In Chishui, China, INBAR’s collaboration with a UNESCO World Heritage Site continues to empower local community leaders, promote sustainable livelihoods and safeguard natural resources and World Heritage using bamboo cultural products.
Located in a mountainous area of China’s southwestern Guizhou Province, the prefecture-level city of Chishui is surrounded by rich natural resources, including bamboo forests and a rich traditional culture of creating and using woven bamboo products and handicrafts from functional baskets to decorative screens. The city has benefited from nearly two decades of government programmes to plant bamboo, as part of the Chinese government’s “Green for Grain” Programme. The prefecture is also part of a large UNESCO World Heritage site, China Danxia, designated in 2010 due to its “impressive and unique landscape of great natural beauty”, comprising towering sandstone cliffs, winding rivers and waterfalls, and rich forests containing a wide variety of biodiversity.
In the framework of the UNESCO /China Youth Development Foundation Mercedes-Benz Star Fund’s Conservation and Management of World Heritage Sites in China project, Phase III (2017-2020), INBAR has partnered with UNESCO and the Chishui Natural World Heritage Management Bureau in this picturesque setting since 2018. This project exists at the nexus of conservation, cultural heritage preservation and livelihood development, working to promote green business and pro-poor livelihoods using sustainable sourced and managed natural resources. The first phase of INBAR’s involvement with the project, summarised here, saw local artisans take part in a training and capacity building programme to gain the hard and soft skills to turn bamboo weaving into a successful business.
2019’s activities also included a group of local farmers receive support and capacity building via training, but they weren’t all new faces – several of last year’s instructors, experienced artisans, returned to the second year as trainees in a course designed for community leaders ready to take their green business to the next step and develop pro-poor, sustainable livelihoods for others.
With INBAR’s technical support, a month-long intense training session between 16 April – 15 May 2019, where 29 of these local artisans, including 21 women, took part in technical training, discussion, exchange sessions and workshops led by experienced weaving masters, each with decades of experience. The curriculum was designed to enhance the organisational capacity of the whole community and increase demand for sustainably sourced bamboo throughout the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Following the training, INBAR was able to work with many of the participants to carry out their own training workshops to build capacity amongst their own employees or networks. For example, one trainee, Tang Xiaorong, received a grant and use it to work with 28 trainees from 11 Sep to 10 October in a replication of the course that she completed herself. Another trainee, Mou Xiaoyan, who has participated in both workshops, set up a permanent pro-poor bamboo weaving handicraft workshop, which has led to the employment of 30 community residents, most of whom (73%) are women. The workshop produces an average of 60 bamboo handicraft products every day, and generates a monthly profit of USD 11,000. Another 50 communities have indirectly benefited from the workshop, which promises to continue to contribute to sustainable development in the area.
With INBAR’s support and technical advice, an online training course on bamboo craftsmanship has been produced, to bring the benefits of this programme to a wider audience.
The success of this pilot trial using this simple training model is due to the passion and hard work of the local artisans and training course participants – and these entrepreneurs make the best ambassadors for Chishui’s rich bamboo weaving heritage. Their beautiful products and new business have been nominated for various different ways – Yang Changqin represented the group at a press briefing in Chengdu, and Mou Xiaoyan, Tian Yajia and Xie Xiaoxia attended a training course on intangible cultural heritage creative design and development in Shanghai in November.
INBAR’s activities in the area have revitalised the traditional art of bamboo weaving and enhanced the capacity of the local community to sustainably exploit and manage their natural resources.