Working with nature to build back better from COVID-19: inspirations from farmers in China

Guest blogger Yufen Chuang and IIED senior researcher Xiaoting Hou Jones reflect on why working with nature to adapt to climate change can offer valuable lessons on how to build back better from COVID-19.

Xiaoting Hou Jones's pictureYufen Chuang's picture
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23 June 2020

Yufen Chuang is communications specialist for the Farmers’ Seed Network (China); Xiaoting Hou Jones is a senior researcher in IIED's Natural Resources research group

two women with a big basket of corn

Two women collecting seeds from maize (Photo: copyright Shichun Yang)

The COVID-19 crisis has shown that the health and the future of people and nature are intertwined. As global leaders called for ‘care for nature’ to keep people safe and well, on World’s Environment Day on 6th June, China Farmers’ Seed Network collated stories (in Chinese) from 14 farming communities in China to show how working with nature can help people cope better with, and recover better from, crises such as COVID-19 and climate change. 

Supported by China Farmers’ Seed Network, those farmers have been working with nature to adapt to climate change. Working closely with scientists and drawing on traditional knowledge, farmers collectively conserve and breed crop varieties that are better adapted to climate risks like drought.

Map showing 14 farming communities in China

Aohan, Inner Mongolia

Henggouzi village

Zhang Jia Kou, Hebei

Yidunqing Eco-farm

Shun Yi, Beijing

Shared Harvest Farm

Handan, Hebei

Wangjinzhuang village

Xining, Qinghai

Bao Jia village

Kun Shan, JiangSu

Yuefengdao Organic Farm

Nanning, Guangxi

Guzhai village of Mashan

Sancha village of Hengxian

Nonglu village of Wumin

Gengdan village of Longan

Xunan village of Fusui

Lijiang, Yunnan

Stone village

Labo village

YouMi village

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

1

Aohan, Inner Mongolia

Henggouzi village

2

Zhang Jia Kou, Hebei

Yidunqing Eco-farm

3

Shun Yi, Beijing

Shared Harvest Farm

4

Handan, Hebei

Wangjinzhuang village

5

Xining, Qinghai

Bao Jia village

6

Kun Shan, JiangSu

Yuefengdao Organic Farm

7

Lijiang, Yunnan

Stone village

Labo village

YouMi village

8

Nanning, Guangxi

Guzhai village of Mashan

Sancha village of Hengxian

Nonglu village of Wumin

Gengdan village of Longan

Xunan village of Fusui

They revive traditional farming techniques for pest control, such as combining rice with duck and fish production. They practice and promote traditional intercropping to increase biodiversity on farms, and better manage soil and water. 

As COVID-19 continues to disrupt transportation and travel, these farmers found that working with nature has made their farming communities more resilient not only to climate change but also to COVID-19 impacts.

They have secure access to seeds as they conserve and breed seeds themselves locally. They grow a diversity of food on their farms so access to nutritious and affordable food has not been disrupted. Diversity of produce has also reduced the loss of cash flow as many produces can still be sold well locally.

In some villages, COVID-19 meant some community members can no longer go to cities to find jobs – but the farming activities provided them with alternative incomes. Many farmers are happy and healthy prepping their land, sowing seeds, caring for their produce, consuming the diversity of food produced locally and continuing breeding experiments for even more diverse and resilient future farms! 

While global negotiations on climate change and biodiversity are delayed, these communities in China have not stopped working with nature to address climate change challenges, and their efforts have also made them more resilient in the COVID-19 crisis.

The stories from those communities echo strongly with IIED’s recent research that shows working with nature to adapt to climate change (also known as ecosystem-based adaptation) is cost-effective and can bring a wide range of social, economic and environmental benefits to local communities.

As governments consider how to protect food security during COVID-19, and how to build more resilient food systems post COVID-19, they must ensure that recovery policies and investments support integrated solutions for people, nature and the climate and those local actors who are leading the way in implementing them. 


Join the conversation

Nature-based solutions that work for people, nature and climate will be one of the themes of the 14th international conference on Community-Based Adaptation (CBA14), happening online from 21-25 September 2020. Find out more about our first digital CBA conference, and look out for further information on our CBA 'setting the stage' online event held on 21 July.



Gallery: Glimpses into the farmers’ life during COVID-19 lockdown in China

These photos are from 14 farming communities in China (see map above).

About the author

Yufen Chuang (yap89124@gmail.com) is communications specialist for the Farmers’ Seed Network (China).

Xiaoting Hou Jones (xiaoting.hou.jones@iied.org) is a senior researcher in IIED's Natural Resources research group

 

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