This spring, GEI traveled back to Sanjiangyuan to check in on our handicraft cooperative and supply the locals with new expert advice, craft supplies and inspiration.
GEI established the handicraft cooperative because it is a sustainable eco-system services market for the community and can help the local people earn money to improve their livelihood. From March to April this year, we will be bringing designers and experts in ecological tourism to the eight local communities. These trainings are planned cover everything from product designing, producing, and marketing to ecological tourism. We hope that the local people's handicrafts can become even more beautiful and more people can be inspired to protect Sanjiangyuan.
GEI Program Officer Mengyao LI is currently in Sanjiangyuan! Here is her report from the trip!
In order to guarantee a complete training for the community craftsmen, we decided to go to the Sanjiangyuan region before the caterpillar fungus season, as once the fungus grows, most people will be busy digging it up. On March 21, we, together with invited designers, left from Xining City for Baiyun Town in Jiuzhi County, Guoluo Prefecture, which is 900 kilometers away. Right now the Sanjiangyuan region is still deep in winter, making the travel very cold and at times a bit gloomy.
I happened to capture the moment right before a storm when we just entered Guoluo Prefecture after going through several cities including Xining, Haidong, Huangnan and Gannan.
At the Jiuzhi Yellow River Bridge, which links Maqu County and Jiuzhi County, the frozen Yellow River really showed the coldness of the winter. Shortly after visiting this Bridge, we arrived at Baiyu County, which is 3,800 meters above sea level!
On March 22, we met with 13 craftsmen and herdsmen who recently joined our project at Longge cooperative. During this meeting, the designers introduced the materials purchased for the training. I could really feel the herdsmen’s enthusiasm for the new handicrafts and they said they hoped to make more elegant handicrafts through this training.
Here’s a picture of the craftsman Ga Neng sewing the design pattern of a handbag. He has been a main force since the establishment of the cooperative and has witnessed the complete development of handicraft cooperative at Baiyu County, which didn’t exist in the local area at all before our project.
This is the craftswoman Dong Zhong, who was practicing how to weave light decorations under the guidance of the designers.
Craftswoman Bu Da wove light decorations under the guidance of the designers. Bu Da’s granddaughter accompanied her to the training and often cheered on her grandmother!
The craftswoman Sang Wu was proud to show-off her first woven decoration, which the designers helped her to complete.
This is the first finished product from the first training day! It was made by craftsman, Cai Bao, who modeled it off a previous handbag but improved the design under the guidance of the designers.
By 6 p.m., everyone was tired after an exciting and full first day of training. As the sun set, the temperature dropped to a bitter -10 degrees celsius! It’s so important to stay warm and protect yourself against altitude sickness. One of the designers, Qin Yan, for whom this was her first trip to the plateau, got a headache due to the altitude. I hope she recovers soon!
About our Sanjiangyuan Project
In 2013, GEI launched the “Ecosystem-service economy” project which conducts community-driven ecological protection in the Sanjiangyuan region (the origin of Yellow River, Yangtze River and Lancang River). Over the past four years, through the cooperation with the local farmers and herdsmen as well as the local government, GEI has successfully established a mechanism to protect the local ecosystem and develop the local community. In addition to establishing a community protection area reaching 20,000 hectares, we have trained over 2,000 farmers and herdsmen in more than 10 communities (including Longge Village at Guoluo Prefecture, Maozhuang Town and Ganda Village at Yushu Prefecture) to conduct ecological protection, garbage collection, surface water quality monitoring. Moreover, we have worked with our partners to establish a “sustainable development plan” for the local community, inviting experts to provide skill trainings for over 300 herdsmen in handicraft production, ecological tourism and ecosystem services market. These efforts have raised over 200,000 RMB in community funds to support the sustainable and coordinated development of environmental protection and economy. We hope this work will ultimately benefit local herdsmen and protect the ecological security of Sanjiangyuan.