助UNDP和云南省妇联做一个项目点;计划在五指山帮助UNDP和海南省政府做一个项目点。在恩施,我们将为新湖集团扶贫社区提供公益方案支持。这说明我们的项目模式是可以复制的。”谈到小云助贫未来的规划,李小云谈道。

“我们现在要做的就是如何和市场对接,如何营销。目前的情况是,当地项目还不能离开小云助贫中心,当地政府也没有能力接手,所以我们也有一个规划,未来可能通过社会企业的形式来做这些工作。”李小云强调。

■ 本报记者 李庆 皮磊

Translated by Serena Chang, Emile Dirks, Hannah Tan, Sophie Xiong, Vanessa Zhang

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