Self-reliant and independent Liu Zhanhong


By Ji Bing (Programme Consultant, PCD)

Editor's Note: Under an ecological agricultural programme supported by PCD at He Ai Township, ten eco-farmers from Lanba took part in learning activities facilitated by Liu Zhanhong. Because of his dedication, He Ai Township is now on the path to ecological agriculture (EA). He Ai Township is in Yanbian County, Panzhihua, in Sichuan Province.

"If I don't do it, who will?" The rosy cheeks of Liu Zhanhong appear before us again. Yes, this is one of his mantras, and true to his promise, he has taken up the important responsibility of facilitating the EA group of He Ai in the last three years. Undaunted by difficulties, he has held up under pressure from all sides and has managed to pay attention to both EA and community-supported agriculture (CSA). The story of how he has done both doggedly is touching.

Changing the history of cultivation in He Ai

Liu is never afraid to take the lead in learning and trying out new technologies. He is not hesitant about changing the production habits of farmers either. These two traits are his talisman to getting good results. In He Ai, it is the rainy season in May and June. Tomatoes grown during this season usually do not see a good harvest. Through the learning activities of the EA group, Liu found out the root problems of the bad harvest of tomatoes. The roots of tomatoes rot easily when rain falls directly on them. Tomatoes soiled when rain splashes up from the earth also become mouldy. After discovering these problems, Liu immediately designed and built rain-proof canopies to protect the tomatoes from rain. The history of vegetable cultivation in He Ai was instantly changed. The canopies shield the vegetables from the top but there is no encircling fabric. The tomatoes are protected from rain in the rainy season, from snow in winter, and from frost in spring. In summer it is not stuffy because air can freely circulate. Through the use of the canopies, the period for autumn harvest has also lengthened. Since then, He Ai has recorded bumper harvests for tomatoes.

Altruistic giving and helping others achieve their goals

2011 is a critical year for the development of the EA group. Throughout the year, Liu took the lead in ecological technology innovations. Of ten programme innovations, he was involved in nine. Taking his cue from rice-duck farming, he raises ducks in lotus fields. While others build deep pens for chickens, he learns to raise chicks. There was a plan to build a composting toilet that separates the urine from the solids. In his hands, it became a composting toilet with a methane gas tank. To ensure all farmers in the group make progress at the same time, Liu always gives good learning opportunities to others. He also organizes learning activities regularly for everyone and leads them to take part in external exposure trips.

The road to sustainability

Hard work never fails. In autumn 2011, Hexinyuan Cooperative was officially established. The price of the CSA vegetables has risen from 2.5 yuan to 4 yuan because it is recognised that ecological vegetables are of superior quality. The number of consumers who take part in the programme has also increased, to 60 households.

Because of his self-reliant and independent character, Liu dares to think, act and take responsibility. It is also his character that brings him along the path of sustainable, ecological agriculture.

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Managing the nursery shed and nursing seedlings on water.
Lotus harvest in April.
The output of tomatoes of He Ai has increased a lot after Liu Zhanhong made big canopies to protect the plants from rain. Spray irrigation systems are installed in the canopies.
The ecological methane-producing toilet was built by the time the cherries were ripe.