(right) UniSA researchers Adjunct A/Prof Ness, Prof Ying Zhu and Dr Ke Xing with woman from ancient Bulang ethnic group, Yunnan.
Overcoming rural and regional economic disadvantage is a key priority for both Australia and China. How can rural prosperity be improved, while conserving the environment and local culture, enabling people to remain and live well in rural areas? Via an Australia-China Science and Research Fund ‘Group Mission’,
the research team examined how community enterprises such as tourism, food and ecological services and carbon farming may generate employment and improve sustainable livelihoods, when supported by integrated infrastructure systems and technologies such as renewable energy, water, ICT accompanied by financial mechanisms.
This was a cross-division, multi-disciplinary project, involving Prof Ying Zhu (Business), Adjunct A/Prof David Ness (NBE and BHI), Dr Ke Xing (Engineering/BHI), in collaboration with Renmin University School of Environment and Natural Resources and Vienna University. It involved fieldwork and interviews with remote rural communities across China, including Baisha village, Lin’an, Zhejiang Province, where community prosperity has considerably improved by transformation from “cutting down trees” to “watering trees”. The area, known for its valuable eco-products such as tea, mushrooms and bamboo shoots, and eco-tourism, is boosting incomes by trade in forest rights and carbon credits. Jingning Autonomous County, home to the ‘She’ ethnic group, is another mountainous area rich in pristine natural resources, geology, heritage and culture. Jingning, with expertise in micro-hydro enterprise, but which requires training and advice to add value, market and export its unique eco-products and resources.
Location of the research in China (left) Natural wonders of Jingning (right)
The research resulted in an integrated model for community transformation, which is currently being applied in South Australia’s Riverland in partnership with the Regional Development Authority, research articles, and a book ‑ published by Springer ‑ launched at the Hawke Centre on 17 Feb 2015 by Hon. Jing Lee, Member of Legislative Council.