Supporting Article

Holistic Development in Yunnan Province

“Your training courses changed my life,” said Ms. Long. “I would not exchange your training course with anything, not even if you gave me 100 RMB a month.” Ms. Long is a village doctor in Lengjiaping village a village deep in Yunnan’s mountains that requires a three hour walk in high altitude. This village doctor had faithfully carried out her duties for many years but had found little or no support for her job. Many villagers thought she was a spy sent by the government to count how many children they had. However, community development training equipped her to communicate with the people, and she gained respect in the village. Ms. Long has now been trained in Community, Health, Education and Development (CHED) and has become a key person in the local training team instructing other people in the community development as part of the Zhaotong Community Development Program.

Zhaotong Community Development Program

Zhaotong Community Development Program (ZTCDP) is a grant program funded by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD) and the Norwegian Lutheran Mission (NLM). ZTCDP is a pilot project and focuses on improving living conditions in poor townships and villages in Zhaotong Prefecture located in the mountainous northeast of Yunnan Province. The program also acts as a model for development in other areas of the Prefecture, and experiences from the program are influencing a greater area and other projects. The first phase of ZTCDP was a three year program with implementation starting in the spring of 2002. A second plan was developed for a new three year period to expand the project into new areas from 2005 to 2007. The total six year grant from Norway is five and a half million RMB, but with local matching funds, the total investment is close to eight million RMB.

The Zhaotong Poverty Alleviation Office (PAO) is a local partner in the project and legally responsible for implementing the program. NLM has appointed the China office of Xin-Consulting Ltd. (a consulting company located in Kunming) to represent them in the daily running of the project. This company has a section with both Chinese and foreign experts trained in community development.

Zhaotong is a poor prefecture, bordering Guizhou, with a population of 5.1 million. Tobacco is the main industry in addition to some cement manufacturing. The area is among the poorest in China and most people are farmers. The authorities encourage the young people to migrate to eastern and southern China to find work. They also run education programs which are supposed to improve these farmers’ chances of obtaining work in the cities. These migrant workers increase the income of the local and regional economies; however, it also adds strain to the lives of the women who are left in charge of farming as well as taking care of children and the old. In addition, there are immense challenges relating to HIV/AIDS as some men bring home these diseases from the bigger cities.

Objectives and Results

In close connection with the local people and government, some key infrastructure projects have been identified in the target villages. ZTCDP, with the local government, has invested in a primary school (grades 1-6); a 12 kilometer village road; an electrical power line that supplies one village; a water project with five water storage tanks, two flood prevention walls and five water supply tanks in several villages; the equipping of several primary and middle schools; agricultural projects to improve husbandry and farming; equipping two clinics and circulating capital for medicine that is provided; a small microcredit program; and in many biogas units and building energy-saving stoves.

The school project has significantly improved the educational situation of the village. School attendance increased from 98 to 166 students; from sixty-three percent to ninety percent of school age children. The number of teachers at the school has also increased from two to eight.

Biogas research started in China in the 1950s. The technique has matured during this past half century of application. At present, the Chinese government highly recommends the use of the system in rural areas which have the conditions suitable for it. Biogas is an environmentally friendly technique with many different functions. However, even though the local government encourages farmers to use biogas generating systems, its success is limited due to a lack of financial resources. The farmers do not have enough money to build both biogas systems and systems to gather animal and human waste, and, therefore, the effects of biogas systems are not maximized. The aim of the ZTCDP BioGas Generating Systems project is to build some complete biogas generating systems which can show the farmers how this can improve their living situation. The project will give valuable experience in building and operating biogas systems but will also function as a model to demonstrate the effects of complete biogas generating systems to the local people and the government. The aim is to raise the local people’s awareness of hygiene, environmental protection and the opportunities for development by using new technology.

Training Courses

Community Based Development Training is the key part of ZTCDP. A core value for NLM and the program is that people are the most important resources for social development. Therefore, ZTCDP attempts to meet the local communities on their terms by focusing on equipping and developing human resources. To form a basis for such development, one must first meet basic needs with respect to welfare, food, health and education. This will release considerable human resources, which can then be channeled toward organized interaction in the civil community and in turn work for the interests of the local population. In this way, the people themselves are enabled to continue the process of improving the quality of their life and achieving social equality.

The NLM’s main approach to development cooperation will be district integrated development programs whereby the local populace defines it own problems, proposes solutions, decides priorities and is in charge of executing planned activities. The priority areas will vary from country to country and region to region depending on local needs and priorities but will fall mainly under the following categories: health, education, agriculture, environment and natural resource management, technology and infrastructure. Although the NLM stresses long-term cooperative relations, the basis for all their development cooperation is their wish to contribute to sustainable development and the principle that their presence is only temporary in nature.

ZTCDP wants to equip and develop local people and has conducted many different training courses such as Village Teacher Training, Village Doctor Training, Agricultural Training, Vocational Training for young girls from the countryside and Aids/HIV Training. However, the Community Based Development Training based on CHED has been incorporated into almost every training course in addition to the many CHED trainings that are conducted. CHED’s focus on holistic service and care for the whole individual, family and community has gained respect in Zhaotong. In the beginning, government officials wanted investment in infrastructural projects and did not see how the Community Based Development Training could lead to sustainable development. One Chinese co-worker in the project used to say, “Infrastructural projects are just the water to take the medicine; community development training is the medicine.” ZTCDP has experienced a change in attitude among the government officials from the village level to the prefecture, and they are starting to adopt some of the CHED ideas into their own governmental training courses.

Projects and trainings can be implemented infinitely with numerous “chained” projects/trainings that can naturally follow the previous ones as the community continues to develop and upgrade previous developments. Based on our experience, we encourage projects to be introduced only when accompanied by training to increase sustainability, transference of concepts and increased relational time. Today, this attitude is also supported by the local partner and many of the government officials.

ZTCDP seeks to indigenize programs and develop local leadership. This is particularly enhanced by the use of the “participatory method” or style of input sharing. We also encourage the investment of local resources and efforts from the community and the government to ensure ownership and ongoing commitment to sustaining the developments. Several local CHED training teams have been established. These teams are conducting training courses in the selected project villages and are also being invited to neighboring villages. These Training of Trainers teams (TOT) are important when the project moves into new areas, and they have even been involved in training courses in other projects in the province.

An evaluation carried out in March 2004 points out that “The Community Development Training Program and the other trainings have shown the people that they can participate in their own development and are able to perpetuate the learning to others in community” (Zhaotong CDP 2004 Evaluation Report).

Choosing a Partner

In China, formal programs must be approved by the government and connected to at least one supervisory government bureau. NLM has cooperated with different governmental bureaus in China as partners for programs, projects and trainings. Our overall experience is positive and we have found this partnership to be important when it comes to local ownership and sustainability. However, there are some challenges, and in CHED we have difficulty in establishing “committees” as these are not welcomed by the government. Also, it is difficult to acquire unpaid volunteers for such programs. To overcome these barriers we have built relationships with official local partners and are operating as joint ventures. Instead of establishing new committees, we have avoided the name but have local decision makers meet on a regular basis for discussions about program direction. The training teams at the village level serve as the health promoters/trainers who then bring special trainings to the village at arranged times.

ZTCDP has trained many people who have attended training courses in CHE/CHED both in China and overseas. Kunming Medical College is offering courses in CHED for Chinese and the TOT level 1 participants are introduced to a modified version of the “classical CHE-model.” Consultant for Medical Ambassadors International (MAI), Douglas Flowers (, is also a resource person to contact for CHE projects and training courses.

ZTCDP is not a classical CHE project but is tailored to the situation in Zhaotong. As many as possible of the good components and principles of holistic development found in CHE are utilized in the program.

At the end of the day, most important is not the model but that lives are being changed and communities are being transformed. Village Doctor Long and many villagers have had their lives changed, and one teacher said goodbye by declaring, “You have given us hope.”

Holistic development is about seeing the whole person and community; it is about giving people a future and hope.

Image credit: Gaylan Yeung.

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Hjalmar Boe

Hjalmar Boe is currently based in Norway. He has lived many years in China and been involved in development work.View Full Bio