Cogarden: Co-Building and Sharing

馨香生活园  共建与共享

Laowen, a resident of Panyu community of Guangzhou in Guangdong Province, was so inspired by one community library in Guangzhou and identified with its community vision so much that she invited a few women living nearby to discuss the possibilities of what they could create together.

That was at the end of 2016. They were soon active with a book club, an English corner, and learning sado? – how to prepare and present Japanese tea. Through these activities, many of the women became close friends.

Hillary’s book It Takes a Village: And Other Lessons Children Teach Us really touched Laowen and the women. They felt it was difficult to create a good living environment for their children in city apartments, but they knew they had to draw on the resources around them.

With this challenge in mind, Laowen came up with name Cogarden for their group in the Panyu housing estate: it speaks of building, sharing and growing together, like a community garden, with bounty and beauty.

Cogarden members have enjoyed meeting residents from other areas of Guangzhou who share a similar community vision. In mid-2017, they joined a community gathering on Maofeng Mountain that focused on sustainable living: they discussed their own experiences, were very touched by other people’s stories, and were particularly happy to have the chance to meet people from 807 Social Service Centre, an organisation for sustainable living.

Over the next two years, Cogarden members would participate in many of 807’s workshops, salons, exchanges, and learning trips. In one activity in Guangzhou, they met partners who worked as cultural tour guides and were fascinated by the creative ways of presenting history and culture. On another trip to Yunnan Province, this time together with their children as it was held during the summer holiday, they visited Yunnan University for a discussion on sustainable living theories. They then traveled west to Dali to visit an eco-community that runs educational activities about food issues, and a centre focused on traditional handicrafts with local indigo. They saw – with their own eyes – sustainability and self-sufficiency. Then, at a three-day regional exchange for parents, Cogarden realised that it is but one group of a larger network: they met many other organisations with similar aspirations.

In 2018, when Cogarden learned that a waste transfer station was to be built near their housing estate, some members were upset, yet they also acknowledged that waste management was necessary to address. They asked themselves, what can Cogarden do to be part of a solution to the community’s garbage problem. They soon contacted a local Guangzhou NGO working on environment issues, Eco-Canton, which provided some training; and together, they worked with partners to pilot vermicomposting, which was a hit with children. They loved having baby worms as neighbours!

Eco-Canton also introduced China Zero Waste Alliance and its community garbage sorting project, which was initiated by NGOs and public representatives to explore ways to address the garbage crisis. Cogarden joined in 2019.

While Cogarden continues to promote garbage separation in the community, Laowen sees limits, including minimal support from some families, and a few misunderstandings due to some miscommunication – she acknowledges that it is ongoing work!

“What we are doing now is to join hands for the common goal of a sustainable future by reaching a gradual consensus. Yes, we will continue to search hand in hand for a fragrant garden!”

(from Annual Report 2018-2019