Sustainable agriculture learning in China

23 December 2021
Our Sustainable Future Change-Maker project in China, run in collaboration with Louis Dreyfus Company, and China Education Support Project, has successfully completed its second year. This project aims to support the education of students from 10 Chinese agricultural universities and provide them with training on sustainable agriculture practices.

Earlier in the year, 109 students completed the online training program sensitizing them about sustainable development, regenerative agriculture and family farming. Mentored by agriculture specialists, students then went to the countryside to conduct research on sustainable agriculture topics closely connected to small and medium-sized farming. While conducting their research, students were able to share their knowledge about sustainable agricultural technology and farming methods with the local farmers. In total, students dedicated 97 days and more than 15,000 hours to their research projects.

The second year of the project was focused on the scientific application of chemical products. In order to promote a proper use of chemical products, six students’ groups introduced the “Sustainable Agricultural Practices Manual” and the “Zhi Bao Jia” app (or “Plant Protector” in English) to farmers from 24 villages in 9 different provinces. By sharing sustainable agricultural knowledge and practices under the guidance of local agriculture specialists, the project directly impacted more than 200 small and medium farmers.

We talked to some of the students and project beneficiaries who participated in the second year of the Sustainable Future Change-Maker project and were able to learn more about their experience and the sustainable solutions promoted by their research projects.

In the past few days, we have walked through tea gardens, corn fields, and chestnut groves to observe the pest damage and gain professional knowledge about the use of pesticides. Based on our observations and collected data, our team elaborated a natural pesticide manual for farmers in order to promote the use of organic pesticides in the fields. Our project hence helped farmers to learn how to optimize agricultural field management by applying natural pesticide. During our research, farmers have shown great interest in the use of modern technologies and innovations, including the use of drone fertilization and mobile apps, which made us feel that our contributions have borne fruit and have had a positive impact on the agricultural development of this village.”

— Zhang Xuan from East China University of Science and Technology

“Thanks to this project, which disseminates sustainable farming knowledge and techniques among farmers, we have also improved our own knowledge base and our skills. In order to transmit the relevant knowledge to farmers, we must first understand in depth what sustainable farming is about and how it should be practiced in the field, so we first need to study this topic for ourselves. We also learnt a lot from our interactions with the farmers. The project broadened our horizons and introduced us to new topics and practical work that we hadn’t been previously exposed to.”

— Chen Leyi from Zhejiang University

“The students’ work was also focused on sugarcane leaf processing. Guangxi is a place where a lot of sugarcane is grown, so sugarcane leaf processing is essential for this region and has also a significant development potential. It not only improves the air quality and reduces pollution caused by leaf burning at local farms, but it also increases the income of farmers and local inhabitants. The process must of course face some challenges, among which financial challenges. Now that we have a better understanding of all the consequences of leaf burning, we can start thinking about solutions. I am very grateful that thanks to this project, we can get advice from university students, who can help us solve the problems we encounter!”

— Ms Qiu, the chief of local enterprise

“Thanks to the training focusing on the science-based  use of chemical products, I learned a lot of new things I didn't know before, when I could only select and apply pesticides based on my own previous experience. As a result of attending the training, I for example realized that the level of personal protection I applied before was not sufficient. It's interesting and rewarding to be able to attend such lectures in my spare time in the evening. I hope we can have more activities of this kind in the future.”

— Mr Wei, local farmer

"Sustainable agricultural development in China has a long way to go. Recently, as environmental protection awareness is rising, the concepts of sustainable and traceable production are emerging. We hope that this project can inspire young people to love agriculture and encourage them to become agricultural practitioners who know how to rely on agricultural knowledge and techniques as well as develop solid operation and management skills, " said Joyce Jiao, Head of Corporate Affairs, North Asia, Louis Dreyfus Company and the Foundation’s Agent in China.

For the second consecutive year, the project was celebrated for its outstanding performance at the 5th CSR China Education Award 2021, being awarded the Best Sustainable Development Award, the Ecological Environment Special Award, and the Youth Impact Special Award. Both the Louis Dreyfus Foundation and LDC were ranked among 100 CSR China top companies and foundations contributing to sustainable development.