Beginnings of an Eco-village, Nurtured by Nature

一方水土 养育一方人

The town of Dacheng, named after the Dacheng Temple built by an eminent monk in the early Qing Dynasty, is situated at the southern edge the Sichuan Basin. Located ten kilometres from the county seat of Pingshan, and referred to as the Eastern Gate of Pingshan, Dacheng and much of the region is facing urbanisation. PCD has supported projects here since 2004, exploring community projects such as community research, capacity building and regular exchanges –gradually, a community network has been formed.

A sense of cohesion has formed in Dacheng through the efforts of a volunteer art and culture team initiated by residents of the town and neighbouring villages; the members have developed an aspiration and motivation to participate in community affairs. In 2015, the Chairperson of Pingshan County Women’s Federation, Yibin City, and key members from Dacheng were supported to join an ecological and cultural heritage learning tour to Yongji, Shanxi Province. The art and culture team developed into the Pingshan County Sunshine Volunteers Association (Sunshine) and was registered by the Civil Affairs Bureau in 2016. By the end of 2017, Sunshine had grown from one art and culture team to 5 teams, with 187 members, of whom more than 80% were women.

At a particularly fruitful September 2017 workshop titled Community Building and Sustainable Living, members facilitated participants to widen their perspective on such areas as the community landscape, conservation, heritage, research, livelihoods, empathy and education. At the workshop, Sunshine’s five teams discussed what they aimed to do in the coming one to two years: this has become the tree of vision for the Dacheng community.

The Sunshine teams are building strong foundations by focusing its community research and action on four areas: environmental living, ecological agriculture, cultural heritage, and opportunities for elderly people. They reinforce that an ecologically minded living can become rooted at the household and community level and are offering many creative practices.

In Dacheng and the surrounding area, people tend to be very interested in culture and history, especially in stories about its landmarks and in the origins of village names. Sunshine conducts participatory community research on the vicinity, including home villages of members of the five teams: stories and documentation such as old photographs about place names, famous people, family history, as well as of about local plants and animals, food, folk songs and children’s rhymes. They plan to make use of the traditional lunisolar calendars to create picture books for children and calendars for all, a creative way to help the community learn about their society and its traditional eco-wisdom.

In the 2017-18 year, apart from continual support for various community activities such as annual festivals and parent-children summer camps, Sunshine has helped foster more eco-farming. In early 2018, a Sunshine member offered a piece of rural land, traditionally called Youshabang, which the association collectively decided to establish into an eco-farm, an experimental farmland and training area where teachers share skills in eco-agriculture, including how to design one’s own farm. We supported Sunshine with a small initial  community grant for Youshabang, and then it set up its own sustainable living fund, which member families and communities manage themselves. These activities have served Sunshine well in building up a strong network.

To improve people’s livelihoods in the community, a passionate group of mothers and grandmothers have gone on to self-organise many activities with their own methods and approaches. They and the community are experiencing a deeper connection with the land, and with traditional culture and ecology.

(from Annual Report 2017-2018