Model Village Project
Chengdu, China          Gallery

One of the most successful, hopeful and remarkable Keepers projects centers around CURA, the Chengdu Urban Rivers Association, and the Model Village Project. The CURA was formed after the completion of the Living Water Garden by people central to that effort. The leader, Tian Jun, is a Chengdu native and was in charge of media and publicity for the Fu Nan River restoration project of which the Living Water Garden is a small project. CURA's intention is to restore and preserve the rivers in the watershed of Chengdu. Their plan was to find a site and work with the villagers to create the proper waste streams, restore rivers, protect the water shed and improve the standard of living in the villages by producing organic food. An education center will educate all the villages involved. The community of the An Long village, Pi County on the northern watershed of Chengdu, is the pilot village and the project will be implemented in 10 additional villages on the watershed.

An effort like CURA requires many things to be successful, among them luck, dedication and amazing people. All of those things came together in the person of Duncan Cheung, a Hong Kong native and a sophomore at Tufts University. Duncan contacted me and said he wanted to give a year of his life to working in China. Keepers funded him to work with CURA, living on less than $200 a month. Duncan did all the necessary research, and made all the government contacts, to get this project off the ground. In the process, he trained about a dozen university students.

Momentum around CURA is building. The Chinese government has given it partial funding. We have introduced it to Jane Goodall Institute China, who will assist with rural capacity building and a small grants program through the U.S. Consulate. The Jane Goodall Worldwide Environmental Education Program (known as Roots and Shoots) will be implemented in the villages. Keepers will provide training for 40 volunteers for watershed protection, cleaning up small streams and in situ remediation.

Their project description says it all – "The program is designed to strengthen environmental awareness and water conservation in rural communities that are up-stream from Chengdu in the main watersheds that feed the city's waterways. It aims to reduce chemical run-off into the rivers that feed into Chengdu's system, as well as improve livelihoods in those rural areas, by introducing organic agriculture, capacity building and other sustainable practices. CURA and its partner organizations are addressing a wide range of issues within this program, including appropriate alternative energy sources such as bio-gas, environmental education for adults and children, farmer-to-farmer training, helping the villagers to do market research and marketing of their organic products, riverbanks restoration, and others. CURA hopes this kind of development model will be copied to other rural riverbank villages, and together, to achieve the goal of improving river water quality in the region."