First co-learning session in Chengdu, Sichuan Province – urban farmers drink tea,
mingle with each other, and discover new possibilities through thinking about food waste.
“What’s your name? Where you are from? How are things going? What brings you here?”
This is how a co-learning community with urban farmers started in Chengdu City, Sichuan Province. Over 20 participants started to get to know each other, enjoying tea and song and conversation, sitting altogether, relaxed yet attentive.
Peanut shells, soil, peppercorns and tangerine peels were brought before the group: “What are these? Where do they come from and where will they go?” Participants started thinking about food waste.
They reflected on the large amounts of food waste that urban households produce every day. Is food waste ‘waste’ or a resource? Originating from the natural world, will it end up in landfills or be returned to the land? How is food waste related to the way we live? What can be done with food waste? One option is turning it into compost, which supports urban farmers. And, with a deeper reflection, participants began to see the impact of consumerism in daily life. With less consumerism, there is less waste in the first place!
Since June 2020, Yecao Eco-Community Development Centre (Yecao) has been running a series of co-learning activities around reducing household food waste in Chengdu. This Chengdu Urban Farming Co-learning Project has devised the motif: “For the love of nature, everyday living, and food waste” – participants rethink food waste, food systems and our everyday life in a participatory, loving and mindful way. Yecao is establishing the links between agriculture and urban life, building a local network of urban farmers, and exploring ways that people can live harmoniously and sustainably, with themselves, each other, and nature.
The four co-learning activities have been inspiring. Together, participants discuss ways of sustainable and unsustainable city living. They consider how their daily routines impact the environment. They learn how to monitor and reduce household food waste. They also explore eco-agriculture: seed conservation, eco-pest control, biodiversity and more. Through sharing reflections with fellow learners, and their neighbours back home, ecoawareness is growing across several communities.
Building on the issue of food waste, Yecao takes it a step further, leading participants to think about urban life as a whole. They imagine how city folk can actively bring about daily changes to become closer to nature. They learn how food production and ways of living have evolved over time, and reflect on this history. Overall, there’s a deeper sense of the many connections between the way one lives and the health of the world.