QINGHAI, China — For Zaba and Gongqu, two Tibetan Buddhists from the PA CHIM Environmental Protection Foundation, nothing is more rewarding than watching wildlife like deer and bharal returning to the local mountains and grassland.
Due to overhunting and lack of environment protection awareness, the past decade has seen Yushu, a beautiful county in China’s Qinghai province, suffer from environmental disasters including deteriorating land quality, deforestation, soil loss and a sharp reduction in local wildlife populations.
To help reverse this trend and improve the livelihoods of villagers, Zaba and Gongqu, members of the organization, run a range of environmental education programs for local farmers concerning wildlife protection, biodiversity, energy conservation and sustainable agriculture. They also organize activities like tree planting, educational courses and publishing newspapers and books on sustainable farming.
“Yushu is the main region that produces caterpillar fungus. Villagers come to dig for the fungus every April and May. When the harvesting season ends, the grassland is largely ruined,” said Zaba. To address the problem, the organization began to distribute educational materials like newspapers and brochures on sustainable farming during the “Aspiration Prayer for World Peace” gathering, one of the most important annual rallies for Tibetan Buddhists.
“We ask villagers to refrain from littering and to put sods back after collecting the caterpillar fungus. These small things can make a big difference to the environment. We have already seen positive changes this year,” he added.
Ford recognized the QinghaiYushu Ecosystem Protection Project with the first prize in the Leadership in Environmental Awareness Campaigns category of the 2012 CEGC for the group’s good work over the years. The group will use the RMB 200,000(around USD31,700) prize to run educational seminars, purchase new equipment and nurture their organizations.
Located at the heart of the China’s biggest plateaus, Tibetan Plateau, Yushu has a population of more than 28,000 and the majority of local villagers are Tibetans. Like many minority regions in China, most people who live in the area can not speak or read Chinese. To reach more local villagers, the organization compiled a book titled Environment Protection written in the Tibetan language. Featuring pictures and illustrations, the book was widely welcomed among villagers with all 2,000 copies distributed in Qinghai and nearby villages in Sichuan.
As one of the most respected environmental awards in China, Ford’s Conservation and Environmental Grants, China (CEGC) program has helped trailblazing grassroots environmental organizations and leaders realize their vision in the past 13 years. Since 2000, CEGC has awarded RMB 12.6 million (US $1.85 million) to 278 grantees.
Volunteers setting up signage to promote environmental protection.
Monks joining trash collecting activities.