In addition to the pivotal role they play in educating their children and managing their households, women living in China’s rural regions comprise the major work force in agriculture and agricultural enterprises in rural areas of China. In recent years in particular, as men have taken up jobs in urban factories and on construction crews, in many cases it is the women who are left to manage production systems and family businesses, and their decisions have significant impact on the well-being of their families, communities and the environment in which they live. The Badi Foundation’s Environmental Action Program develops the vast potential of rural women through educational and training opportunities.
Fostering a Spirit of Initiative
Since 2000, the Badi Foundation and its collaborating community-based organizations have focused significant efforts on building the capacity of women living in China’s rural regions through the development and implementation of its Environmental Action Program. The hallmark of the Environmental Action Program is its demonstrated ability to foster in rural women a spirit of initiative and a sense of ownership toward the development of their communities. The Environmental Action Program, rather than providing mere technical support or goods and services to rural communities, strives through the use of educational curricula to nurture among its participants the qualities, knowledge, skills and attitudes needed to contribute to the betterment of their communities.
The Environmental Action Program seeks to nurture a recognition in rural women that they, too, can be valuable contributors to the betterment of their communities and provides rural populations with the decision-making and unity-building tools they need to work together to promote social harmony and community prosperity. Moreover, the curriculum places an emphasis on scientific concepts and principles, such as the importance of ecological balance and sustainable agricultural production systems. Participants develop the tools and understanding needed to adapt different technologies and approaches to the needs of the local environment or come up with new technologies to assist them in bringing about prosperity in their communities.
Positively Impacting Communities
Monitoring and evaluation efforts have demonstrated that Environmental Action Program participants begin to take a larger role in decision-making, both in their families and in the community – including helping to organize family members and neighbors to carry out actions for the benefit of the community as a whole. They also have the confidence and understanding needed to access available technological resources and begin to use new and innovative methods in their own production systems. Participants in the Environmental Action Program:
- adopt innovative technologies and use more sustainable agricultural practices
- decrease their use of pesticides and fertilizers
- take measures to beautify and sanitize their physical surroundings
- increase their participation in community and family decision-making
- start small businesses and are more likely to take on loans to achieve their business aims
- carry out useful projects, such as building a bridge to facilitate transportation in and out of the village or arranging for running water to be brought to the village
- assist government-sponsored efforts to promote sustainable practices, such as by building greenhouses or biogas systems
To date, the Badi Foundation has directly worked with over 3000 rural women through the Environmental Action Program. In 2007, the Foundation modified its approach to implementing the program by beginning to facilitate the establishment of locally founded and operated community-based organizations dedicated to implementing the Environmental Action Program in rural regions of China. The Badi Foundation is currently collaborating with over 10 community-based organizations implementing the Environmental Action Program in Gansu, Hebei, Henan, Ningxia, Sha’anxi, Qinghai and Yunnan Provinces. Together, these small agencies have completed Environmental Action Program trainings with a total of 787 program participants.