Multi-Storied Tree Project in China
Rural areas within the Henan Province in China have been tragically affected by HIV/AIDS. In the mid-1990s, a pharmaceutical firm, with the local government’s consent, collected blood samples from the local population. For families whose annual income was about $80 the opportunity to make $5 for donating blood was very appealing. Much of the adult population participated. The company held down costs by reusing needles. The result was a mushrooming of HIV/AIDS infection throughout this region of poor farmers. Those infected were the middle generation. Some children born to women with HIV/AIDS were also infected. Many children lost parents and elderly lost their means of support in old age. This tragedy has destroyed families and has weakened an already tenuous economy.
There are over 1,200 churches in the Zhoukou area with close to 500,000 Christians. There are only about 5 pastors, far too few to minister adequately to so many believers. Over 90 percent of the believers come from rural villages and have little education and few opportunities. Under such circumstances, there is a need for pastors to be better equipped in order to provide the necessary pastoral care. In reality, however, pastors in Zhoukou face many hardships as well and have little opportunity for the training they need. Some pastors have to leave the province so they can earn a living themselves. The number of pastors is dropping, making the shortage of pastors even more acute.
Global Ministries works with partners in Henan Province on several projects including a Small Loans project which supplies milking goats to families, a Literacy Project, a project Rebuilding Homes, all aimed at providing support and services to the poorest in the region and support for children through the Global Ministries Child Sponsorship Program.
The new Tree Farm Project is implemented by the Zhoukou Christian Council. This sustainable agriculture project aims to educate seminary students and villagers about the techniques of multi-storied agriculture and also helps the church to be financially sustainable. Of the revenue generated, half will be used to sustain the church financially and the other half will be used to fund the training of pastors. The Zhoukou Christian Council is establishing this project on a 12-acre plot land.
The multi-storied agricultural model integrates traditional agricultural techniques and modern scientific farming. It considers conditions in the natural environment and growth cycle of plants to enhance the growth of the plants. A multi-storied agriculture project uses a single piece of land to grow a combination of plants that can each grow without hindering the others or may even be mutually beneficial. The climate and rainfall in Zhoukou lend themselves to the integrated planting of ilex trees, palm trees, and honeysuckle trees. These trees have a variety of uses including several medicinal uses and as raw materials for fabric, rubber, and wood products. According to the proposed model, the highest layer in this agricultural base will be the ilex tree, with the palm tree in the middle and the honeysuckle tree, which can stand a shady environment, at the lowest stratum. While the harvesting of the ilex and palm trees can be done at any time, the harvest period of the honeysuckle tree is April. In addition, the project also calls for the raising of domestic chickens on the land. In addition to the high market value of domestic chickens, the chickens contribute by eating harmful insects and pests. The chicken waste also fertilizes the trees.
In 2010, the Zhoukou Christian Council commissioned the Zhoukou Vocational School (originally the Zhoukou Agricultural School) to begin growing seedlings for the project. The Zhoukou Vocational School has over 20 years of experience in the theory and practice of forestry and agriculture. In this proposed three-year tree project, the School will provide full support on the technological skills required.
The total budget for the three-year project is $120,000. With the in-kind support of the Zhoukou Vocational School and the Zhoukou Christian Council, all expenses will be agriculture related with no additional administrative costs.
What your gift can do:
$10 can provide water to help trees to get established
$20 can plant a tree and help nurture it
$100 can provide a week’s labor
Update: June 2014
The Zhoukou Christian Council has worked with pastors and lay-people in the area of Zhoukou to create opportunities for individuals to develop sustainable businesses since 2008. During these first five years, the Zhoukou Christian Council identified one effort that seemed especially well suited to the local context – the planting of trees.
This project became the template for training all preachers in Zhoukou City how to start the scientific planting of trees as a source of income. To date, there have been 4,000 hours invested in the trainings. The Zhoukou Christian Council has developed a handbook for local pastors, and established an experimental plot covering roughly 30 acres. This project has been well received by the broader community.
To encourage and mobilize local churches to join this income generating project, the Zhoukou Christian Council rented seven acres of farm land in Dong Wang Ying village in Xihua Township for planting trees and peanuts as an initial trial project in 2013. At the beginning of the project, the Zhoukou Christian Council’s agriculture expert Mr. Wan Guanhai from Zhoukou Christian Church, took church leaders from the 10 participating congregations to the farm and explained the issues that would need attention. For the first year Mr. Wan Guanhai visited each quarter. There are currently four kinds of trees being cultivated on the farm land: 1) Chinese little-leaf box tree; 2) gingko; 3) waxy leaf privet; and 4) holly. Over 50 members of 10 congregations have taken part in this new effort.
The trial project generated approximately $2,750 in income during 2013 from the sale of peanuts. The proceeds were used to support students at the nearby Bible Institute operated by the Zhoukou Christian Council. The project continues, led by local church pastors, and managed and cultivated by local church members.
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